This Day in Geek History: June 10
A kite flown by Benjamin Franklin during a thunderstorm is struck by lightning.
The electric “Five Needle Telegraph” is patented in London by Charles Wheatstone and William Fothergill Cooke. (UK No. 7,390) The instrument requires six wires between each of its stations. In the Wheatstone system, letters on a board are indicated by the deflection of five needles, and a calling device is incorporated to draw the attention of the operator. Cooke and Wheatstone will be granted a patent in the U.S. just ten days before Samuel F. B. Morse will receive his, but, historically, Morse is given priority as the first inventor. The Morse patent describes a prototype of his famous dot-dash code. Wheatstone and Cooke will have the priority in the UK. Their telegraph had no means of recording messages, which Morse regarded as a great disadvantage.
The first telegraph link between Chicago and New York City is established.
G.F. Bernhard Riemann proposes that space is curved in a lecture entitled “Über die Hypothesen welche der Geometrie zu Grunde liegen.” He describes the old-fashioned Euclidean plane geometry and solid geometry, respectively, as two and three dimensional examples of what will later be called Riemann spaces with zero curvature. Saying that the space is curved, rather than flat or Euclidean, is another way saying that the familiar properties of Euclidean geometry, such as the Pythagorean theorem, do not hold. He went on to suggest that all physical laws become simpler when expressed in higher dimensions. Einstein will use Rieman’s work in his theory of General Relativity, which incorporated time as the fourth dimension, in 1915.
A second attempt to lay a transatlantic telegraph cable succeeds, following three cable breakages.
The first portable electrical stethoscope is demonstrated in Chicago, Illinois. It was designed by the Western Electric Co. with Bell System engineers and physiologist Dr. Horatio B. Williams. It will be sold commercially in October 1925.
Artificial lightning using ten million volts of electricity is demonstrated in the U.S. by the General Electric Company (GE) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. This is twice the previous maximum voltage produced in a laboratory.
László Bíró patents the ball point pen, which he had invented in 1938 while a journalist in Budapest, Hungary. Biro escaped the Nazi invasion by traveling via Paris to Argentina in 1940. There, Englishman Henry Martin, in Buenos Aires on a mission for the British government, saw the invention and recognized its value to air crews making high altitude navigational calculations. This new type of pen can write blot-free, unaffected by changes in atmospheric pressure. Martin acquired the rights and began small scale production of ballpoint pens for the Royal AirForce. Commercial production under Biro’s patents will began in 1945 in Buenos Aires.
The polyester film Mylar is registered as a DuPont trademark as the name for an extraordinarily strong polyester film (Biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate (boPET)) that originated with the development of Dacron in the early fifties. During the sixties, Mylar’s superior strength will make it a ready replacement for cellophane because of its its superior strength, heat resistance, and excellent insulating properties. It’s unique qualities will make products such as magnetic audio and video tapes, capacitor dielectrics, floppy disks, and some types of batteries possible. By the seventies, it will be used in food wraps, balloons, and by instrument manufacturers to produce high-quality drumheads.