This Day in Geek History: March 6
The very first patent in the the New World (America) is issued by the General Court of Massachusetts to Joseph Jenkes, to protect his scythe mill engine from competition for fourteen years. The patent comes four years before the first U.S. corporate charter, which will also be issued by the Great and General Court of Massachusetts. The patent reads, in part, “The Cort considringe ye necessity of raising such manifactures of engins of mils to go by water for speedy dispatch of much worke wth few hands, F.r being sufficiently informed of ye ability of ye petitionr to pforme such workes grant his petition (yt no othr pson shall set up, or use any such new invention, or trade for fourteen yeares w’hout ye licence of him ye said Joseph Jenkes) so farr as concernes any such new invention, & so as it shalbe alwayes in ye powr of this Corte to restrain ye exportation of such manifactures, & ye prizes of them to moderation if occasion so require.”
The first college orchestra in the U.S. is founded at Harvard.
Russian chemist Dmitry Mendeleev publishes the first version of his periodic table of the elements in a presentation entitled “The Dependence between the Properties of the Atomic Weights of the Elements” before the Russian Chemical Society. In his final version of the periodic table, in 1871, he will leave gaps, predicting the properties of unknown elements.
America’s first alternating current power plant goes into operation in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. George Westinghouse demonstrates transmission at 500 volts for four thousand feet, with a step-down for lights in stores. Driven by a water mill, it will start producing commercial power two weeks later, but it will be damaged by an accident and abandoned. However, Westinghouse succeeds in demonstrating the advantage of using transformers at the source in order to transmit power at a higher voltage, with fewer energy losses, and over greater distances than possible with Edison’s direct current system. Westinghouse will open his first successful AC generating plant on November 30, 1886 in Buffalo, New York.
The first appearance of an auto on the streets of Detroit occurs when Charles Brady King drives his “Horseless Carriage” down one of its main streets. When his auto breaks down, speculators respond by telling him to “get a horse.”
Niels Bohr uses this date on the first paper describing his new ideas on atomic structure and mails it to his mentor, Ernest Rutherford. It will be one of three historic papers he writes on the subject.
Fritz Lang’s science fiction film Metropolis is released in the U.S. It is the most expensive film ever made, costing approximately seven million Reichsmark.
General Foods puts “Birds Eye Frosted Foods,” the first individually packaged frozen foods on the market in Springfield, Massachusetts. To test the market, the product is sold in eighteen retail stores. Clarence Birdseye got his idea after seeing Canadians thawing and eating naturally frozen fish. In 1922, he began preparing frozen fish for sale and developing processes for freezing foods. By 1927, Birdseye had expanded the line to twenty-six items, including eighteen cuts of frozen meat, spinach, peas, a variety of fruits and berries, blue point oysters, and fish fillets. In May, sales will explode.
USS Newport News, the first air-conditioned naval ship, is launched from Newport News, Virginia.
Silly Putty is introduced as a toy by Peter Hodgson, a marketing consultant, who packaged one-ounce portions of the rubber-like material in plastic eggs. It can be stretched, rolled into a bouncing ball, or used to transfer colored ink from newsprint. The original discovery is made in 1943 by James Wright, who combined silicone oil and boric acid in the laboratories of General Electric. He was researching methods of making synthetic rubber, but at the time no significant application existed for the material. However, it was passed around as a curiosity. Hodgson saw a sample and realized its potential simply for entertainment and coined its name for marketing it as a toy. Its popularity made him a millionaire.
James D. Watson and Francis Crick submit their first article on the double helix structure of DNA, “Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid,” to the journal Nature. It will be published in the April 25th issue of the magazine.
We wish to put forward a radically different structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid. This structure has two helical chains each coiled around the same axis… Both chains follow right-handed helices… The novel feature of the structure is the manner in which the two chains are held together by purine and pyrimidine bases… They are joined together in pairs, a single base from one chain being hydrogen-bonded to a single base from the other chain, so that the two lie side by side with identical z-co-ordinates. One of the pair must be a purine and the other a pyrimidine in order for bonding to occur.
According to Twin Galaxies, Scott Young scores a record-setting 7,302,100 points playing the Stern Electronics arcade game Dark Planet at the Another Galaxy arcade in McHenry, Illinois, and Mike Buck scores a record-setting 388,190 points playing the Midway arcade game Ms. Pac-Man at the Eastgate Cafe in Ottumwa, Iowa. Visit the official Twin Galaxies website.