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December 17 Science History

Science History of December 17


Learn about the history of science by reading about the significant scientific events that took place on this day in history.

1964 - Victor Francis Hess died.

Hess was an Austrian physicist who was awarded half the 1936 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of cosmic rays. Before the discovery, it was believed ionizing radiation came from the Earth and the further you got from ground, the lower the amount of radiation. This was true up to 1 km, until the radiation counts steadily increased as you increased altitude. Hess proposed the source of radiation came from outside the atmosphere. His theory was proved true by Robert Millikan determined the source of Hess' detected radiation and called it "cosmic rays".

1947 - Johannes Nicolaus Brønsted died.

Brønsted was a Danish chemist best known for his proton theories of acids and bases. He developed his theory at the same time as a similar theory proposed by English chemist Thomas Lowry so the theory is generally known as Bronsted-Lowry acids. It suggests acids are solutions that donate protons to bases in acid/base reactions. He also made several contributions to the understanding of the catalytic action of acids and bases.

1908 - Willard Frank Libby was born.

Libby was an American physical chemist who was awarded the 1960 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of carbon-14 dating. This process revolutionized dating processes in archeology, anthropology and other sciences. He was also part of the team that developed the gaseous diffusion method to separate uranium isotopes for the Manhattan Project.

1907 - William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin died.

William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin (1824-1907)
Wikimedia Commons
Lord Kelvin was a British physicist and engineer best known for developing the Kelvin absolute temperature scale. He made several contributions to the fields of thermodynamics and electricity and magnetism. He also helped design the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable.

1903 - First powered flight is successful.

Wright Brothers First powered aircraft flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
Orville Wright piloted the first powered flight of an aircraft for 120 feet on a North Carolina beach. Three more flights were successful throughout the rest of the day with the longest lasting 59 seconds for a distance of 852 feet.

1892 - Edwin Joseph Cohn was born.

Cohn was an American biochemist who is known for his work using the process of blood fractionation to separate whole blood into its components. He worked out the technique to isolate serum albumin fraction blood plasma. Transfusions of purified serum albumin are used to treat shock in emergency situations and saved thousands of lives during World War II.

1778 - Humphry Davy was born.

Sir Humphry Davy was a British chemist and physicist.
The Life of Sir Humphry Davy by John A. Paris, London: Colburn and Bentley, 1831.
Davy was a British chemist and inventor who isolated or discovered several alkali and alkaline earth metals. He discovered sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, barium, strontium and boron and investigated the properties of the elements chlorine and iodine. He also invented the Davy lamp that was vitally important to coal miners. The lamp used a fine mesh to burn a heavy oil without allowing it to spread to various flammable gases present in coal mines that would cause explosions. It could also be used to detect carbon dioxide.

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