This Day in Geek History: May 20
Explorer Christopher Columbus dies in poverty in Spain.
An experiment to remedy scurvy among sailors during long sea voyages is conducted by British ship surgeon, James Lind, on the HMS Salisbury. He regulates the diets of the sailors, and specifically includes lemons and oranges. The results of the trial will quickly prove that the enormous number of deaths caused by scurvy cab easily be prevented. The discovery will allow passengers to undertake long voyages in relative health for the first time in history.
D. Hyde of Reading, Pennsylvania patents the fountain pen. However, the first truly practical fountain pen won’t be invented until 1884 by Lewis Waterman.
David Edward Hughes of Louisville, Kentucky is issued a patent for the first telegraph ticker that successfully prints type. (US No. 14,917) The following year, he will sell the rights to his invention for US$100,000 to the Commercial Co.
The first public demonstration of a prototype Kinetoscope is given at Edison’s laboratory for approximately 150 members of the National Federation of Women’s Clubs. A three second “film” directed, produced by, and starring William Dickson is used for the demonstration. The film depicts William Dickson waving in greeting. Subsequently, the film will become known as the “Dickson Greeting.” The New York Sun will describe what the clubwomen saw in the “small pine box” they encountered. “In the top of the box was a hole perhaps an inch in diameter. As they looked through the hole they saw the picture of a man. It was a most marvelous picture. It bowed and smiled and waved its hands and took off its hat with the most perfect naturalness and grace. Every motion was perfect…” Watch a clip of the Dickson Greeting online.
The first company specifically incorporated to produce films, the Lamda Company, shows a four-minute boxing film to the first paying audience using its wide-film Eidoloscope projector (invented by Eugène Lauste) at 153 Broadway in New York City.
Claude Grivolas, one of principal shareholders of Pathe, a Paris, France movie company, invents the first projector that produces three-dimensional pictures.
The U.S. Navy commissions the USS New Mexico (BB-40), the first electrically propelled warship in history. General Electric runs an advertisement touting the battleship as “the first of any nation to be electronically propelled.” GE calls it one of the most important achievements of the scientific age and boasts that “so general are the applications of electricity to the needs of mankind that scarcely a home or individual today need be without the benefits of General Electric products and service.” View the GE advertising at Google Books.
Montreal, Quebec radio station XWA broadcasts the first regularly scheduled radio programming in North America.
Thomas Edison famously claims that Americans prefer silent movies over talkies.