1632 – Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, Dutch biologist and microbiologist is born.
Antonie Philips van Leeuwenhoek was a Dutch businessman, scientist, and one of the notable representatives of the Golden Age of Dutch science and technology. A largely self-taught man in science, he is commonly known as “the Father of Microbiology”, and often considered to be the first acknowledged microscopist and microbiologist. Van Leeuwenhoek is best known for his pioneering work in the field of microscopy and for his contributions toward the establishment of microbiology as a scientific discipline.
Raised in Delft, in the Dutch Republic, van Leeuwenhoek worked as a draper in his youth and founded his own shop in 1654. He became well recognized in municipal politics and eventually, developed an interest in lensmaking. Using his handcrafted microscopes, he was the first to observe and describe microorganisms, which he originally referred to as animalcules (from Latin animalculum = “tiny animal”). His 1670s discovery and study of the hitherto unknown microscopic world (or microbial life) is also considered one of the most notable achievements of the Golden Age of Dutch exploration and discovery (ca. 1590s–1720s), similar to the Dutch discovery and mapping of largely unknown landmasses and far southern skies during the Age of Exploration.
Most of the “animalcules” are now referred to as unicellular organisms, although he observed multicellular organisms in pond water. He was also the first to document microscopic observations of muscle fibers, bacteria, spermatozoa, and blood flow in capillaries. Van Leeuwenhoek did not write any books; his discoveries came to light through correspondence with the Royal Society, which published his letters.
1861 – The first transcontinental telegraph line across the United States is completed.
The first transcontinental telegraph (completed in 1861) was a line that connected an existing network in the eastern United States to a small network in California by a link between Omaha and Carson City via Salt Lake City. It was a milestone in electrical engineering and in the formation of the United States of America. It served as the only method of near-instantaneous communication between the east and west coasts during the 1860s. In 1841, it had taken 110 days for the news of the death of President William Henry Harrison to reach Los Angeles.
1885 – Alice Perry, Irish engineer and poet is born.
Alice Jacqueline Perry was the first woman in Ireland or Great Britain to graduate with a degree in engineering.
1998 – Launch of Deep Space 1 comet/asteroid mission.
Deep Space 1 (DS1) was a NASA technology demonstration spacecraft which flew by an asteroid and a comet. It was part of the New Millennium Program, dedicated to testing advanced technologies.
Launched on 24 October 1998, the Deep Space 1 spacecraft carried out a flyby of asteroid 9969 Braille, which was its primary science target. The mission was extended twice to include an encounter with comet 19P/Borrelly and further engineering testing. Problems during its initial stages and with its star tracker led to repeated changes in mission configuration. While the flyby of the asteroid was only a partial success, the encounter with the comet retrieved valuable information. Three of twelve technologies on board had to work within a few minutes of separation from the carrier rocket for the mission to continue.
The Deep Space series was continued by the Deep Space 2 probes, which were launched in January 1999 piggybacked on the Mars Polar Lander and were intended to strike the surface of Mars (though contact was lost and the mission failed). Deep Space 1 was the first NASA spacecraft to use ion propulsion rather than the traditional chemical-powered rockets.