Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sir Bernard Lovell and the Radioastronomy

Sir Bernard Lovell (1913-2012)
On August 31, 1913, English physicist and radio astronomer Sir Bernard Lovell was born. He was a pioneer in radar and radio telescopes and especially renowned for creating the Jodrell Bank radio telescope, the only antenna that could track rockets in space in the early years of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Born at Oldland Common, Bristol in 1913, as the son of Gilbert and Emily Laura Lovell, Bernard Lovell's childhood hobbies and interests included cricket and music – mainly the piano. He attended Kingswood Grammar School, now King's Oak Academy, before he studied physics at the University of Bristol, where he obtained a bachelor of science degree in 1934, and a PhD in 1936 on the electrical conductivity of thin films At this time he also received lessons from Raymond Jones, a teacher at Bath Technical School and later organist at Bath Abbey. The church organ was one of the main loves of his life, apart from science and cricket. After a year as an assistant lecturer in physics at the University of Manchester, he became a member of the cosmic-ray research team at that institution, working in this capacity until the outbreak of World War II in 1939.

During World War II Lovell worked for the Air Ministry, doing valuable research in the use of radar for detection and navigation purposes for which he was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1946.[1] Returning to the University of Manchester in 1945 as a lecturer in physics, Lovell acquired a surplus army radar set for use in his research on cosmic rays. Because interference from the surrounding city hampered his efforts, he moved the equipment, which included a searchlight base, to Jodrell Bank, an open field located about 30km south of Manchester near Goostrey in Cheshire. Shortly thereafter authorities at the university agreed to provide him with a permanent establishment at the site, which already belonged to the university’s botany department, and to sponsor the construction of his first radio telescope, for which he used the searchlight base as a mounting.

In the course of his experiments, he was able to show that radar echoes could be obtained from daytime meteor showers as they entered the Earth's atmosphere and ionised the surrounding air. With University funding, he constructed the then-largest steerable radio telescope in the world, which now bears his name – the Lovell Telescope. Completed in 1957, the telescope – known initially as Mark 1 and renamed the Lovell Telescope on its 30th anniversary – dominates the surrounding countryside and continues to make huge contributions to the science of astronomy.[2] The Mark 1 telescope was the only instrument that could both detect the first Soviet and American satellites and transmit instructions to them. Oddly enough as it now seems, the need for such a telescope had escaped both the telecommunications industry and the military leaders of both superpowers.

Despite its spectacular success, which included tracking the Sputnik 1 satellite mission in 1957, Lovell went through a lot of trubles concerning the funding of the radio telescope. The main problem was to find sufficient funds to meet the rising costs of the project at times of government cuts. Thus in 1955 the project found itself £250,000 in debt. The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research agreed to find half if Lovell could raise the rest. A public appeal failed to raise more than £65,000 and it required a strong public press campaign to move the Treasury to meet the outstanding costs in 1960, three years after the telescope was first used. [3]

In 1951, Lovell became professor of radio astronomy at Manchester University and the founder and first director of Jodrell Bank Experimental Station . In 1958 he gave the Reith Lectures, for the BBC, entitled The Individual and the Universe. Beginning in 1958, Lovell carried out much research on the characteristics of flare stars. In 1960, he began collaborating with Fred Whipple of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in this work. In 1955 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society; in 1960 he received the Royal Medal of the society. Lovell was knighted in 1961 for his important contributions to the development of radio astronomy,

At yovisto you can learn more about radio astronomy in the lecture of Prof. Walter Briskin from Princeton Institute of Advanced Studies on 'AstroGPU - Real-time Digital Signal Processing in Radio-Astronomy'

References and Further Reading:
Related Articles in the Blog:

If you like the daily blog posts of yovisto about the history of science, please support us by clicking on the amazon links and making your next amazon purchase via our offered links. Nevertheless, please do also support your local (real world) bookstore at the corner of the street.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Fred Whipple and the Dirty Snowballs

Fred Whipple (1906-2004)
On August 30, 2004, American astronomer Fred Lawrence Whipple passed away. Amongst his achievements, he discovered some asteroids and comets, came up with the "dirty snowball" cometary hypothesis, and designed the Whipple shield.

Frank Whipple was born on November 5, 1906, in Red Oak, Iowa, as the son of a farmer. An early bout with polio ended his ambition of being a professional tennis player. Whipple studied at Occidental College in Southern California, then majored in mathematics at the University of California at Los Angeles, graduating in 1927. Intrigued by an astronomy course he encountered, Whipple changed his area of study to astronomy and earned a doctorate degree in 1931.[1] While in graduate school, he helped map the orbit of the then newly discovered dwarf planet Pluto. His first job out of college was at Harvard University, where he inspected the telescopes’ photographic plates to make sure the cameras were operating correctly. He studied the trajectories of meteors, confirming that they originated within the solar system rather than from interstellar space. In 1933, he discovered the periodic comet 36P/Whipple and the asteroid 1252 Celestia. He also discovered or co-discovered five other non-periodic comets.

Whipple found that nearly all visible meteors are made up of fragile material from comets, and that none can be shown to come from beyond the solar system. During World War II he co-invented chaff—aluminum fragments—to foil radar and protect planes.[2] He was awarded a Certificate of Merit for this in 1948. In 1950, in the same year he became professor of astronomy at Harvard, Whipple proposed his famous “dirty snowball” model for comet nuclei (originally he it"icy conglomerate" hypothesis of comet composition). He suggested that comets have icy cores inside thin insulating layers of dirt, and that jets of material ejected as a result of solar heating were the cause of orbital changes. The basic features of this hypothesis were confirmed in 1986 when spacecraft flew past comet Halley, however the exact amount (and thus the importance) of ices in a comet is an active field of research, with most of the recently obtained data pointing to a low contribution of ices to a comet's mass. [2]

Whipple also anticipated the era of artificial satellites and organized the members of Operation Moonwatch to track them. These groups were the only ones prepared and ready to make observations when the Soviet Union unexpectedly launched Sputnik I in 1957. His work on tracking artificial satellites led to improved knowledge of the shape of the earth and greatly improved positions on earth. Whipple directed the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) from 1955 to 1973, before it joined with the Harvard College Observatory to form the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). In the late 1960s, Whipple selected Mount Hopkins in southern Arizona as the site for a new SAO astronomical facility. Whipple was part of the group that initiated a novel and low-cost approach to building large telescopes first realized in the construction of the Multiple Mirror Telescope, a joint project of SAO and the University of Arizona. Mt. Hopkins Observatory was renamed Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in 1981. [3] Whipple died in 2004, aged 97.

At yovisto you can learn more about astronomy in a popular lecture by Neil deGrasse Tyson at the University of Washington in Seattle.

References and Further Reading:
Related Articles in the Blog:

If you like the daily blog posts of yovisto about the history of science, please support us by clicking on the amazon links and making your next amazon purchase via our offered links. Nevertheless, please do also support your local (real world) bookstore at the corner of the street.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Werner Forssmann and the dangerous Self Experiment in Cardiac Catheterization

Werner Forssmann
(1904 - 1979)
On August 29, 1904, German surgeon and Nobel Laureate Werner Forssmann was born. He is best known for the development of cardiac catheterization, which was developed by him in a dangerous self experiment.

Werner Forssmann was born in Berlin and grew up with his mother, grandmother, and his uncle who was a physician. Forssmann was admitted to the School of Medicine at Friedrich-Wilhelms University where he studied the experiments performed by Claude Bernard, Auguste Chaveau, and and Etienne-Jules Marey. Also, Forssmann devoted his time to measuring and recording the blood pressure from the beating heart of a horse. Back then, he increased his interest in investigating the direct delivery of medications into the heart [1,3].

In 1929,  Forssmann graduated and joined the Eberswalde Surgical Clinic. In this period, the scientist came to believe that with the help of a thin catheter, drugs could be directly injected into the major vessels of the heart. He assumed that this way, a failing heart could be resuscitated without serious invasive maneuvers like cardiac surgery or intracardiac puncture [1]. However, his supervisors refused permissions for a risky experiment like this and he began practicing the procedure on cadavers secretly as suggested by his friend, Richard Schneider, Head of Surgery [2]. After several successful experiments on the cadavers and himself, Forssmann inserted a lubricated catheter into his left cubital vein and pushed it up approximately 35 cm. This was performed with the help of Schneider who interrupted the procedure, think it was becoming too dangerous [1].

However, Forssmann had no motivation to give up at this point. He repeated the procedure a week later by himself. This time, the catheter was inserted 65cm. At first, he punctured the vein and pushed the catheter up until he sensed warmth at the venipuncture site. Then, the scientist walked to the radiology department where he located the catheter tip [2]. He was not able to push the catheter further into the right heart sections, because apparently, it was not long enough. In a scientific paper, Forssmann described his experiments and they turned out quite sensational, but also caused a large wave of criticism due to the high risks of the procedure. Shortly after, Forssmann was fired and he abadoned cardiology, continuing his career in urology [1,2].

The scientists André Cournand and Dickinson W. Richards used Forssmann's experiments and applied his technique on animals. Both scientists researched on the topic for 4 years and performed the first human cardiac catheterization in the United States. In a scientific paper, they also explained the usefulness and safety of the procedure. In 1956, he was awarded, together with André Cournand and Dickinson W. Richards, the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine and he was, in the same year, appointed Honorary Professor of Surgery and Urology at the Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz [3,4].

At yovisto, you may be interested in a video of an actual cardiac catheterization via the femoral artery by Dr. Michael Martinelli.

References and Further Reading:
Related Articles in the Blog:

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Antoine Cournot and the Mathematical Theory of Economics

Antoine Cournot
(1801 – 1877)
On August 28, 1801, French philosopher and mathematician Antoine-Augustin Cournot was born. He is considered being the first economist who applied mathematics to the treatment of economic questions. In 1838, he published Recherches sur les principes mathématiques de la théorie des richesses (Researches into the Mathematical Principles of the Theory of Wealth) which was a treatment of mathematical economics.

Antoine Cournot was born in Gray, France and it is known that he was interested in politics from early age. By the age of 15, it is assumed that Cournot finished his education in Gray and read almost all works by Voltaire. He noted that all books he read in this period had a "decisive influence on all of his subsequent ideas and studies". Despite his interests in mathematics, philosophy and politics, Cournot began studying law. Cournot continued his education in Besançon in order to study mathematics and was admitted at the École normale. In his later life, Cournot remembered this period as one of the happiest of his life [2,3].

Cournot was appointed professor of mathematics at Lyon in 1834. Four years later, he published 'Recherches sur les principes mathématiques de la théorie des richesses', but unfortunately, his work stayed mostly unrecognized at this time. In the following years, the scientist simplified his theories and published them again in 1863 and 1876. I assume, every student of economics is aware of the Cournot-Nash-equilibrium and his theories on monopolies explained in this work. In the first chapters of his masterpiece, Cournot defines wealth and explains that all individuals of an economy seek to maximize their profits. The following chapters remain the most famous. After Cournot describes the demand curve, he discusses monopolies. This model is expanded in a way that he adds more competitors, leading to his famous oligopoly theory. However, his explanations on duopolies are described in detail including several graphics and calculations. Further topics of the masterpiece include tax theories on these models. Cournot admits that the wealth he defined at the beginning is not always beneficial to economic welfare [1].

It is assumed, that Antoine Cournot was influenced by Adam Smith's 'Wealth of Nations', who described demand curves without exact definitions. Cournot's findings are considered incredibly advanced. Still, the understanding of demand curves today is a little bit different. Most economic students would agree that the demand curve today is derived from the utility of the demanding party. Cournot however believed, that the demands of individuals are very subjective, and thus not to be expressed in formulas [1,3].

Even though Cournot was a scientist with a good reputation, his masterpiece was mostly ignored during his lifetime. Still, it is known that his influence on economists a few years later was significant. Especially Marshall and Walras are believed to be influenced by Cournot's theories.

At yovisto, you may be interested in a lecture on Oligopoly by Jon Gruber at MIT.

References and Further Reading:
Related Articles in the Blog:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Man Ray and the Art of Photograms

Portrait of Man Ray and Salvador Dali, Paris
by Carl Van Vechten
On August 27, 1890, American modernist artist and photographer Emmanuel Radnitzky was born, better known as Man Ray. A significant contributor to the Dadaist and Surrealist movement, Man Ray produced major works in a variety of media but considered himself a painter above all. He was best known for his photography, and he was a renowned fashion and portrait photographer.

Man Ray, born as Emmanuel Radnitzky, and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. During the 1910s, the entire family changed their surname to Ray and Emmanuel also changed his first name to Man while many referred to him as 'Manny'. His family was mostly active in tailoring and also the children, including Man Ray, where included in the business. During his years in school, Man Ray also educated himself with museum visits where he studied numerous art works. Despite the fact, that the young Man Ray was offered a scholarship to study architecture, Man Ray already chose to become an artist. In his family's apartment, he established his studio and it is believed, that he stayed there for about four years. To finance his dream, Ray became a technical illustrator in Manhattan.

Even though Man Ray lived in New York City, he was mostly influenced by contemporary European works and his works showed many aspects of cubism. Also, Marcel Duchamp increased his interest in the movement of figures. His first known solo show took place in 1915 and one year later, Ray's first proto-Dada object, an assemblage titled Self-Portrait, was exhibited. The artist highly increased his interest in dadaism in this period, and he began creating mechanical and photographic methods of producing images. For instance, he combined a spray-gun with pen drawing. In 1920, he founded along with Duchamp, and Katherine Dreier the Société Anonyme, which became probably the first museum of modern art in the United States.

Starting from 1921, Man Ray made his living in Paris and he increased his overall influence in the field of photography. Famous artists like James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, Bridget Bate Tichenor, and Antonin Artaud, posed for Man Ray and his camera. In the 1930s, surrealist artist Méret Oppenheim posed nude for Ray in a famous photography series. Ray also created a photogram he named 'rayographs' he used to describe as 'pure dadaism'. But, next to his ambitions in photography, the artist also directed a series of short films, which became known as Cinéma Pur.

In the 1960s, Man Ray published his autobiography, which was again republished in 1999. He passed away in November 1976 and his wife, Juliet, organized a trust for his work and donated much of his work to museums.

At yovisto, you may be interested in a video lecture on Dadaism and Duchamp by David Joselit.

References and Further Reading:
Related Articles in the Blog:
  • All articles related to art

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lee De Forest and the Audion

Lee De Forest with two of his tubes
On August 26, 1873, American inventor Lee de Forest was born. He is credited more than 180 patents. In 1906, de Forest invented the Audion, the first triode vacuum tube and the first electrical device which could amplify a weak electrical signal and make it stronger, making radio broadcasting, television, and long-distance telephone service possible, among many other applications.

Lee De Forest knew that he wanted to become an inventor at very early age. It is known that he performed many experiments during his childhood and created several electrical and mechanical devices. The young De Forest wrote a letter to his father: "I intend to be a machinist and inventor, because I have great talents in that direction. In this I think you will agree with me. If this be so, why not allow me to so study as to best prepare myself for that profession? In doing this it would be much better to prepare myself for and take the Sheffield Scientific course". Shortly after, he enrolled at the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale University in Connecticut in 1893, where he earned his Ph.D. with a dissertation on radio waves [1].

De Forrest was hired by Western Electric, where he devised dynamos, telephone equipment, and early radio gear. He used the wireless telegraph which had earlier been introduced by Marconi and searched for a better detector or receiver and patented a device he called the 'responder'. The inventor started his own business in 1902 called 'De Forest Wireless Telegraph Company', selling selling radio equipment and demonstrating the new technology by broadcasting Morse code signals. However, he resigned as its president four years later. While Lee De Forrest worked on the improvement of the wireless telegraph equipment, he modified the vacuum tube invented by John Ambrose Fleming and designed the Audion, and he used it to detect or receive code and voice messages. In the book, 'Lee de Forest, King of Radio, Television, and Film' it was said that "the patentable differences between this invention and that of Fleming are de Forest’s addition of the second battery between the plate and the earphone, called a 'B' battery, and the use of a telephone earphone instead of the galvanometer. These two very significant changes result in the 'hearing' of a signal as opposed to Fleming’s 'seeing' it using a visual indicator. These differences mean that only the de Forest version will be able to 'hear' the audio from the imminent invention of the radiotelephone" [1,2].

The inventor published the first known writings on how music could be send into homes using the wireless telephone, or the radio. He used his audion detector as a radio receiver and his audion amplifier to make small signals louder, and the oscillating audion as a transmitter. He set up a radio station in the Bronx in 1916, but without any financial success. In the 1920s, he worked on a system for producing motion pictures with sound, but unfortunately, the film industry became not really interested in his technology. However, when the industry later on adopted the concept of sound on film, a process very similar to De Forest’s was used [3].

For his contributions, Lee De Forest was awarded the 1922 Medal of Honor of the Institute of Radio Engineers and the 1946 Edison Medal from the AIEE. During his life time, the inventor filed almost 200 patents, but passed away as a poor man in 1961 [3].

At yovisto, you may be interested in a lecture by ... on the book 'Lee De Forest - King of Radio, Television, and Film'

References and Further Reading:
Related Articles in the Blog:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Elizabeth Montagu and the Bluestocking Society

Montagu (seated middle)
in company of other "Bluestockings"
On August 25, 1800, British social reformer, patron of the arts, salonist, literary critic, and writer Elizabeth Montagu passed away. She was one of the wealthiest women of her era and one of the founders of the Bluestocking Society, an informal women's social and educational movement in England in the mid-18th century.

Elizabeth Robinson grew up in a quite influential and wealthy family. She befriended Lady Margaret Harley in early years and spent a significant amount of time in her household, where important figures of the 1730s met and men and women were considered equal. She increased her interest in literature, when she began visiting her grandfather at Cambridge frequently, where he was occupied as the University's Librarian [1,2].

In letters, Robinson sent to Harley in 1738, the young woman explained that she had no desire for marriage, as she saw marriage as expedient convention. In 1742, she married Edward Montagu who was a grandson of the first Earl of Sandwich and owned coal mines and estates in Northumberland, Yorkshire and Berkshire. However, it is assumed that both lived independent lives and also, he was twice as old as Elizabeth. Together, they had a son, who passed away in 1744. Following this event, Elizabeth Montagu became increasingly religious [1,3].

After Montagu had moved to London in 1850, she initiated so called 'conversation parties' and is believed to have said "I never invite idiots to my house" in this period. These events were soon called blue-stockings and they turned into elaborate evenings where literature was discussed. She also began hosting events of this kind in Bath, where she lived at various times in several houses. She became one of the three leading literary or blue-stocking hostesses, together with Elizabeth Vesey and Frances Boscawen.

Dr. Johnson once wrote about Montagu, that "She diffuses more knowledge than any woman I know, or indeed, almost any man. Conversing with her, you may find variety in one". She anonymously contributed 3 dialogs to Lyttelton’s Dialogues of the Dead in 1760 and published her book 'An Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespeare compared with the Greek and French Dramatic Poets, with some Remarks upon the Misrepresentations of Mons. de Voltaire' at the end of the 1760s. Her work was a great success and her reputation as an author grew significantly. Unfortunately, her husband died in 1775 and Elizabeth Montagu decided to take control of the families' interest. She proved to be a great business woman and it is believed that was always on good terms with her family [1].

At yovisto, you may be interested in a video titled "Searching for Shakespeare".

References and Further Reading:
Related Articles in the Blog:

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Pliny the Elder and the Destruction of Pompeii

John Martin's Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum (1821)
On August 25, 79 AD, Roman author, naturalist and natural philosopher Pliny the Elder died, while attempting the rescue by ship of a friend and his family from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that had just destroyed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Unfortunately, there don't exist contemporary pictures or portaits of Pliny the Elder. Thus, I decided to show you an also imaginary picture of the destruction of Pompeii instead.

Gaius Plinius Cecilius Secundus, known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman scholar, encyclopedist, and nationalist who was born in 23 AD, in Novum Comum in Gallia Cisalpine (today Como, Italy). He completed his studies in Rome where he received education in literature, oratory, and law, as well as military training. In 46 AD at the age of 23, he began a military career by serving in Germany under Pomponius Secundus, rising the rank of cavalry commander.[1] Twelve years later, he returned to Rome. Legal advocate during the reign of emperor Nero (died in 68) he gained favor under Vespasian and assumed various official positions: he served as a procurator in Gaul, Africa and Spain, where he gained a reputation for integrity. He also served on the imperial council for both Vespasian and Titus.

Despite his active public life, Pliny the Elder still found time to write enormous amounts of material. He was the author of at least 75 books, not to mention another 160 volumes of unpublished notebooks. His books included volumes on cavalry tactics, biography, a history of Rome, a study of the Roman campaigns in Germany (twenty books), grammar, rhetoric, contemporary history (thirty-one books), and his most famous work, his one surviving book, Historia Naturalis (Natural History), published in A.D. 77. Natural History consists of thirty-seven books including all that the Romans knew about the natural world in the fields of cosmology, astronomy, geography, zoology, botany, mineralogy, medicine, metallurgy, and agriculture.[1]

Published during the last two years of Pliny's life, the Naturalis Historia is one of the largest works surviving from classical times. And, although it contains many mistakes, some due no doubt to the author's untimely death, which prevented any revisions, there is a surprising level of accuracy. He states correctly, for example, that Venus is the only heavenly body, other than the sun and moon, that casts a visible shadow; or that a bird egg can be made flexible by placing it in vinegar and dissolving away its hard outer shell. Pliny's writings offer not only insights into nature itself, but also into the Roman conception of nature, which differed substantially from our own.[2]

Pliny the Elder did not marry and had no children. In his will he adopted his nephew, which entitled the latter to inherit the entire estate. An account of Pliny's death is given in a letter from his nephew:

He [Pliny the Elder] was at that time with the fleet under his command at Misenum. On August 24th [79 AD], about one in the afternoon, my mother asked him to look at a cloud of the most peculiar size and shape. He had been sunbathing earlier, which he had followed with a cold bath and a light lunch. He had then returned to his books. But he rose at once and went to high ground where he could get a better view of this remarkable phenomenon.[...] To a man of such learning as my uncle, this phenomenon seemed extraordinary and well worth investigation. He ordered a light ship prepared, and told me I could come along if I liked.[...]They tried to decide whether it would be wiser to remain inside their houses — which now were being shaken to their foundations with repeated, violent concussions from the eruption — or to flee to the open fields, where the stones and cinders rained down in such heavy showers that, although they were individually light, they seemed to threaten annihilation. [...] They decided to go down to the shore to see whether they could escape by sea, but the waves were still running too high. There my uncle lay down on a sail that had been spread for him, and called twice for some cold water, which he drank. Then a rush of flame, with the reek of sulfur, made everyone scatter, and made him get up. He stood with the help of his servants, but at once fell down dead, suffocated, as I suppose, by some potent, noxious vapor. He had always had a weak respiratory tract, which was often inflamed and obstructed.[3]

At Yovisto, Diana E. E. Kleiner explores the civic, commercial, and religious buildings of Pompeii as part of her lecture on 'Roman Architecture'. She is an art historian known worldwide for her expertise on the art and architecture of the ancient Romans.
References and Further Reading:
Related Articles at yovisto Blog:

If you like the daily blog posts of yovisto about the history of science, please support us by clicking on the amazon links and making your next amazon purchase via our offered links. Nevertheless, please do also support your local (real world) bookstore at the corner of the street.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

E.F. Codd and the Relational Database Model

E. F. Codd (1923-2003)
On August 23, 1923, English computer scientist Edgar Frank "Ted" Codd was born. His main achievement besides many contributions to computer science was the invention of the relational model for database management, the theoretical basis for relational databases.

When you talk about databases today, usually you are referring to relational databases that store their data within tables, interconnected via so-called keys. Of course there are also modern alternatives such as e.g. graph based databases, but relational databases are widespread and rather common today. And this is also thanks to E.F. Codd and his relational algebra.

Edgar Frank Codd was born the youngest of seven children in Portland Bill, in Dorset, England, in 1923. His father was a leather manufacturer, his mother a schoolteacher. After attending Poole Grammar School, he studied mathematics and chemistry at Exeter College, Oxford, before serving as a pilot in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. In 1948 at age 25, he moved to New York to work for IBM as a mathematical programmer. In 1953, angered by Senator Joseph McCarthy, Codd moved to Ottawa, Canada. While in Canada, he established a computing center for the Canadian guided missile program. A decade later he returned to the U.S. and received his doctorate in computer science from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. His thesis was about self-replication in cellular automata, extending on work of von Neumann and showing that a set of eight states was sufficient for universal computation and construction.

Two years later he moved to San Jose, California, to work at IBM's San Jose Research Laboratory, where he continued to work until the 1980s. There he found existing data management systems “seat-of-the-pants, with no theory at all,” he recalled in one interview. “I began reading documentation,” Codd said, “and I was disgusted.” [2]. Subsequently, Codd worked out his theories of data arrangement, issuing his paper "A Relational Model of Data for Large Shared Data Banks" in 1970, after an internal IBM paper one year earlier. In fact, the 1970 paper became one of the most important research papers in computer history. Codd believed that all the information in a database should be represented as values in the rows and columns of tables, and that no information should be represented by pointers or connections among records.[2] To his frustration, IBM largely ignored his work, as the company was investing heavily at the time in commercializing a different type of database system, the IMS/DB [1].

Then IBM included in its Future Systems project a System R subproject — but put in charge of it developers who were not thoroughly familiar with Codd's ideas, and isolated the team from Codd. As a result, they did not use Codd's own Alpha language but created a non-relational one, SEQUEL. Even so, SEQUEL was so superior to pre-relational systems that it was copied, in 1979, based on pre-launch papers presented at conferences, by Larry Ellison, of Relational software Inc, in his Oracle Database, which actually reached market before SQL/DS — because of the then-already proprietary status of the original name, SEQUEL had been renamed SQL. System R was a success, and in 1981 IBM announced its first relational database product, SQL/DS. DB2, initially for large mainframe machines, was announced in 1983 [3].

Codd continued to develop and extend his relational model, sometimes in collaboration with Chris Date. One of the normalized forms, the Boyce–Codd normal form, is named after him. Codd's theorem, a result proven in his seminal work on the relational model, equates the expressive power of relational algebra and relational calculus (both of which, lacking recursion, are strictly less powerful than first-order logic). As the relational model started to become fashionable in the early 1980s, Codd fought a sometimes bitter campaign to prevent the term being misused by database vendors who had merely added a relational veneer to older technology. As part of this campaign, he published his 12 rules to define what constituted a relational database. This made his position in IBM increasingly difficult, so he left to form his own consulting company with Chris Date and others.

Nevertheless, Codd was appointed IBM Fellow in 1976. In 1981, Codd was honoured with the Turing Award, the most prestigious award in computer science similar to the Fields medal in mathematics. During the 1990s, his health deteriorated and he ceased work. Codd died of heart failure at his home in Williams Island, Florida, at the age of 79 on April 18, 2003.

At yovisto you can watch a lecture from Dr. Jens-Peter Dittrich from ETH Zürich about 'Dataspaces' where he is talking about Codd's Relational Model.

References and Further Reading:
Related Articles at Yovisto Blog:

If you like the daily blog posts of yovisto about the history of science, please support us by clicking on the amazon links and making your next amazon purchase via our offered links. Nevertheless, please do also support your local (real world) bookstore at the corner of the street.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Paul Nipkow and the Picture Scanning Technology

Paul Nipkow (1860-1940)
On August 22, 1860, German engineer Paul Gottlieb Nipkow was born. He is best known for having conceived the idea of using a spiral-perforated disk (the Nipkow disk), to divide a picture into a matrix of points, and became an early television pioneer.

Nipkow was born on August 22, 1860, in Lauenberg (Lębork) in Pomerania, now in Poland. Inspired by the work of Guglielmo Marconi, Nipkow began thinking about the challenge of transmitting a visual image while still a student in Germany. While at school in Neustadt (Wejherowo), West Prussia, Nipkow began to experiment in telephony and the transmission of moving pictures. It was well known that any successful transmission device required three essential components: a device to translate the visual image into an electronic impulse, a second device to reassemble that impulse into an image again, and a third device by which to transmit the impulse from the first device to the second. In 1884, even before completing his degree, Nipkow had developed and patented a transmissions system that achieved all three requirements.[1]

While still a student Nipkow conceived the idea of using a spiral-perforated disk (Nipkow disk), to divide a picture into a matrix of points. Accounts of its invention state that the idea came to him while sitting alone at home with an oil lamp on Christmas Eve, 1883. Alexander Bain, a Scottish inventor who had patented the electric clock, had transmitted images telegraphically in the 1840s but the Nipkow disk improved the encoding process. The Nipkow disk was a metal or cardboard disk that was perforated with twenty square holes arranged in a spiral so that each hole was a little closer to the center than the last. As Nipkow spun the disk, he shined a strong light through the holes and onto the subject. Because each hole was slightly offset, the image was scanned in a series of twenty horizontal lines.[1]

Nipkow's Disk from his
1884 patent application
Another important component of his invention was a selenium photocell used to transform differences in the intensity of light into electric current. The current could be transmitted to a receiver, where the image was reproduced with an identical disk that was synchronized with the first in front of a lamp whose brightness changed according to the received signal. Nipkow once used his device to transmit a visual image from London to Paris, but the system was never developed for commercial use. Ironically, at the time, investors could not foresee a practical use for it, and therefore, Nipkow received little recognition during his lifetime for the feat.[3]

Nipkow applied for a patent in the imperial patent office in Berlin for his electric telescope. This was for the electric reproduction of illuminating objects, in the category "electric apparatuses". German patent No. 30105 was granted on 15th January 1885, retroactive to 6th January 1884, the 30 marks fee being lent by his future wife. It was allowed to lapse after 15 years. Nipkow had taken a position as a designer in the Berlin-Buchloh Institute and did not continue further development of the electric telescope.[2]

The first television broadcasts used an optical-mechanical picture scanning method, the method that Nipkow had helped create with his disk. The first inventor who used Nipkow's disc successfully, creating the first television pictures in his laboratory in October 1925, was John Logie Baird. From 1937, when the infant BBC television service chose it above Baird's mechanical system, total electronic picture scanning, based on the work of Manfred von Ardenne and the iconoscope invented by Vladimir Zworykin, became increasingly prevalent and Nipkow's invention was no longer essential to further development of television. Today, the Nipkow disk is used extensively in reflected light confocal scanning microscopy to produce images that can be viewed in real time through the microscope eyepieces.

At yovisto you can watch an RCA documentary on the history of television to learn more about the invention of television and its early days.

References and Further Reading:
Related Articles at yovisto Blog:

If you like the daily blog posts of yovisto about the history of science, please support us by clicking on the amazon links and making your next amazon purchase via our offered links. Nevertheless, please do also support your local (real world) bookstore at the corner of the street.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

William Murdock 'enlights' the 19th Century

William Murdock
(1754 – 1839)
On August 21, 1754, Scottish engineer and inventor William Murdock was born. He was the first to make extensive use of coal gas for illumination and a pioneer in the development of steam power.

William Murdock (sometimes also referred to as Murdoch) excelled in the field of math from early age and even studied the principles of mechanics and worked much with metal and wood while helping out in his fathers work. It is not quite clear, which achievements Murdock really made in these years. It is assumed that he built a wooden horse with his father that he was responsible for the construction of a bridge. Also, it is believed that the young Murdock performed several experiments with coal gas, but this is not really proven. He got to know James Watt around 1777 and was hired in Birmingham due to his extraordinary abilities.

Murdock was soon sent to Cornwall in order to erect and maintain Boulton & Watt engines, which he did perfectly, as Boulton later wrote. However, they were not the only company operating in the Cornwall area and it became soon clear that most of these companies started copying from each other. Murdock was appointed to undertake some inspections of their competitor's engines and was sometimes threatened for doing so. But Murdock also spent a lot of time improving the Boulton & Watt engines and it is known that he discussed some further inventions with his employers. Unfortunately, his contract stated that all inventions he made belonged to the company and therefore, it is not exactly clear, which improvements he made in this period. In 1799, he invented a steam wheel that was a lot more efficient than any of its kind and due to the fact that his contract was amended by then, he was able to file this patent in his own name.

To one of his most important inventions belongs the so called road locomotive in 1784. Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot was already known to have demonstrated a similar device even though it weighted more than 4 tonnes. Murdock built a working model on his own and on this day there are several accounts from witnesses who "saw the model steam carriage run around Murdock's living room in Redruth in 1784". This model had 3 wheels with the engine and boiler placed between the two larger back wheels. Murdock performed the first public demonstration in Great Britain, but he never really gained popularity for these achievements.

However, Murdock is best known for his gas light. Many historians believe that his first experiments with gas took place in a cave in the early 1790s and first, he had to develop a method for the production and the capture of gas. He returned to Birmingham in 1798 where he continued his experiments and four years later, he performed a public exhibition of his lighting by illuminating the exterior of the Soho Foundry. Soon, companies like Philips gained their interest in illuminated their factories. Still, it is believed that he never really made much money from his invention, even though soon most towns in Britain were lit by gas.

Murdock moved into a house in Birmingham, where he installed several of his inventions like the gas light, a doorbell that worked by compressed air and even a conditioning system. Around 1830, his partnership with Boulton & Watt came to an end. William Murdock passed away in 1839.

At yovisto, you can watch John Merriman's video lecture on the Industrial Revolution at Yale University.

References and Further Reading:
Related Articles in the Blog:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Jöns Jacob Berzelius - One of the Founders of Modern Chemistry

Jöns Jacob Berzelius
(1779 – 1848)
On August 20, 1779, Swedish chemist Jöns Jacob Berzelius was born. Berzelius is considered, along with Robert Boyle, John Dalton, and Antoine Lavoisier, to be one of the founders of modern chemistry. In Sweden, Berzelius Day is celebrated on 20 August in honor of him.

Jöns Jacob Berzelius was born in 1779 as the son of a teacher and was educated in Linköping, Sweden. His medical studies started in 1796 in Uppsala because this field of study was quite close to natural sciences and most likely provided a decent income. He studied under Anders Gustav Ekeberg, the chemist who discovered tantalum and after Berzelius left the university, his uncle organized him a job as a pharmacist. While in medical school at the University of Uppsala, he read about Alessandro Volta’s “electric pile” and while working at the Medevi mineral springs, a spa and health resort, Berzelius constructed one for himself from 60 zinc plates and 60 copper plates. His thesis for his medical degree was on the effect of electric shock on patients with various diseases, for instance paralysis. Even though he reported no improvement in his patients, his interest in electrochemical topics continued. In 1807 he was made a professor at the Medical College in Stockholm, which soon after became the Karolinsska Institute. A year later he began his long association with the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences [1,3].

Berzelius intended to create a textbook for his medical students and performed a series of experiments which made him most famous. With these experiments, he managed to establish that the elements in inorganic substances are bound together in definite proportions by weight. His increasing interest in all kinds of compounds led to his discovery of numerous elements, such as cerium, selenium, and thorium. Selenium was named after the moon goddess selene by Berzelius [3]. Also, several students worked together with the scientist and discovered several elements as well, including lithium and vanadium. Berzelius was then able to determine the atomic weight of almost all elements and he was motivated to create a logical system of symbols (H, Cl, Ca ...) [1,2].

Jöns Jacob Berzelius received 12 royal orders and was member of almost 100 academies and scientific societies around the globe. He was elevated to the nobility in 1818 and awarded the baronetcy in 1835. The scientist, who is on this day considered as one of the founders of modern chemistry passed away on August 7, 1848 [3].

At yovisto, you may be interested in a short documentary on Jöns Jacob Berzelius.

References and Further Reading:
Related Articles in the Blog:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Philo Taylor Farnsworth and the Electronic Television

Philo Taylor Farnsworth
(1906 – 1971)
On August 19, 1906, American inventor and television pioneer Philo Taylor Farnsworth was born. As a pioneer in the development of electronic television, he counts responsible for taking all of the moving parts out of television inventions.

Philo Taylor Farnsworth was born in Utah as the eldest of five children and moved to Idaho with his family, when he was about 12 years old. He was taught the legends of Edison and Bell by his father and quickly decided to become an inventor himself. The young boy convinced his chemistry teacher to teach him extra lessons and to let him attend more advanced courses. It has been delivered that the still 12-year old Farnsworth, bored of his household duties, created an electric motor which he connected with the mechanical washing machine. It is assumed that he developed his interest in electronic television at the age of only 14. He told his teacher Justin Tolman, how television should really work and sketched all of his ideas on the blackboard. Several years later, Farnsworth's lawyer tried to track the teacher down to testify about what the young boy drew. After only two years of high school, he was allowed to attend Brigham Young University. Unfortunately, his father passed away shortly after and Farnsworth had to take care of his family from then on [1,2,3].

Farnsworth got to know cliff Gardener, and together they opened a radio repair business in Salt Lake City, which failed. However, the young inventor became acquainted with Leslie Gorrell and George Everson, a pair of San Francisco philanthropists who were then conducting a Salt Lake City Community Chest fundraising campaign. They agreed to back Farnsworth's early television research with an initial $6,000. He set up a laboratory in Los Angeles, where he performed his experiments [2]. He managed to build his first electronic camera, but for some reason it exploded during early testings. Farnsworth had to find new investors and managed to 'broadcast' the first pictures in 1927 [1].

Unfortunately, Vladimir Zworykin had already patented electronic television in 1923, which caused both, Farnsworth and the Radio Corporation of America, which Zworykin worked for, lots of troubles. The company increased its interest in the television market and bought Zworykin's patents and a long law fight evolved between the parties. Even though Farnsworth is considered the winner of these battles, World War II was about to start right after and the demand for television devices decreased. After the war, he lost his patents since they were only valid for seven years. Still, the RCA promoted Vladimir Zworykin as the inventor of electronic television for many years [1].

Despite the fact, that Farnsworth was the man responsible for its technology, he appeared only once on a television program. On July 3, 1957, he was a mystery guest on the CBS quiz show I've Got A Secret. After the panel unsuccessfully tried to guess his secret "I invented electronic television", he discussed his research projects for a while with the host and he said: "There had been attempts to devise a television system using mechanical disks and rotating mirrors and vibrating mirrors, all mechanical. My contribution was to take out the moving parts and make the thing entirely electronic, and that was the concept that I had when I was just a freshman in high school in the Spring of 1921 at age 14".

At yovisto, you may be interested in a short except from the show I've Got A Secret starring Philo Farnsworth.

References and Further Reading:
Related Articles in the Blog:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Brook Taylor - Forerunner of Differential Calculus

Brook Taylor (1685-1731)
On August 18, 1685, English mathematician Brook Taylor was born. He is best known for Taylor's theorem and the Taylor series, a method for expanding functions into infinite series.

Brook Taylor was born in Edmonton to John Taylor of Bifrons House, Kent, and Olivia Tempest in 1685. It was the year when King Charles II passed away and his Roman Catholic brother succeeded him as King James II of England, the year of the Monmouth Rebellion, led by James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, illegitimate son of Charles II. Newton was about to publish his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687) and Leibniz's most important mathematical writings were about to be published.

Brook Taylor grew up not only to be an accomplished musician and painter, but he applied his mathematical skills to both these areas later in his life. He entered St John's College, Cambridge, as a fellow-commoner in 1701, and took degrees of LL.B. and LL.D. in 1709 and 1714, respectively. Having studied mathematics, in 1708 he obtained a remarkable solution of the problem of the "centre of oscillation," which, however, remained unpublished until May 1714, when his claim to priority was disputed by Johann Bernoulli.

In 1712 Taylor was elected to the Royal Society, and acted as secretary to the society from 13 January 1714 to 21 October 1718. Clearly it was an election based more on the expertise which his tutors and others knew that Taylor had, rather than on his published results. Also in 1712 Taylor was appointed to the committee set up to adjudicate on whether the claim of Newton or of Leibniz to have invented the calculus was correct. [1] Taylor's Methodus Incrementorum Directa et Inversa (1715) added a new branch to higher mathematics, now called the "calculus of finite differences". Among other ingenious applications, he used it to determine the form of movement of a vibrating string, by him first successfully reduced to mechanical principles. The same work contained the celebrated formula known as Taylor's formula, the importance of which remained unrecognized until 1772, when J. L. Lagrange proclaimed it the basic principle of the differential calculus.

Between 1712 and 1724 Taylor published thirteen articles on topics as diverse as describing experiments in capillary action, magnetism and thermometers. He gave an account of an experiment to discover the law of magnetic attraction (1715) and an improved method for approximating the roots of an equation by giving a new method for computing logarithms (1717).[1]

Taylor was married twice. His marriage in 1721 with Miss Brydges of Wallington, Surrey, led to an estrangement from his father, which ended in 1723 after her death in giving birth to a son, who also died. In 1725 he married—this time with his father's approval—Sabetta Sawbridge of Olantigh, Kent, who also died in childbirth in 1730. However, his daughter, Elizabeth, survived. Taylor's fragile health gave way and he fell into a decline, and died on 30 November 1731, aged 46.

 "As a mathematician he was the only Englishman, after Newton and Cotes, capable of holding his own with the Bernoullis; but a great part of the effect of his demonstrations was lost through his failure to express his ideas fully and clearly."[2]

Learn more about Calculus in the lecture of MIT Prof. Dr. Gilbert Strang on 'Highlights of Calculus'.

References and Further Reading
Related Articles at Yovisto Blog

If you like the daily blog posts of yovisto about the history of science, please support us by clicking on the amazon links and making your next amazon purchase via our offered links. Nevertheless, please don't forget to support your local (real world) bookstore at the corner of the street!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Hazel Bishop and the Long Lasting Lipstick

Image: Flickr
On August 17, 1906, US-American chemist Hazel Gladys Bishop was born. She is best known as the inventor of the first long lasting lipstick in 1949, an invention on which she founded a successful cosmetic company.

Hazel Gladys Bishop graduated in 1929, earning a degree in chemistry. It is assumed that originally, Bishop intended to become a doctor, but instead left medical school and started her career in bio-chemistry. One year after earning her degree, the scientist began working at the New York State Psychiatric Hospital and Institute next to taking night school classes in biochemistry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. It is known that Bishop has always been encouraged by her mother to open her own business one day, "even if it's only a peanut stand". After she had gained some working experience as a research assistant to dermatologist A. Benson Cannon, her goal was to create a new cosmetic formulation and during the 1930s she developed two products, a pimple concealer and mentholated tissues. Unfortunately, none of these products were successful on the market [1].

Apparently, lipstick has already been used in the Ancient Mesopotamia. It is assumed that Ancient Sumerian men and women invented the lipstick about 5000 years ago and decorated their faces, especially their lips and their eyes. Also, it is known that the women of the Indus Valley Civilization applied red tinted lipstick to their lips for decoration purposes. In the 16th century, it is assumed that lip coloring became popular in England and back then, it was made from beeswax and red stains from various plants. Even though lipstick became widely known in the western world as well during the 19th century, it was not really considered acceptable for respectable women, especially in Britain. It is assumed that the first commercial lipstick had been invented in 1884 in Paris [4].

After her first failures, Hazel Bishop intended to create a product for a broader target group and a study revealed that about 98% of women wore lipstick every day. The chemist began experimenting in order to create a nondrying, nonirritating, long-wearing lipstick, using her home kitchen as a laboratory. Her goal was to develop a smudge-proof and long lasting lipstick that would not smear on clothing. Her first experiments included staining dyes, oils, and molten wax and eventually, the "No-Smear Lipstick" was born. Bishop found financial support and the Hazel Bishop, Inc. was formed. The very first commercial run of the lipstick was produced, and it debuted at a fashion show given by the Barnard College Club of New York on November 4, 1949. The product appeared in regular stores shortly after and was an instant financial success [1]. The early advertisement said "Never again need you be embarrassed by smearing friends, children, relatives, husband, sweetheart" and after the first day, about 600 lipsticks were already sold [2].

The quite aggressive marketing campaign was led by Raymond Spector and by 1953, the company had captured about 25% of the lipstick market. Sadly, Bishop's success did not last long. Her partner Spector bought out the stockholders and recapitalized the company. This way, her shares reduced to only 8%. She was fired from the company in 1954 and lost all of her incomes instantly. The former business owner had to agree to stay out of the cosmetics industry in the future. However, Bishop founded further companies, dealing with perfume and health cosmetics. During an interview, she said in 1963, that "I'm still essentially a chemist and I expect I shall always be one". Hazel Bishop was elected fellow of the American Institute of Chemists in the 1950s, giving numerous lectures about the chemistry and cosmetics industry [3].

Hazel Bishop died on December 5, 1998. During an interview, she commented: "If you are willing to strive and have no fear of failure, you can never fail as long as you are on to the next step".

At yovisto, you may be interested in a "Hazel Bishop" television commercial from around 1950.

References and Further Reading:
Related Articles in the Blog: