This Day in Geek History: May 16
The flat gramophone disc and its reproduction is demonstrated by Emile Berliner to members of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. His technique involves coating a zinc disc with a wax resist into which the stylus cuts the recording. The disc is then etched in acid to cut the recording into the zinc. Berliner intends to use the electrotyping process to make copies of the zinc master disc and demonstrates a copper duplicate.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences holds its first Academy Awards presentation at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, California. The award for Best Film goes to Paramount Studio’s Wings (Paramount), Best Actor is awarded to Emil Jannings, Best Actress is awarded to Janet Gaynor. The statuette was designed by Cedric Gibbons, the art director at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), and manufactured by Dodge Trophy Company of Crystal Lake, Illinois. It is thirteen inches high and weighs eight pounds. The term “Oscar” won’t be used until 1931.
Geophysical Service Inc. is established by J. Clarence (“Doc”) Karcher and Eugene McDermott as the first independent contractor specializing in the reflection seismograph method of geophysical exploration. The company is incorporated in Newark, New Jersey, and its headquarters are established in Dallas, Texas. A division of Geophysical Service will become Texas Instruments in 1951.
During WW II, “bouncing bombs” invented by Dr. Barnes Wallis are dropped on the Mohne and Eder dams in the Ruhr Valley. Wallace had realized that breaching the dams would destroy vital enemy war factories and disrupt the flow of hydroelectricity to the industrial Ruhr area. He overcame skepticism from the British military command and designed an innovative bomb that could be delivered against the side of a dam. Both were demanding tasks. Carefully planned bomber flights delivered very large, cylindrical bombs rotating backwards at high speed that would, when dropped at the right height and place, skip along the surface of the water, right up to the base of the dam. Wallis based his idea on the simple pastime of skipping stones on a pond.
The world’s first magnetic tape recorder is demonstrated for the first time by Jack Mullin.
A synthetic ruby crystal laser is first operated at Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, California. (US Patent 3,353,115) The laser is a device that produces monochromatic coherent light (light in which the rays are all of the same wavelength and phase). This first operable laser device is invented by American physicist Theodore Maiman, for which he will be issued a U.S. patent on November 14, 1967.
After completing twenty-two orbits around the Earth, NASA astronaut L. Gordon Cooper returns safely aboard the Mercury-Atlas 9 (Faith 7), marking the end of Project Mercury. During the course of the mission Cooper spent more time in space than all five previous Mercury astronauts combined (over thirty-four hours) and became the first man to sleep in orbit.