This Day in Geek History: February 13
Tycho Brahe first outlines his “Tychonic system” of the structure of the solar system. The Tychonic system is a hybrid, combining the basic idea of the geocentric system of Ptolemy with the heliocentric ideas of Nicholas Copernicus. In his De mundi aethorei recentioribus phaenomenis, Brahe retains Aristotelian physics, keeps the the Sun and Moon revolving about Earth in the center of the universe and depicts a shell of fixed stars was centered on the Earth. Like Copernicus, he agrees that Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn revolve about the Sun, thus explaining the motions of the heavens without “crystal spheres” carrying the planets through complex Ptolemaic epicycles.
Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei arrives in Rome for his trial before the Inquisition, during which he will be charged with professing the belief that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Enemies of Galileo had convinced Pope Urban VIII that the sometimes foolish character that ineptly defends the Ptolemaic system in Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (Simplicio) was a mockery of the Pope himself. A document (later proved to be a forgery) in which Cardinal Bellarmine forbids Galileo from discussing Copernican ideas is also produced. Galileo is charged with disobeying Bellarmine’s order and misleading the censors who had published his book. Threatened with torture, Galileo will have no choice but to admit guilt, and “abjure, curse and detest the aforesaid errors and heresies…” Sentenced to indefinite house arrest by Pope Urban VIII, Galileo will spend the rest of his days at his villa in Arcetri, near Florence, until his death on January 8, 1642.
The first public school in the United States, the Boston Latin School, is founded.
Andrew Bedford publishes the first American magazine, entitled American Magazine.
The University of North Carolina becomes the first U.S. state university to admit students when Hinton James arrives on campus. He will remain the only student on campus for two weeks.
Jesse James and his gang commit the first armed bank robbery in United States history during peacetime in Liberty, Missouri. He will become a legendary folk hero following his death in 1882.
Robert Millikan begins collecting data from his famous oil drop experiment, the purpose of which is to determine the size of the charge on an electron. He gathers observations on the first of the fifty-eight drops he ultimately publishes. Millikan uses his measurements of the motion of oil drops within an electric field to estimate the fundamental unit of charge. He will earn the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1923 for his work. Read more about the experiment at the Physchem website.
“Prince Valiant in the Days of King Arthur,” a comic strip known for its attention to historical detail first appears. You can read Prince Valiant at the King Features website.
The world’s first electronic digital computer, ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator), is first demonstrated at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, by John W. Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert. ENIAC demonstrates that high-speed digital computing is possible using the vacuum tube technology available. Built of some 17,468 electronic vacuum tubes, ENIAC is in the largest single electronic apparatus in the world, occupying a fifteen hundred square foot room.
In Quito, Ecuador, locals riot after learning that a Spanish-language adaptation of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” that had set off panic across the city was a prank. A mob burns down the radio station that broadcast the program (Radio Quito) along with the offices of the local newspaper, El Comercio, which had participated in the hoax by publishing false reports of unidentified objects in the skies over Ecuador. Twenty people or more die in the riots, including the girlfriend and nephew of one of the broadcast’s producers, and the total property damage is estimated at approximately US$350,000. Three employees of the radio broadcasting company will subsequently be arrested.
France detonates its first plutonium bomb from a 330-foot tower at the Reggane base in the Sahara Desert, in French Algeria. General Charles de Gaulle set the date for the first atomic explosion to assert France’s independence on the world stage. Thus, he set about building the country’s nuclear capacity, acquiring nuclear aircraft, missiles and submarines.
Apollo Computer is incorporated in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. Apollo will become known for creating the first work stations, small but powerful computer mostly used for engineering. In 1989, Hewlett-Packard Company will acquire Apollo in a US$476 million deal. Visit the official Hewlett-Packard website.
According to Twin Galaxies, Jason Smith scores a record-setting 2,220,000 points playing the Midway arcade game Gorf at the Gold Mine arcade in Midland, Texas. Visit the official Twin Galaxies website.
The U.S. space probe, Voyager I, captures a photograph of the Sun and six planets in a single shot taken from the edge of the solar system. The Sun appears almost like a star in the photo, and the planets are only small dots. Visit the official Voyager I website.
Pages: 1 2