This Day in Geek History: August 29
Charles Darwin returns home from a geology field trip in North Wales to find letters from Reverend John Henslow and George Peacock informing him that he will soon be invited on a scientific voyage of HMS Beagle. He is just twenty-two years old and has just graduated from Cambridge University. The offer is to be a naturalist aboard the HMS Beagle for a two year survey of South America, leaving on September 25th. Although he immediately accepts the offer, his father and sisters are opposed to the trip. They regard the trip as an idle pursuit that will delay his expected career in the clergy. His father is prepared to change his mind, but only if Darwin can find a qualified man who views the exploit as worthwhile. Darwin will spend the next two days doing just that.
English chemist Michael Faraday discovers electromagnetic induction using his “induction ring,” the first electric transformer. Faraday discovered that changing the intensity of a magnetic field produces an electric current in a wire. Induction will become the fundamental principle behind electric generators.
The design patent, a new form of patent, is authorized by an act of Congress. The first U.S. design patent will be issued for typefaces and borders to George Bruce of New York City on November 9, 1842.
A patent is issued to Whitcomb L. Judson for a “Zipper Clasp Locker or Unlocker for Shoes.” (US No. 504,038) The clumsy slide fastener will be the forerunner of the modern zipper.
For the first time in history, a news bulletin is broadcasts by the BBC from all of its regional stations.
Former General Motors executive John Jacob Raskob announces the construction of the world’s tallest building, the Empire State Building.
CBS first demonstrates its field-sequential color television systemto the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It will demonstrate the system for the press on September 4 and for the general public on January 12, 1950.
The USSR tests its first atomic device, “First Lightning,” at Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan. It is an an implosive type plutonium bomb, detonated at the Semipalatinsk test range, with a yield of up to a twenty kilotons. In the U.S. it is called “Joe 1,” “Joe” being a nickname for Stalin. This test comes five years earlier than anyone in the West had predicted, largely due to the spy Klaus Fuchs. As a Los Alamos physicist, Fuchs had passed detailed blue prints of the original American Trinity bomb design to the Russians. With the emergence of the USSR as a nuclear rival, America’s monopoly of atomic weaponry ends, leaving the U.S. scrabbling for further atomic innovations. Thus begins the Cold War.
Astronaut Gordon Cooper in orbit one hundred miles above the Earth aboard Gemini 5 holds a conversation with aquanaut M. Scott Carpenter aboard the U.S. Naval underwater habitat Sealab II, which is 205 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. It is was first time an astronaut in space has spoken with an aquanaut. The event is by and large a publicity stunt, but its primary goal is to test the capabilities of the Sealab’s electronics lab.
Later in the day, Gemini 5 will re-enter the atmosphere and splashed down, using the re-entry thrusters to orient the spacecraft due to Orbit Attitude and Maneuvering System or (OAMS) failures. The retrofire and re-entry are conducted in darkness by the spacecraft computer. However, the computer had been mis-programmed with an erroneous rotation rate for the Earth (390 degrees per day instead of 360.98 degrees per day). Cooper’s efforts to compensate for what he recognizes as an erroneous reading brings the capsule down closer to the recovery ship than planned.
Final episode of the U.S. television drama series The Fugitive on the ABC network achieves a rating of 72 percent, the highest rating in television history. Read more about the series at The Museum of Broadcast Communications.
The first Interface Message Processor (IMP) is sent to UCLA from BBN. The next day, it will be received by Leonard Kleinrock and his group, who will be responsible for setting it up on October 1st, transmitting the first electronic message between two computers on October 2nd, and transmitting the first long-distance host-to-host communication on October 29th.