This Day in Geek History: February 12
Michigan State University, the first land grant college in the United States, is established. It will become the model for all other land grant colleges created by the later 1862 Morrill Act. The University will later establish America’s first agriculture college, first freestanding laboratory for horticulture, and first telecommunications department.
The first artificial ice rink in North America is opened at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Thomas Edison is issued patents for “An Electric Generator or Motor,” “Insulation of Railroad tracks Used for Electrical Circuits,” “Incandescent Electric Lamp,” and an “Electrical Meter.”
Thomas Edison is issued two patents, one for a “Method of Winding Field Magnets” and another for a “Phonograph.”
The first car crash fatality occurs in Purley Corner, Surrey, England. Henry Lindfield dies when his electric car’s steering gear malfunctions, causing him to crash into an iron post at the foot of a hill. His femoral artery is severed, and, following an amputation, Lindfield will die of shock the next day. The first pedestrian fatally occurred on August 17, 1896. The first fatality involving a combustion engine will occur on February 25, 1899.
The first round-the-world automobile race starts in New York City. It will end in Paris, France in July. The drivers of the American car, a Thomas Speedway Flyer (manufactured by the E.R. Thomas Motor Co. of Buffalo, New York), win the competition, beating out teams from Germany and Italy. The Flyer was initially driven by Montague Roberts and George Schuster, but Roberts dropped out of the race in Wyoming.
The first television transmission in Japan is broadcast. The program is a baseball game.
The adventure series “The Adventures of Superman” premieres on Mutual Radio station WOR in New York City. The groundbreaking series will be of enormous importance to the advancement of the radio medium and the popularization of comics in mainstream media. In particular, the serial is credited with having slowed the spread of the Ku Klux Klan in the northern half of the United States with a story arc called “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” in which Superman battles the group.
Ernst Boris Chain and Howard Walter Florey administer the first injection of Penicillin into a human test subject, Albert Alexander. Alexander is an Oxford police officer who was severely scratched on the face by a rose bush. When the scratches turned septic, the Alexander developed blood poisoning and abscesses. The attending doctor reported that “within four days, there was a striking improvement… he was vastly better… with obvious resolution of the abscesses.” When the use of Penicillin is stopped because the physician run out, the infection returns. Alexander dies four weeks after discontinuing the treatment.
Albert Einstein makes a guest appearance on a weekly television show hosted by Eleanor Roosevelt just two weeks following President Harry Truman’s announcement of a program to build a hydrogen bomb. Einstein takes the opportunity to voice his opposition to the program. The same day, Hoover ordered his chief of domestic intelligence to prepare a full report on Einstein, and over the course of the next five years, the FBI will pursue a rampant vendetta against the scientist during the thick of Joseph McCarthy’s “red scare.” The next morning, the Washington Post runs the headline “Einstein Fears Hydrogen Bomb Might Annihilate ‘Any Life.’” Read more at the World Socialist Web Site.
Jonathan Rotenberg, age 13, establishes the Boston Computer Society (BCS), an organization for personal computer owners which will eventually grow into the largest such organization in the world. Four people attended the first meeting of this group, which, at its peak, will reach thirty thousand members representing all fifty states of the U.S. and over forty other nations. Organizations such as Apple Computer, International Business Machines (IBM), and Lotus Software will choose BCS meetings as platforms to make major announcements. By October 1996, the organization’s membership will have shrunk to eighteen thousand, and BCS will unanimously vote to disband.