This Day in Geek History: July 21
In a letter published in the journal Nature, Canadian nuclear physicist Harriet Brooks records her observations of a peculiar type of volatility demonstrated by an active deposit of radium immediately after its removal from the emanation. According to the letter, Harriet Brooks is the first person to observe the recoil of the atomic nucleus as nuclear particles are emitted during radioactive decay.
The Trans-Siberian Railway, one of the most ambitious engineering projects in history, is officially completed, linking European Russia through Siberia to the Far East with 4,607 miles through seven time zones. Its completion took thirteen years of work by thousand of workers, and its construction cost approximately 350 million rubles, all told.
A Tennessee jury finds high school teacher John Scopes guilty of teaching evolution in violation of Tennessee’s Butler Act, and he is fined US$100. The judgment will later be overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court on the technicality that the judge had set the fine rather than the jury.
The CBS New York City station launches the first regular seven day a week television schedule in the United States.
In the first U.S. test of the adaptability of jet aircraft to shipboard operations, an FD-1 Phantom, piloted by Lieutenant Commander James Davidson makes a successful landing and take-off from the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Roosevelt had been launched the previous year, and is the largest ship in the world. Read a brief history of aircraft carriers.
The Small-Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM) runs its first program. Also known as “Baby,” it is the first ever stored-program computer. It was built at the University of Manchester and is based on ideas conceived by John von Neumann. It is also the first computer to store data in RAM, as modern computers will.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) suggests field tests of telephone answering devices.
Ian Donald makes his first investigation of the use of ultrasound in medical diagnosis when he uses an industrial ultrasonic metal flaw detector to image tumors on human organs. Along with other engineers, he will develop the idea for practical applications in the hospital where he worked.
Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin blast off from the Moon after twenty-one and a half hours on the surface and return to the command module piloted by Michael Collins. The Lunar module is comprised of two stages. The decent stage had the landing gear and was used as a launch pad for the ascent stage. The ascent stage was mainly the cabin, and had a fixed thrust engine (15,500-Newton-thrust) to propel it to 2,000m/s in Lunar orbit for docking. The lunar module’s lower section, left behind, has a plaque mounted upon it, reading, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”
The Electronic Video Recording (EVR) home video system is first demonstrated to the public at the International Audio-Visual Exhibition (Internavex) at the Olympia in London. The system was developed by Dr. Peter C Goldmark, president and director of research at CBS Laboratories, who had been involved in developing the CBS color television that almost became the U.S. standard. The 750 foot reel of film is stored on a seven-inch diameter spool on a plastic cartridge. It uses a twin-track 8.75mm film onto which signals are transferred by electron beam recording, one monochrome track in each direction of travel. It is thus not an electronic image, not video, except in the most technical sense, and it isn’t intended for home recording.