This Day in Geek History: March 3
United States President Abraham Lincoln approves an Act of Congress (12 Stat. L. 806) which charters The National Academy of Sciences. The Act stipulates that the Academy will “whenever called upon by any department of the Government, investigate, examine, experiment or report upon any subject of science or art.” Members of the Academy will serve pro bono, without compensation, but the actual expenses incurred for the Government’s requirements are to be paid from appropriations.
Provisions for photographs are added to the United States Copyright Act.
The U.S. Congress enacts the Comstock Law, making it illegal to send any “obscene, lewd, or lascivious” books through the mail. Read the law. Read more about the history of the Comstock laws at About.com.
The first steel vessels for the U.S. Navy are authorized by Congress. Four ships are authorized in total: the cruisers USS Atlanta, USS Boston (1884), and USS Chicago, and the dispatch boat, the USS Dolphin. The Chicago will be the largest, with a length of 325 feet and width of 48 feet. The Atlanta and the Boston will be 270 feet long and 42 feet wide.
The American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) is incorporated in New York as a wholly owned subsidiary of the American Bell Company. The company will serve as a long-distance carrier, connecting the regional Bell companies.
Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany becomes the first person to make a sound recording of a political document, using Thomas Edison’s cylinder.
D.W. Griffith’s film “The Birth of a Nation“, one of the most controversial films in cinematic history, is released in the U.S. The film will earn ten million dollars, and it will hold the record for the highest grossing film until 1925. It will be notable for its innovative technical achievements, but it will come to be considered controversial due to its promotion of white supremacy and its glorification of the hate group, the Ku Klux Klan. Read a biography of D.W. Griffith at Gilda’s Attic.
The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the predecessor of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), is founded as an emergency measure during World War I to promote the coordination of war-related projects. The mission of the NACA, which is modeled after similar European agencies, is to undertake, promote, and institutionalize aeronautical research. The agency will be dissolved on October 1, 1958.
The first U.S. international airmail service goes into operation. Sixty letters are flown seventy-four miles from Seattle, Washington in the United States to Victoria, British Columbia in Canada. The plane, a Boeing type-C open cockpit biplane with pontoons, is flown by plan manufacturer William Boeing and piloted by Edward Hubbard. The route ran regularly for eight years.
During the a Mutual Broadcasting System radio program The Adventures of Superman, Superman encounters Batman and Robin for the first time ever. It is the first of many regular appearances that Batman and Robin will make on the program as efforts to launch a separate Batman radio series will continue to fail.
The first U.S. probe to enter solar orbit, Pioneer 4, is launched.
The Postmaster General of the United Kingdom announces the authorization of PAL television transmissions in color, making Britain the first European nation to have a regular schedule of color broadcasts. The BBC will initially air four hours of color programming a week, which will increase to ten hours a week after the first year.
Magnavox signs an agreement with Sanders Associates for the exclusive licensing of television video game technology. The first home video game console, the Odyssey, was developed at Sanders by a team headed by Ralph Baer.
NASA launches the Pioneer 10 spacecraft on a mission to become the first spacecraft to travel through the system’s asteroid belt. The spacecraft is equipped with the Intel 4004 microchip, the first “computer on a chip.” It will be the first probe to reach Jupiter and later, the first probe to leave the solar system in 1983. In twenty years and five billion miles, the probe and microchip will still be functioning. Visit the official NASA profile of the spacecraft.