1769 – Georges Cuvier, French biologist and academic is born.
Jean Léopold Nicolas Frédéric Cuvier, known as Georges Cuvier, was a French naturalist and zoologist, sometimes referred to as the “father of paleontology”. Cuvier was a major figure in natural sciences research in the early 19th century and was instrumental in establishing the fields of comparative anatomy and paleontology through his work in comparing living animals with fossils.
Cuvier’s work is considered the foundation of vertebrate paleontology, and he expanded Linnaean taxonomy by grouping classes into phyla and incorporating both fossils and living species into the classification. Cuvier is also known for establishing extinction as a fact—at the time, extinction was considered by many of Cuvier’s contemporaries to be merely controversial speculation. In his Essay on the Theory of the Earth (1813) Cuvier was interpreted to have proposed that new species were created after periodic catastrophic floods. In this way, Cuvier became the most influential proponent of catastrophism in geology in the early 19th century. His study of the strata of the Paris basin with Alexandre Brongniart established the basic principles of biostratigraphy.
Among his other accomplishments, Cuvier established that elephant-like bones found in the USA belonged to an extinct animal he later would name as a mastodon, and that a large skeleton dug up in Paraguay was of Megatherium, a giant, prehistoric ground sloth. He named the pterosaur Pterodactylus, described (but did not discover or name) the aquatic reptile Mosasaurus, and was one of the first people to suggest the earth had been dominated by reptiles, rather than mammals, in prehistoric times.
Cuvier is also remembered for strongly opposing theories of evolution, which at the time (before Darwin’s theory) were mainly proposed by Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. Cuvier believed there was no evidence for evolution, but rather evidence for cyclical creations and destructions of life forms by global extinction events such as deluges. In 1830, Cuvier and Geoffroy engaged in a famous debate, which is said to exemplify the two major deviations in biological thinking at the time – whether animal structure was due to function or (evolutionary) morphology. Cuvier supported function and rejected Lamarck’s thinking.
His most famous work is Le Règne Animal (1817; English: The Animal Kingdom). In 1819, he was created a peer for life in honor of his scientific contributions. Thereafter, he was known as Baron Cuvier. He died in Paris during an epidemic of cholera. Some of Cuvier’s most influential followers were Louis Agassiz on the continent and in the United States, and Richard Owen in Britain. His name is one of the 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel Tower.
1847 – Sarah Frances Whiting, American physicist and astronomer is born.
Sarah Frances Whiting, American physicist and astronomer, was the instructor to several astronomers, including Annie Jump Cannon.
Whiting graduated from Ingham University in 1865.
Whiting was appointed by Wellesley College president Henry Fowle Durant, one year after the College’s 1875 opening, as its first professor of physics. She established its physics department and the undergraduate experimental physics lab at Wellesley, the second of its kind to be started in the country. At the request of Durant, she attended lectures at MIT given by Edward Charles Pickering. He invited Whiting to observe some of the new techniques being applied to astronomy, such as spectroscopy. In 1880, Whiting started teaching a course on Practical Astronomy at Wellesley.
In 1895, as told by biographer Annie Jump Cannon,
An especially exciting moment came when the Boston morning papers reported the discovery of the Rontgen or X-rays in 1895. The advanced students in physics of those days will always remember the zeal with which Miss Whiting immediately set up an old Crookes tube and the delight when she actually obtained some of the very first photographs taken in this country of coins within a purse and bones within the flesh.
Between 1896 and 1900, Whiting helped Wellesley College trustee Sarah Elizabeth Whitin to establish the Whitin Observatory, of which Whiting became the first director.
1898 – The Southern Cross Expedition, the first British venture of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, departs from London.
The Southern Cross Expedition, officially known as the British Antarctic Expedition 1898–1900, was the first British venture of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, and the forerunner of the more celebrated journeys of Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton. The brainchild of the Norwegian-born, half-British explorer and schoolmaster Carsten Borchgrevink, it was the first expedition to over-winter on the Antarctic mainland, the first to visit the Great Ice Barrier since James Clark Ross’s expedition of 1839 to 1843, and the first to effect a landing on the Barrier’s surface. It also pioneered the use of dogs and sledges in Antarctic travel.
The expedition was privately financed by the British magazine publisher Sir George Newnes. Borchgrevink’s party sailed in the ship Southern Cross, and spent the southern winter of 1899 at Cape Adare, the northwest extremity of the Ross Sea coastline. Here they carried out an extensive programme of scientific observations, although opportunities for inland exploration were severely restricted by the mountainous and glaciated terrain surrounding the base. In January 1900 the party left Cape Adare in Southern Cross to explore the Ross Sea, following the route taken by Ross sixty years earlier. They reached the Great Ice Barrier, where a team of three made the first sledge journey on the Barrier surface, during which a new Farthest South record latitude was established at 78°50′S.
On its return to England the expedition was coolly received by London’s geographical establishment which was resentful of the pre-emption of a role they envisaged for their own National Antarctic (Discovery) Expedition. There were also questions about Borchgrevink’s leadership qualities, and criticism of the limited amounts of scientific information which the expedition provided. Despite the groundbreaking achievements in Antarctic survival and travel, Borchgrevink was never accorded the heroic status of Scott or Shackleton, and his expedition was soon forgotten in the dramas which surrounded these and other Heroic Age explorers. However, Roald Amundsen, conqueror of the South Pole in 1911, acknowledged that Borchgrevink’s expedition had removed the greatest obstacles to Antarctic travel, and had opened the way for all the expeditions that followed.
1991 – Tim Berners-Lee opens the World Wide Web (WWW) to new users.
The World Wide Web (WWW) is an information space where documents and other web resources are identified by URLs, interlinked by hypertext links, and can be accessed via the Internet. The World Wide Web was invented by English scientist Tim Berners-Lee in 1989. He wrote the first web browser in 1990 while employed at CERN in Switzerland.
It has become known simply as the Web. When used attributively (as in web page, web browser, website, web server, web traffic, web search, web user, web technology, etc.) it is invariably written in lower case. Otherwise the initial capital is often retained (‘the Web’), but lower case is becoming increasingly common (‘the web’).
The World Wide Web was central to the development of the Information Age and is the primary tool billions of people use to interact on the Internet.
2011 – Earthquake @adafruit
Looks like a 5.8 or so quake hit NYC as well as parts of the east coast. Our shelves shook, some things fell but everyone is ok. A little scary but all is well! Orders should still go out today.
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