1901 – Linus Pauling, American chemist and activist, Nobel Prize laureate is born.
Linus Carl Pauling was an American chemist, biochemist, peace activist, author, and educator. He published more than 1,200 papers and books, of which about 850 dealt with scientific topics. New Scientist called him one of the 20 greatest scientists of all time, and as of 2000, he was rated the 16th most important scientist in history. Pauling was one of the founders of the fields of quantum chemistry and molecular biology.
For his scientific work, Pauling was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954. In 1962, for his peace activism, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This makes him the only person to be awarded two unshared Nobel Prizes. He is one of only four individuals to have won more than one Nobel Prize (the others being Marie Curie, John Bardeen, and Frederick Sanger). Pauling is also one of only two people to be awarded Nobel Prizes in different fields, the other being Marie Curie. Pauling also worked on DNA’s structure, a problem which was solved by James Watson, Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins.
In his later years he promoted nuclear disarmament, as well as orthomolecular medicine, megavitamin therapy, and dietary supplements. None of the latter have gained acceptance in the mainstream scientific community.
1915 – Peter Medawar, Brazilian-English biologist and immunologist, Nobel Prize laureate is born.
Sir Peter Brian Medawar OM CBE FRS was a British biologist born in Brazil, whose work on graft rejection and the discovery of acquired immune tolerance was fundamental to the practice of tissue and organ transplants. For his works in immunology he is regarded as the “father of transplantation”. He is remembered for his wit in real life and popular writings. Famous zoologists such as Richard Dawkins, referred to him as “the wittiest of all scientific writers”, and Stephen Jay Gould, as “the cleverest man I have ever known”.
Medawar was the younger son of a Lebanese father and a British mother, and was a naturalised British citizen. He studied at Marlborough College and Magdalen College, Oxford and was professor of zoology at the University of Birmingham and University College London. Until he was partially disabled by a cerebral infarction, he was Director of the National Institute for Medical Research at Mill Hill. With his doctoral student Leslie Brent and postdoctoral fellow Rupert E. Billingham, he demonstrated the principle of acquired immunological tolerance (the phenomenon of unresponsiveness of the immune system to certain molecules), which was theoretically predicted by Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet. This became the foundation of tissue and organ transplantation. He and Burnet shared the 1960 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for discovery of acquired immunological tolerance”.
1935 – DuPont scientist Wallace Carothers invents nylon.
On February 28, 1935, Gerard Berchet, under the direction of Carothers, produced a half-ounce of polymer from hexamethylenediamine and adipic acid, creating polyamide 6-6, the substance that would come to be known as Nylon. It was difficult to work with because of its high melting point, but Bolton chose this polyamide as the one to develop commercially. He selected Dr. George Graves to work with Carothers on the project. Eventually Graves supplanted Carothers as the leader of the polyamide project. In addition, dozens of chemists and engineers worked on refining polyamide 6-6 into a viable commercial product.
1939 – The erroneous word “dord” is discovered in the Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition, prompting an investigation.
The word dord is a notable error in lexicography, an accidental creation, or ghost word, of the G. and C. Merriam Company’s staff in the second (1934) edition of its New International Dictionary, in which the term is defined as “density”.
Philip Babcock Gove, an editor at Merriam-Webster who became editor-in-chief of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, wrote a letter to the journal American Speech, fifteen years after the error was caught, in which he explained why “dord” was included in that dictionary.
On July 31, 1931, Austin M. Patterson, Webster’s chemistry editor, sent in a slip reading “D or d, cont./density.” This was intended to add “density” to the existing list of words that the letter “D” can abbreviate. The slip somehow went astray, and the phrase “D or d” was misinterpreted as a single, run-together word: Dord (This was a plausible mistake because headwords on slips were typed with spaces between the letters, making “D or d” look very much like “D o r d”). A new slip was prepared for the printer and a part of speech assigned along with a pronunciation. The would-be word got past proofreaders and appeared on page 771 of the dictionary around 1934.
On February 28, 1939, an editor noticed “dord” lacked an etymology and investigated. Soon an order was sent to the printer marked “plate change/imperative/urgent”. In 1940, bound books began appearing without the ghost word but with a new abbreviation (although inspection of printed copies well into the 1940s show “dord” still present). The non-word “dord” was excised, and the definition of the adjacent entry “Doré furnace” was expanded from “A furnace for refining dore bullion” to “a furnace in which dore bullion is refined” to close up the space. Gove wrote that this was “probably too bad, for why shouldn’t dord mean ‘density’?” The entry “dord” was not removed until 1947.
1945 – Linda Preiss Rothschild, American mathematician and academic is born.
Linda Preiss Rothschild is a professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of California, San Diego. Her thesis research concerned Lie groups, but subsequently her interests broadened to include also polynomial factorization, partial differential equations, harmonic analysis, and the theory of several complex variables.
1948 – Steven Chu, American physicist and politician, 12th United States Secretary of Energy, Nobel Prize laureate, is born.
Steven Chu is an American physicist. He is known for his research at Bell Labs and Stanford University regarding the cooling and trapping of atoms with laser light, which won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997, along with his scientific colleagues Claude Cohen-Tannoudji and William Daniel Phillips.
Chu served as the 12th United States Secretary of Energy from 2009 to 2013. At the time of his appointment as Energy Secretary, Chu was a professor of physics and molecular and cellular biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where his research was concerned primarily with the study of biological systems at the single molecule level. Chu resigned as energy secretary on April 22, 2013. He returned to Stanford as Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular & Cellular Physiology.
Chu is a vocal advocate for more research into renewable energy and nuclear power, arguing that a shift away from fossil fuels is essential to combating climate change. He has conceived of a global “glucose economy”, a form of a low-carbon economy, in which glucose from tropical plants is shipped around like oil is today.
1997 – GRB 970228, a highly luminous flash of gamma rays, strikes the Earth for 80 seconds, providing early evidence that gamma-ray bursts occur well beyond the Milky Way.
GRB 970228 was the first gamma-ray burst (GRB) for which an afterglow was observed. It was detected on 28 February 1997 at 02:58 UTC. Since 1993, physicists had predicted GRBs to be followed by a lower-energy afterglow (in wavelengths such as radio waves, x-rays, and even visible light), but until this event, GRBs had only been observed in highly luminous bursts of high-energy gamma rays (the most energetic form of electromagnetic radiation).
The burst had multiple peaks in its light curve and lasted approximately 80 seconds. Peculiarities in the light curve of GRB 970228 suggested that a supernova may have occurred as well. The position of the burst coincided with a galaxy about 8.1 billion light-years away (a redshift of z = 0.695), providing early evidence that GRBs occur well beyond the Milky Way.
1998 – First flight of RQ-4 Global Hawk, the first unmanned aerial vehicle certified to file its own flight plans and fly regularly in U.S. civilian airspace.
The Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk is an unmanned (UAV) surveillance aircraft. It was initially designed by Ryan Aeronautical (now part of Northrop Grumman), and known as Tier II+ during development. The Global Hawk performs a similar role as the Lockheed U-2. The RQ-4 provides a broad overview and systematic surveillance using high-resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and long-range electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors with long loiter times over target areas. It can survey as much as 40,000 square miles (100,000 km2) of terrain a day.
The Global Hawk is operated by the United States Air Force. It is used as a high-altitude platform covering the spectrum of intelligence collection capability to support forces in worldwide military operations. According to the United States Air Force, the superior surveillance capabilities of the aircraft allow more precise weapons targeting and better protection of friendly forces. Cost overruns led to the original plan to acquire 63 aircraft being cut to 45, and to a 2013 proposal to mothball the 21 Block 30 signals intelligence variants. Each aircraft was to cost US$60.9 million in 2001, but this had risen to $222.7 million per aircraft (including development costs) by 2013. The U.S. Navy has developed the Global Hawk into the MQ-4C Triton maritime surveillance platform.
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