1788 – Augustin-Jean Fresnel, French physicist and engineer is born.
Augustin-Jean Fresnel was a French engineer and physicist who contributed significantly to the establishment of the theory of wave optics. Fresnel studied the behaviour of light both theoretically and experimentally.
He is perhaps best known as the inventor of the Fresnel lens, first adopted in lighthouses while he was a French commissioner of lighthouses, and found in many applications today. His Fresnel equations on waves and reflectivity also form the basis for many applications in computer graphics today — for instance, the rendering of water.
1869 – The First Transcontinental Railroad, linking the eastern and western United States, is completed at Promontory Summit, Utah with the golden spike.
The First Transcontinental Railroad (known originally as the “Pacific Railroad” and later as the “Overland Route”) was a 1,907-mile (3,069 km) contiguous railroad line constructed in the United States between 1863 and 1869 west of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers to connect the Pacific coast at San Francisco Bay with the existing eastern U.S. rail network at Council Bluffs, Iowa. The rail line was built by three private companies largely financed by government bonds and huge land grants: the original Western Pacific Railroad Company between Oakland and Sacramento, California (132 mi or 212 km), the Central Pacific Railroad Company of California eastward from Sacramento to Promontory Summit, Utah Territory (U.T.) (690 mi or 1,110 km), and the Union Pacific westward to Promontory Summit from the road’s statutory Eastern terminus at Council Bluffs on the eastern shore of the Missouri River opposite Omaha, Nebraska (1,085 mi or 1,746 km).
Opened for through traffic on May 10, 1869 with the ceremonial driving of the “Last Spike” (later often called the “Golden Spike”) with a silver hammer at Promontory Summit, the road established a mechanized transcontinental transportation network that revolutionized the settlement and economy of the American West by bringing these western states and territories firmly and profitably into the “Union” and making goods and transportation much quicker, cheaper, and more flexible from coast to coast.
1872 – Victoria Woodhull becomes the first woman nominated for President of the United States.
Victoria Claflin Woodhull, later Victoria Woodhull Martin was an American leader of the woman’s suffrage movement.
In 1872, Woodhull was the first female candidate for President of the United States. An activist for women’s rights and labor reforms, Woodhull was also an advocate of free love, by which she meant the freedom to marry, divorce, and bear children without government interference.
Woodhull went from rags to riches twice, her first fortune being made on the road as a highly successful magnetic healer before she joined the spiritualist movement in the 1870s. While authorship of many of her articles is disputed (many of her speeches on these topics were collaborations between Woodhull, her backers, and her second husband, Colonel James Blood), her role as a representative of these movements was powerful. Together with her sister, she was the first woman to operate a brokerage firm on Wall Street, and they were among the first women to found a newspaper, Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly, which began publication in 1870.
At her peak of political activity in the early 1870s, Woodhull is best known as the first woman candidate for the United States presidency, which she ran for in 1872 from the Equal Rights Party, supporting women’s suffrage and equal rights. Her arrest on obscenity charges a few days before the election for publishing an account of the alleged adulterous affair between the prominent minister Henry Ward Beecher and Elizabeth Tilton added to the sensational coverage of her candidacy. She did not receive any electoral votes, and there is conflicting evidence about popular votes.
Many of the reforms and ideals Woodhull espoused for the working class, against what she saw as the corrupt capitalist elite, were extremely controversial in her time. Generations later many of these reforms have been implemented and are now taken for granted. Some of her ideas and suggested reforms are still debated today.
1900 – Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, English-American astronomer and astrophysicist is born.
Cecilia Helena Payne-Gaposchkin was a British–American astronomer and astrophysicist who, in 1925, proposed in her Ph.D. thesis an explanation for the composition of stars in terms of the relative abundances of hydrogen and helium…
…The trail she blazed into the largely male-dominated scientific community was an inspiration to many. For example, she became a role model for noted astrophysicist Joan Feynman. Feynman’s mother and grandmother had dissuaded her from pursuing science, since they believed women were not physically capable of understanding scientific concepts. But Feynman was later inspired by Payne-Gaposchkin when she came across some of her work in an astronomy textbook. Seeing Payne-Gaposchkin’s research published in this way convinced Feynman that she could, in fact, follow her scientific passions.
1908 – Mother’s Day is observed for the first time in the United States, in Grafton, West Virginia.
The modern holiday of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Today St Andrew’s Methodist Church now holds the International Mother’s Day Shrine. Her campaign to make “Mother’s Day” a recognized holiday in the United States began in 1905, the year her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died. Ann Jarvis had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War, and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her mother by continuing the work she started and to set aside a day to honor all mothers, because she believed that they were “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”.
In 1908, the US Congress rejected a proposal to make Mother’s Day an official holiday, joking that they would have to proclaim also a “Mother-in-law’s Day”. However, owing to the efforts of Anna Jarvis, by 1911 all US states observed the holiday, with some of them officially recognizing Mother’s Day as a local holiday, the first being West Virginia, Jarvis’ home state, in 1910. In 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day, held on the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers.
1960 – The nuclear submarine USS Triton completes Operation Sandblast, the first underwater circumnavigation of the earth.
Operation Sandblast was the code name for the first submerged circumnavigation of the world executed by the United States Navy nuclear-powered radar picket submarine USS Triton (SSRN-586) in 1960 while under the command of Captain Edward L. Beach, USN. The New York Times described Triton’s submerged circumnavigation of the Earth as “a triumph of human prowess and engineering skill, a feat which the United States Navy can rank as one of its bright victories in man’s ultimate conquest of the seas.”
1962 – Marvel Comics publishes the first issue of The Incredible Hulk.
The Hulk is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962). Throughout his comic book appearances, the Hulk is portrayed as a large green humanoid that possesses superhuman strength and invulnerability, attributes that grow more potent the angrier he becomes. Hulk is the alter ego of Bruce Banner, a socially withdrawn and emotionally reserved physicist who physically transforms into the Hulk under emotional stress and other specific circumstances at will or against it; these involuntary transformations lead to many complications in Banner’s life. When transformed, the Hulk often acts as a dissociated personality separate from Banner. Over the decades of Hulk stories, the Hulk has been represented with several personalities based on Hulk and Banner’s fractured psyche, ranging from mindless savage to brilliant warrior, and Banner has taken control of the Hulk’s form on occasion. Banner first transforms into the Hulk after being caught in the blast of the gamma bomb he invented while saving Rick Jones, a youth who had wandered onto the testing range.
1975 – Sony introduces the Betamax videocassette recorder in Japan.
Betamax (also called Beta, and referred to as such in the logo) is a consumer-level analog videocassette magnetic tape recording format developed by Sony, released in Japan on May 10, 1975. The first Betamax introduced in America was the LV-1901 console, which included a 19″ color monitor, and appeared in stores in early November, 1975. The cassettes contain .50 in (12.7 mm)-wide videotape in a design similar to the earlier, professional .75 in (19 mm) wide, U-matic format. The format is obsolete, having lost the videotape format war to VHS. Betamax recorders ceased production in 2002, but the format’s cassette tapes were available until March 2016, when Sony discontinued them.
Like the rival videotape format VHS (introduced in Japan by JVC in October 1976 and in the United States by RCA in August 1977), Betamax had no guard band and used azimuth recording to reduce crosstalk. According to Sony’s own history webpages, the name came from a double meaning: beta being the Japanese word used to describe the way signals were recorded onto the tape, and from the fact that when the tape ran through the transport, it looked like the Greek letter beta (β). The suffix -max, from the word “maximum”, was added to suggest greatness. In 1977, Sony came out with the first long play Betamax VCR, the SL-8200. This VCR had two recording speeds: normal, and the newer half speed. This provided two hours recording time on the L-500 Beta videocassette. The SL-8200 was to compete against the VHS VCRs which had 2 or 4 hours of recording time.