This Day in Geek History: August 31
Charles Darwin visits his uncle, Josiah Wedgwood II, to discuss his father’s opposition to his voyage aboard the HMS Beagle. Darwin is enthusiastic about the opportunity, but his father considers it a waste of time that would only delay his son’s anticipated career in the clergy. Darwins uncle will write a letter to Robert Darwin, reassuring him of the value of such a trip, and ultimately changing his mind.
The U.S. Naval Observatory, one of the oldest scientific agencies in the U.S., is authorized by an act of Congress. Its primary task is to act as a depot for the Navy’s charts, navigational instruments, and chronometers, which are calibrated by timing the transit of stars across the meridian. Visit the agency’s official website.
Thomas Edison is granted a patent for an “Electro-Chemical Receiving-Telephone.” (US No. 231,704)
Thomas Edison receives a patent for the Kinetoscope, a device for producing moving pictures. (US No. 589,168) In the patent, he describes it as a device “to produce pictures representing objects in motion throughout an extended period of time which may be utilized to exhibit the scene including such moving objects in a perfect and natural manner by means of a suitable exhibiting apparatus.” Edison determined that a speed of thirty pictures per second is sufficient to produce the persistence of vision effect that creates smooth motion from the subject of a film’s individual frames.
Coca-Cola is first sold in Britain in the basement restaurant of Spence’s department store, a silk merchant and general goods store at 76-79, St Paul’s Churchyard, London EC4.
The first U.S. airplane flight over water is made by Glenn Hammond Curtiss in his biplane over Lake Erie from Euclid Beach Park in Cleveland, Ohio, to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. At an altitude between four hundred and five hundred feet, the seventy mile trip takes seventy-eight minutes nonstop.
The first news radio program in history is broadcast by radio station 8MK from Detroit, Michigan.
The first solar-powered car is publicly demonstrated by General Motors Corporation. The Sunmobile was designed by William G. Cobb. Light energy falling on twelve selenium photoelectric cells created electric current sufficient to power a tiny electric motor that turns a driveshaft connected to the car’s rear axle by a pulley. It was one of the 253 exhibits at the General Motors Powerama in Chicago, Illinois, which will be seen by over 2,500,000 visitors during the course of the twenty-eight day, seven million dollar event spread over one million square feet on the shore of Lake Michigan.
John McCarthy of Dartmouth College, Marvin Minsky of Harvard University, Nathaniel Rochester of IBM, and Claude Shannon of Bell Laboratories send out invitations to participate in a summer session researching what they call “Artificial Intelligence” (AI) at Dartmouth College. It is the first recorded use of the term “Artificial Intelligence” in history, though McCarthy will often receive credit for coining the term in 1956. In a 2006 interview with CNet, McCarthy will unequivocally state that he coined the term.