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February 26 Science History

Science History of February 26


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

1997 - Max Sterne died.

Sterne was an Italian veterinarian who developed an effective vaccine against anthrax which effectively eliminated the disease. Anthrax was a serious disease that is lethal to humans and animals. It is caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis and was one of the first diseases to receive a vaccine based on Louis Pasteur's techniques. Sterne's vaccine greatly increased the effectiveness of the treatment.

1966 - NASA launched their first Saturn 1B rocket.

Saturn 1B Rocket on Launchpad

The Saturn 1 series of rockets would eventually become the Saturn V used to launch the Apollo missions to the moon. The 1B was the testing platform for the Apollo missions with enough power to launch the lunar lander module or command module into Earth orbit. The Saturn 1B would later launch astronauts to the Skylab space station.

1946 - Ahmed Hassan Zewail was born.

Zewail is an Egyptian-American chemist who was awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his studies using ultrafast lasers to determine the dynamics of chemical bonding on the femtosecond level. (1 femtosecond is 10-15 second). His technique would pulse ultrafast bursts of coherent light that allowed him to illustrate the transitions of atoms or molecules during a chemical reaction.

1931 - Otto Wallach died.

Otto Wallach (1847 - 1931)
Nobel Prize Foundation
Otto Wallach was awarded the 1910 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his contributions to organic chemistry and pioneering work on alicyclic compounds. Alicyclic compounds contain carbon rings that are not aromatic and is both aliphatic and cyclic. He determined many molecules of the C10H16 family that had many different names at the time were all the same molecule or had very minor differences.

1903 - Giulio Natta was born.

Natta was an Italian chemist who shared half the 1963 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Karl Ziegler for their work creating polymer chains using the Zeigler-Natta catalyst. This catalyst is used to create polypropylene, one of the most common plastics in use today.

1896 - Becquerel postpones experiment and discovers radioactivity.

Antoine Henri Becquerel (1852-1908)
Nobel Prize Foundation

Antoine Henri Becquerel placed uranium and a photographic plate in a black bag into a drawer while waiting for clear weather to expose the uranium to sunlight for an experiment. When he developed the plate a couple days later, he found an image of the uranium rocks demonstrating the existence of radioactivity. This discovery would earn him the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics.

1878 - Pietro Angelo Secchi died.

Pietro Angelo Secchi (1818 - 1878)

Secchi was a Jesuit Italian astronomer who was a pioneer of stellar spectroscopy. He cataloged over 4,000 stellar spectral charts and created the Secchi classes of star classifications based on stellar spectra.

1866 - Herbert Henry Dow was born.

Herbert Henry Dow (1866 - 1930)

Dow was an Canadian-American chemist who discovered a process to cheaply remove bromine from natural brine solutions. He began a business to market this process and produce inexpensive bromine for industry that started an international trade war. The result of the dispute would enrich Dow and turn his business into what would become Dow Chemical Company, the third largest chemical company in the world.

1799 - Benoît Émile Clapeyron was born.

Benoît Émile Clapeyron (1799 - 1864)

Clapeyron was a French engineer and physicist whose studies on steam engines and heat of vaporization of fluids led to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. He was the first to graphically illustrate the closed curve processes of a engine cycle on a pressure vs. volume chart. He is also known for his contributions to civil engineering through his work on static mechanics.

1616 - Galileo receives warning from Church about promoting Copernican theory.

Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642)
Giusto Sustermans

Galileo received his official warning from Cardinal Bellarmine not to teach or defend the Copernican theory where the Earth rotates around the sun. Official Church policy followed the Bible verses where the world is firmly established and cannot be moved and the heliocentric theory of Copernicus appeared to go against the Scriptures. Galileo attempted to defend the theory and not to interperet Bible verses literally but was ordered not to hold or defend Copernicus' theory. It was the beginning of a series of problems between Galileo and the Church.

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