This Day in Geek History: February 21
The first self-propelling steam locomotive makes is tested at the Pen-y-Darren Ironworks in Wales, on what is normally a horse-drawn tramline. The engine is able to pull a load of fifteen tons at a speed of about five miles per hour. However, adhesion is a problem. The iron wheels slip on the iron rails and the the cast-iron rails of the tramways are not strong enough to support the weight of the new machine. The experiment will soon be abandoned.
The first electrical burglar alarm is installed in the US by inventor Edwin T. Holmes in Boston, Massachusetts. When a door or window is opened, a spring is released, closing an electrical circuit.
Jeanne Calment is born. Calment will live for 122 years and 164 days, which will be the longest confirmed lifespan of any human being in history.
The first telephone book is issued in New Haven, Connecticut by the New Haven Telephone Company. It lists twenty-one names.
The first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary is published.
Thomas Edison receives two US patents, one for a “Cut Out for Incandescent Electric Lamps” and another for a “Stop Device.” (US No. 491,992, -3) These are the first light switches.
Dr. Harvey Cushing, performs the first brain operation, becoming the first US brain surgeon. Born in New Haven, Conneticutt, Cushing’s clinical contributions to medicine over the course of his career will be numerous: the first use of x-rays in surgical practice, the first use of physiological saline for irrigation during surgery, the discovery that the pituitary is the master hormone gland, the founding of the clinical specialty of endocrinology, the use of the anesthesia record, the use of blood pressure measurement in surgical practice, and the physiological consequences of increased intracranial pressure.
The Arrowbile, the first automobile-plane hybrid, successfully flies for the first time. The vehicle has a top speed of 120mph in the air and 70mph on the ground. The Arrowbile was designed by aeroengineer Waldo Dean Waterman and built by the Westerman Arrowplane Corporation of Santa Monica, California. It evolved from the prototype Arrowplane, a project which aimed to design a simple, easy to fly, low cost airplane. The Studebaker Corporation, which supplied the one hundred horsepower engines, will eventually take delivery of five Arrowbiles. Read more about Waldo Dean Waterman.
Edwin H. Land first demonstrates, the first instant camera, the Polaroid Land camera, during a meeting of the Optical Society of America (OSA) at the Hotel Pennsylvania, in New York City. The camera produces a black and white photograph in sixty seconds, using development and fixer chemicals sandwiched in pods with the photographic paper and film. After exposure, development is initiated by turning a knob that squeezes open the pod of chemicals.
The first US soap opera, “A Woman to Remember,” premieres.
The government of Winston Churchill abolishes Identity Cards in the UK in order to “set the people free.”
Francis Crick and James D. Watson reach the conclusion that the DNA molecule has a double helix structure. They will announce their conclusions on February 28 in the paper A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid in the April 25, 1953 issue of journal Nature. Read the original paper at the journal Nature’s website.
The first US submarine to circumnavigate the world returns to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii after leaving harbor on July 8, 1957. The USS Gudgeon (SS 567) traveled about twenty-five thousand miles in 228 days. During the course of the trip, the eighty-three man crew visited ports in Asia, Africa, and Europe, under the command of Lieutenant Commander John O. Coppedge.
Radiation permanently disables the Telstar satellite, the first active communications satellite, the first satellite designed to transmit telephone and high-speed data communications, and the first privately owned satellite. Read more about the Telstar at the RetroFuture website.
After portraying the gunshot victim in a parody of the “Who shot J.R.?” plot of Dallas on Saturday Night Live, cast member Charles Rocket closes the show by saying, “I’d like to know who the fuck did it,” during the live feed of the closing “goodnight” segment. Partly due to low ratings and partly due to the violation of broadcast standards, the entire cast is fired except for Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo following the incident.
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