1818 – The British Institution of Civil Engineers is founded.
The late 18th century and early 19th century saw the founding of many learned societies and professional bodies (for example, the Royal Society and the Law Society). Groups calling themselves civil engineers had been meeting for some years from the late 18th century, notably the Society of Civil Engineers formed in 1771 by John Smeaton (renamed the Smeatonian Society after his death). At that time, formal engineering in Britain was limited to the military engineers of the Corps of Royal Engineers, and in the spirit of self-help prevalent at the time and to provide a focus for the fledgling ‘civilian engineers’, the Institution of Civil Engineers was founded as the world’s first professional engineering body.
1860 – The discovery of the disputed planet Vulcan is announced at the French Academy of Sciences in Paris, France.
In 1840, François Arago, the director of the Paris Observatory, suggested to the French mathematician Urbain Le Verrier that he work on the topic of the planet Mercury’s orbital motion around the Sun. The goal of this study was to construct a model based on Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of motion and gravitation. By 1843, Le Verrier published his provisional theory on the subject, which would be tested during a transit of Mercury across the face of the Sun in 1843. As it turned out, predictions from Le Verrier’s theory failed to match the observations.
1919 – American engineer Beatrice Hicks is born.
In 1942 Hicks took a job at the Western Electric Company, designing and testing quartz crystal oscillators in Kearny, New Jersey. She was the first woman to be employed by Western Electric as an engineer, and she spent three years working there. Upon the death of her father, she joined the Bloomfield, New Jersey based Newark Controls Company, a metalworking firm that her father had founded. Hicks served as chief engineer and then as vice president in charge of engineering, before purchasing control of the company from her uncle in 1955. Hicks designed and patented a gas density switch later used in the U.S. space program, including the moon landing, and was a pioneer in the field of sensors that detected when devices were reaching structural limits.
1920 – Isaac Asimov, American Science Fiction Author and Professor of Biochemistry, is born.
Asimov wrote hard science fiction and, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, he was considered one of the “Big Three” science fiction writers during his lifetime. Asimov’s most famous work is the Foundation Series; his other major series are the Galactic Empire series and the Robot series. The Galactic Empire novels are explicitly set in earlier history of the same fictional universe as the Foundation series. Later, beginning with Foundation’s Edge, he linked this distant future to the Robot and Spacer stories, creating a unified “future history” for his stories much like those pioneered by Robert A. Heinlein and previously produced by Cordwainer Smith and Poul Anderson. He wrote hundreds of short stories, including the social science fiction novelette “Nightfall”, which in 1964 was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America the best short science fiction story of all time. Asimov wrote the Lucky Starr series of juvenile science-fiction novels using the pen name Paul French.
1938 – American Computer Scientist Dana Ulery is born.
Ulery was among the first group of female managers at the US Army Research Laboratory. In these positions, she was also appointed Chair of the US Army Materiel Command Knowledge Management Council, and in 2002 was awarded the Army Knowledge Award for Best Transformation Initiative. She is listed in American Men and Women of Science, Who’s Who of American Women, Who’s Who in the East, Who’s Who in the World, and Who’s Who in America. She was named a Lifetime Achiever by Marquis Who’s Who in 2017.
1959 – Luna 1, the first spacecraft to enter the surrounding area of the Earth’s Moon, is launched by the Soviet Union.
While traveling through the outer Van Allen radiation belt, the spacecraft’s scintillator made observations indicating that a small number of high energy particles exist in the outer belt. The measurements obtained during this mission provided new data on the Earth’s radiation belt and outer space. The Moon was found to have no detectable magnetic field. The first ever direct observations and measurements of the solar wind, a strong flow of ionized plasma emanating from the Sun and streaming through interplanetary space, were performed. That ionized plasma concentration was measured to be some 700 particles per cm3 at altitudes 20–25 thousand km and 300 to 400 particles per cm3 at altitudes 100–150,000 km. The spacecraft also marked the first instance of radio communication at the half-million-kilometer distance.