This Day in Geek History: June 19
Greek astronomer and mathematician Eratosthenes calculates the circumference of the Earth. As director of the great Library of Alexandria, he read in a papyrus book that in Syene, the shadows of temple columns grew shorter as the hour approached noon on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. At noon, the shadows disappeared altogether because the sun was directly overhead. However, on the same day, a stick in Alexandria, to the north of Syene, casts a pronounced shadow. After learning about the shadows in Syene, Eratosthenes realizes that the surface of the Earth couldn’t be flat and that the more its surface curved, the greater the difference in the length of shadows between different locations would be. Eratosthenes calculated that the distance between the two locations was one fiftieth of a full 360-degree circle. He then estimated the distance between the two locations and calculated the planet’s circumference by multiplying the distance by fifty. The calculation will later prove to be remarkably accurate.
Michael Pupin is granted a patent for a method of long distance telephony involving pupinization, the use of loading coils at regular intervals to boost a transmitting wire’s inductance.
The first Father’s Day is celebrated by the city of Spokane, Washington, though it was first observed on a smaller scale on July 5, 1908 by the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church in Fairmont, West Virginia.
The first state film censorship board in the United States is established in Pennsylvania.
The first commercial doors operated by a photoelectric cell is installed in West Haven, Connecticut. The “magic eye” controls automated swinging doors between the kitchen and main dining room of Wilcox’s Pier Restaurant.
The Communications Act of 1934 establishes the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to supplant the Federal Radio Commission (FRC). The Act specifically forbids the FCC from censoring broadcasts or planned programs and requires broadcasters to give equal air time to candidates running for office during an election. Visit the official FCC website.
The first film of the Sun not made during an eclipse is taken at the McMath-Hulbert Observatory in Pontiac, Michigan. Using a Spectroheliokinematograph, Robert Raynolds McMath took moving pictures of solar prominences, otherwise known as sun spots.
Columbia Pictures releases the fantasy film Jason and the Argonauts, directed by Don Chaffey and starring Todd Armstrong, Nancy Kovack, Honor Blackman, and Gary Raymond, to U.S. theaters. It is notable for its ground breaking stop-motion animation sequences. The film was produced on a budget of one million dollars. IMDB listing (MPAA Rating: NR) Running Time: 1 hr 44 mins
Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, returns to Earth at the conclusion of her three day mission aboard the Vostok 6. Tereshkova was chosen for the cosmonaut program due to her expertise in parachute jumping, becoming the first person to be recruited without test pilot experience, making her the first civilian in space. Her radio call name during the mission was “Chaika,” Russian for “seagull.” Her mission, which lasted 4 days and 23 hours, established an endurance record that won’t be surpassed until the 1965 Gemini 7 mission.