1778 – Italian physicist and academic Laura Bassi dies in Bologna.
Laura Maria Caterina Bassi (October 1711 – 20 February 1778) was an Italian physicist and academic. She received a doctoral degree in Philosophy from the University of Bologna in May 1732, the second degree ever bestowed on a woman by a university. She was the first woman to earn a professorship in physics at a university in Europe. She is recognized as the first woman in the world to be appointed a university chair in a scientific field of studies. Bassi contributed immensely to the field of science while also helping to spread the study of Newtonian mechanics through Italy.
1792 – George Washington signs The Postal Service Act, establishing the United States Post Office Department.
William Goddard, a Patriot printer frustrated that the royal postal service was unable to reliably deliver his Pennsylvania Chronicle to its readers or deliver critical news for the paper to Goddard, laid out a plan for the “Constitutional Post” before the Continental Congress on October 5, 1774. Congress waited to act on the plan until after the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. Benjamin Franklin promoted Goddard’s plan and was appointed as the first postmaster general under the Continental Congress beginning on July 26, 1775, nearly one year before the Congress declared independence from the British Crown. Franklin’s son-in-law, Richard Bache, took over the position on November 7, 1776, when Franklin became an American emissary to France.
Franklin had already made a significant contribution to the postal service in the colonies while serving as the postmaster of Philadelphia from 1737 and as joint postmaster general of the colonies from 1753 to 1774. He was dismissed as colonial postmaster general after the publication of private letters of Massachusetts Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson in Massachusetts; Franklin admitted to acquiring the letters (probably from a third party, and not in any sort of official capacity) and sending them to Massachusetts. While postmaster, Franklin streamlined postal delivery with properly surveyed and marked routes from Maine to Florida (the origins of Route 1), instituted overnight postal travel between the critical cities of New York and Philadelphia and created a standardized rate chart based upon weight and distance.
1902 – American Photographer Ansel Adams is born.
During 1927, Adams produced his first portfolio in his new style Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras, which included his famous image Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, taken with his Korona view camera using glass plates and a dark red filter (to heighten the tonal contrasts). On that excursion, he had only one plate left, and he “visualized” the effect of the blackened sky before risking the last image. He later said, “I had been able to realize a desired image: not the way the subject appeared in reality but how it felt to me and how it must appear in the finished print”. During April 1927, he wrote, “My photographs have now reached a stage when they are worthy of the world’s critical examination. I have suddenly come upon a new style which I believe will place my work equal to anything of its kind.”
1935 – Caroline Mikkelsen becomes the first woman to set foot in Antarctica.
In the winter of 1934-1935, Mikkelsen accompanied her Norwegian husband Klarius on an Antarctic expedition sponsored by Lars Christensen, on the resupply vessel M/S Thorshavn with instructions to look for Antarctic lands that could be annexed for Norway. Mount Caroline Mikkelsen is named for her.
On 20 February 1935, the expedition made landfall somewhere on the Antarctic continental shelf. Mikkelsen left the ship and participated in raising the Norwegian flag and in building a memorial cairn. Mikkelsen never made any recorded claims to have landed on the mainland, but was initially thought to have landed on the Vestfold Hills not far from the present Davis Station. She did not publicly speak about her Antarctic voyage until sixty years after her landing in 1995 when she spoke about her journey to the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten having been contacted by Davis Station Leader Diana Patterson.
1962 – Mercury-Atlas 6: While aboard Friendship 7, John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the earth, making three orbits in four hours, 55 minutes.
Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) was the third human spaceflight for the U.S. and part of Project Mercury. Conducted by NASA on February 20, 1962, the mission was piloted by astronaut John Glenn, who performed three orbits of the Earth, making him the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth.
The Mercury spacecraft, named Friendship 7, was carried to orbit by an Atlas LV-3B launch vehicle lifting off from Launch Complex 14 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. After four hours and 56 minutes in flight the spacecraft re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere, splashed down in the North Atlantic Ocean and was safely taken aboard USS Noa.
The small, bare-bones Raspberry Pi 2, meant to encourage children and adults to build and engage more with computers, does more than you think. WSJ’s Joanna Stern puts it to the test.