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January 6 Science History

Science History of January 6

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

1990 - Pavel Alekseyevich Cherenkov died.

Advanced Test Reactor and Cherenkov Radiation
Idaho National Labs/DOE
Cherenkov was a Soviet physicist who shares the 1958 Nobel Prize in Physics with Igor Yevgenyevich Tamm and Il´ja Mikhailovich Frank for their discovery and description of the Cherenkov effect. The Cherenkov effect occurs when a particle passes through a medium at a speed greater than the speed of light in that medium. This causes a distinctive blue glow that is commonly seen in water around nuclear reactors.

1945 - Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky died.

Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky (1863 - 1945)
Wikimedia Commons
Vernadsky was a Russian geologist who was one of the founders of the study of geochemistry. He studied the elemental distribution of the Earth's crust and electrical and magnetic, thermal, and optical properties of crystals. He was also known for popularizing the idea of the noosphere, or sphere of human thought. He noted the great effect humans have on the geology of their environment and included this in a wider understanding of biospheres.

1944 - Rolf Martin Zinkernagel was born.

Zinkernagel is a Swiss immunologist who shares the 1996 Nobel Prize in Medicine with Peter C. Doherty for their discoveries in cell based immune defense. They discovered how T cells recognize infected cells. They found T-cells seek out two molecules on the surface of an infected cell, the virus infecting the cell and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) protiens. If the T cell discovers these molecules, it kills the cell so the infection cannot reproduce.

1884 - Gregor Johann Mendel died.

Gregor Johann Mendel (1822 - 1884)
National Institutes of Health
Mendel was an Austrian priest and scientist who studied the inheritance of traits in pea plants from generation to generation. The laws of inheritance that he discovered became the basis for the study of classical genetics.

1833 - Fausto D'Elhuyar died.

Fausto D'Elhuyar (1755 - 1833)
Fausto D'Elhuyar was a Spanish mineralogist who, together with his brother Juan José D'Elhuyar, isolated the element tungsten from wolfram ore. Carl Scheele had discovered tungsten two years earlier in the form of tungstic acid, but did not separate the tungsten metal from the acid. The D'Elhuyar brothers reduced the acid through charcoal and removed the metal.

1800 - William Brownrigg died.

Brownigg was an English physician and scientist who identified platinum as an element. He received samples from a relative in Jamaica and identified the unique nature of the metal.

1795 - Anselme Payen was born.

Anselme Payen (1795 - 1871)
Wikimedia Commons
Payen was a French chemist who was the first to isolate and discover the first enzyme diastase. Diastase is an hydrolase enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates. He was also the first to discover and name cellulose. Cellulose is the basic component of green plant cells. Payen discovered a method to industrially produce borax from boric acid and broke the Dutch monopoly on mined borax.

1731 - Étienne-François Geoffroy died.

Étienne François Geoffroy (1672 - 1731)
Wikimedia Commons
Geoffroy was a French physician and chemist who compiled the first chemical affinity table. His table showed all the known substances that would combine with each reagent and it's relative affinity to form a reaction. This table was the benchmark for chemical reference for the 18th Century until it was proved the starting quantities and physical properties of reagents drove chemical reactions. He also believed iron could be formed from the combustion of vegetable matter.

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