This Day in Geek History: July 13
Jonathan Carter Hornblower patents the first compound steam engine. (UK No. 1298) The engine uses two differently sized cylinders to improve upon the efficiency of previous steam engines. Steam within the engine first acts upon the engine’s smaller, high-pressure cylinder, then leaving at a lower pressure, acts upon the second, larger cylinder. Hornblower will be forced to abandon development of the design after Boulton & Watt claims infringement on an earlier patent, but the principal will be revived even later by Arthur Woolf.
Senator John Ruggles, who will later be dubbed the “Father of the U.S. Patent Office” for his extensive contributions to patent legislation, receives patent Number 1 from the U.S. Patent Office at the launch of a new patent numbering system. There had been 9,957 prior unnumbered patents issued by the office. Ruggles’ patent covers a “traction wheel” for locomotive steam engines that reduces the adverse effects of the weather on the track.
The Great Eastern embarks on a two week voyage to complete twelve years of efforts to lay a telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean between Britain and the United States. After the first three attempts ended in failure, the connection will finally be completed with this voyage.
Stephen D. Field of New York City is issued a patent for “propelling railway cars by electromagnetism.” (US No. 229,991) The patent covers the mechanism by which electric street cars could be run from a current generated by a stationary dynamo by conveying electricity down one of the rails and through a metal wheel to the car’s onboard motor, before returning through a second metal wheel to another rail.
The SS Great Eastern embarks from Valentia, Ireland to Heart’s Content, Newfoundland, laying the first Transatlantic undersea telegraph cable. When the final connection is made on July 27, the cable will be capable of transmitting telegraph messages at a rate of seven words per minute.
Guglielmo Marconi receives a patent on the process of “Transmitting Electrical Signals” which will lead to the development of a wireless telegraph system (for which he will receive a patent in June 1901). (US No. 586,193)
The first lighter-than-air transatlantic flight is successfully completed.
Television demonstration is arranged at 568 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts by Porter H Evans of the Massachusetts Television Institute at that address. Musical performances in an upstairs area are screened in the auditorium below, which seats 200 patrons paying 25 cents each. No transmission is involved—the studio and auditorium are linked by cable. Although described as a form of television theatre, the display is a conventional television receiver with a vertically mounted tube, the image measuring only 9 ins x 12 ins (23cm x 31cm) being viewed through a mirror in the hinged lid of the cabinet. The system uses a ‘cathovisor’ cathode ray tube, supplied by Baird Television in the U.K.
The first atomic bomb arrives partly assembled at its New Mexican test site on Friday the 13th. By Sunday morning, the bomb is assembled and positioned on top of a tower in preparation for the first atomic test.
20th Century Fox releases the sci-fi adventure film The Lost World, directed by Irwin Allen and starring Michael Rennie, Jill St. John, David Hedison, Claude Rains, and Fernando Lamas, to U.S. theaters. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The film centers around monsters created using close-up shots of monitor lizards, iguanas, and crocodiles affixed with miniature horns. The technique will later be dubbed slurpasaur by fans. IMDB listing Length: 1 hr 37 mins