This Day in Geek History: June 21
The first commencement of a U.S. medical college is held at the College of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. Its Department of Medicine was established in 1765 and was the first medical school in the United States.
French chemist Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac announces the isolation of the element Boron, nine days ahead of Englishman Humphry Davy, who independently separated boron and made his own announcement on June 30, 1808.
Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzk play a recreational game of chess, which, by virtue of a series of bold sacrifices, goes down in history as the immortal game, one of the greatest games in chess literature. In the course of the game, Anderssen sacrifices both of his rooks as well as his queen before finally checkmating his opponent with his three remaining minor pieces.
British photographer William Friese-Greene receives a patent for the first cinematograph camera specifically designed to make use of perforated celluloid films, though it only shoots film at a rate of four or five frames per second.
The first Ferris wheel is premiered at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition, America’s third World’s Fair. It was invented by George Washington Ferris, a Pittsburgh bridge builder as an attraction similar to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. Ferris’ design features a web of cables rather than rigid spokes in the wheel’s center and two 140 foot steel support towers. It stands 264 feet tall. Each of its thirty-six cars has a sixty passenger capacity, with a one hundred fifty ton total capacity. Its cars and wheels weigh 2,100 tons without passengers, and the levers and other associated machinery required to turn the wheel weigh another 2,200 tons. Its forty-five foot axle is the single largest piece of forged steel in the world. The ride cost fifty cents and made US$726,805.50 during the World’s Fair.
Andrew Lanergan, of Boston, Massachusetts, receives the first patent for a rocket, described as “an improvement in exhibition rockets.” (US No. 24,468) His design allows for the fuse, which he calls the “match,” to be pre-assembled with the rocket. The outer end of the fuse is packed inside a recess at the bottom of the rocket and covered with a light seal which can be easily broken to draw out the fuse as needed. Thus, he claims that the device is less likely to accidentally ignited by falling cinders or sparks falling on exposed fuses.
At 11:15, the first stored-program computer, the Small-Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM) or “Machester Baby,” executes its first program at Manchester University in Manchester, England. Written by Professor Tom Kilburn, the factoring program takes fifty-two minutes to run. The landmark event proves the feasibility of stored programs and marks the beginning of a new age of computing. The tiny experimental computer, nicknamed the “Manchester Baby” has no keyboard or printer, but it successfully tests a memory system developed at Manchester University in England. The system, which uses cathode-ray tube technology, is the first computer with the ability to store programs, moving technology from an era of calculators into the era of true computers. Previous electronic computers had to be rewired to execute each new problem posed to them. The Manchester computer proves theories set forth by John von Neumann in a report that proposes modifications to ENIAC, the electronic computer built at the University of Pennsylvania in the mid-forties (the same report that proposes the use of a binary rather than digital system). Though Baby is too small to do any work truly useful to the University, its success will prompt the development of the Manchester Mark I, and the later Ferranti Mark I, the first general purpose commercial computer.
The first successful long-playing microgroove phonograph records are introduced to the public at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. Made of nonbreakable Vinilyte plastic, and designed to be played at 33⅓ rpm. The records were developed by Dr. Peter Goldmark of Columbia Records. The twelve inch records can play twenty-three minutes of music per side, where the earlier 78 rpm record formats could only play four minutes per side. The LP is also an improvement in terms of audio fidelity with quieter playing surfaces. The first LP release features violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Columbia coined the term “LP” and subsequently copyrighted it. Thus, although many other firms could make long-playing records, only Columbia could make an LP. Visit the official Columbia Records website.