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February 2 Science History

Science History of February 2


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

1996 - Ray McIntire died.

McIntire was an American chemical engineer who invented foam polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam. He was searching for a substance to replace rubber as a flexible electrical insulator from polystyrene. Polystyrene is a good insulator, but is too brittle. He thought he could soften it up by adding isobutylene under pressure, but what he got was bubbles of polystyrene that formed the foam known as Styrofoam.

1980 - Willaim Howard Stein died.

Stein was an American biochemist who shares half the 1972 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Stanford Moore for their research into the ribonuclease molecule. They determined the structure of ribonuclease and discovered its catalytic properties during food digestion. Stein and Moore later applied these same techniques to discover the sequence of deoxyribonuclease.

1955 - Oswald Theodore Avery died.

Oswald Theodore Avery (1877 - 1955)
National Library of Medicine
Avery was a Canadian-American physician and molecular biologist. Together with Colin MacLeod and Maclyn McCarty, they discovered the genetic information in genes and chromosomes is made up of DNA. This disproved the belief that genetic material is contained in cell proteins.

1923 - "Ethyl" leaded gasoline was introduced commercially.

"Ethel" gasoline was gasoline with tetraethyllead added to reduce engine knock in automobiles. It was the winning gas additive between Charles Kittering and Henry Ford. Ford promoted the use of ethyl alcohol as an additive to reduce knock, but was much more expensive to produce than the lead additive. Tetraethyllead would be added to gasoline until the mid-1980s, but not before it had become one of the greatest environmental disasters of all time.

1907 - Dmitri Mendeleev died.

Dmitri Mendeleev (1834 - 1907)
Library of Congress
Mendeleev formulated a periodic table of the elements where the elements are ordered by increasing atomic mass similar to the modern periodic table. He is also credited for introducing the Metric System to Russia while he was in charge of Russia's Bureau of Weights and Measures.

1870 - Cardiff Giant exposed as a hoax.

Cardiff Giant
The Cardiff Giant was a 10 foot tall petrified giant man dug up by workers behind William "Stub" Newell's barn in Cardiff, New York. In fact, it was a 10 foot chunk of gypsum Newell had carved into the likeness of a man and stained to look old and distressed. He buried it behind his barn and later hired workers to dig a well in the spot. When the men found the large rock, they thought they found the remains of a huge man. Newell charged 50 cents for a person to look at what he claimed was proof that biblical giants once existed. He eventually sold it for $37,500 to investors who put it on display in Syracuse, New York. PT Barnum made a copy of the Giant to exhibit in his circus.

1817 - John Glover was born.

Glover was an English chemist who created the Glover Tower to reclaim useful byproducts for reuse during the manufacture of sulfuric acid. The previous lead chamber method wasted necessary nitrogen to the atmosphere. Glover's tower recycled the exhaust back into the chamber and reclaimed the nitrogen.

1802 - Jean Bapitiste Boussingault was born.

Jean Baptiste Boussingault (1802 - 1887)
Wikimedia Commons
Boussingault was a French chemist who determined the role of nitrogen in plant health. He found plants get nitrogen from the soil in the form of nitrates. He also isolated sorbitol. Sorbitol is a slow metabolizing sugar alcohol generally used as a sugar substitute in low calorie foods.

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