Scientific Inventions

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ASSEMBLY LINE: Primitive assembly line production was first used in 1901 by Ran some Eli Olds (1864-1950), an early car-maker (he manufactured the Oldsmobile, the first commercially successful American car). Henry Ford (1863-1947) used the first conveyor belt-based assembly-line in his car factory in 1913-14 in Ford’s Highland Park, Michigan plant. This type of production greatly reduced the amount of time taken to put each car together (93 minutes for a Model T) from its parts, reducing production costs.

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Assembly lines are now used in most manufacturing processes. BAEKELAND, L. H. : Leo Hendrik Baekeland (November 14, 1863 – February 23, 1944) was a Belgian-born American chemist who invented Velox photographic paper (1893) and Bakelite (1907), an inexpensive, nonflammable, versatile, and very popular plastic. BAKELITE: Bakelite (also called catalin) is a plastic, a dense synthetic polymer (a phenolic resin) that was used to make jewelry, game pieces, engine parts, radio boxes, switches, and many, many other objects.

Bakelite was the first industrial thermoset plastic (a material that does not change its shape after being mixed and heated). Bakelite plastic is made from carbolic acid (phenol) and formaldehyde, which are mixed, heated, and then either molded or extruded into the desired shape. Bakelite was patented in 1907 by the Belgian-born American chemist Leo Hendrik Baekeland (November 14, 1863 – February 23, 1944). The Nobel Prize winning German chemist Adolf von Baeyer had experimented with this material in 1872, but did not complete its development or see its potential.

Baekeland operated the General Bakelite Company from 1911 to 1939 (in Perth Amboy, N. J. , USA), and produced up to about 200,000 tons of Bakelite annually. Bakelite replaced the very flammable celluloid plastic that had been so popular. The bracelet above is made of “butterscotch” Bakelite. BAROMETER: A barometer is a device that measures air (barometric) pressure. It measures the weight of the column of air that extends from the instrument to the top of the atmosphere. There are two types of barometers commonly used today, mercury and aneroid (meaning “fluid less”).

Earlier water barometers (also known as “storm glasses”) date from the 17th century. The mercury barometer was invented by the Italian physicist Evangelista Torricelli (1608 – 1647), a pupil of Galileo, in 1643. Torricelli inverted a glass tube filled with mercury into another container of mercury; the mercury in the tube “weighs” the air in the atmosphere above the tube. The aneroid barometer (using a spring balance instead of a liquid) was invented by the French scientist Lucien Vidie in 1843. BATTERY: A battery is a device that converts chemical energy into electrical energy.

Each battery has two electrodes, an anode (the positive end) and a cathode (the negative end). An electrical circuit runs between these two electrodes, going through a chemical called an electrolyte (which can be either liquid or solid). This unit consisting of two electrodes is called a cell (often called a voltaic cell or pile). Batteries are used to power many devices and make the spark that starts a gasoline engine. Alessandro Volta was an Italian physicist invented the first chemical battery in 1800. Storage batteries : are lead-based batteries that can be recharged.

In 1859, the French physicist Gaston Plante (1834-1889) invented a battery made from two lead plates joined by a wire and immersed in a sulfuric acid electrolyte; this was the first storage battery. BUNSEN BURNER: The laboratory Bunsen burner was invented by Robert Wilhelm Bunsen in 1855. Bunsen (1811-1899) was a German chemist and teacher. He invented the Bunsen burner for his research in isolating chemical substances – it has a high-intensity, non-luminous flame that does not interfere with the colored flame emitted by chemicals being tested.

CASSEGRAIN TELESCOPE: A Cassegrain telescope is a wide-angle reflecting telescope with a concave mirror that receives light and focuses an image. A second mirror reflects the light through a gap in the primary mirror, allowing the eyepiece or camera to be mounted at the back end of the tube. The Cassegrain reflecting telescope was developed in 1672 by the French sculptor Sieur Guillaume Cassegrain. A correcting plate (a lens) was added in 1930 by the Estonian astronomer and lens-maker Bernard Schmidt (1879-1935), creating the Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope which minimized the spherical aberration of the Cassegrain telescope.

CELLOPHANE: Cellophane is a thin, transparent, waterproof, protective film that is used in many types of packaging. It was invented in 1908 by Jacques Edwin Brandenberger, a Swiss chemist. He had originally intended cellophane to be bonded onto fabric to make a waterproof textile, but the new cloth was brittle and not useful. Cellophane proved very useful all alone as a packaging material. Chemists at the Dupont Company (who later bought the rights to cellophane) made cellophane waterproof in 1927. CELSIUS, ANDERS: Anders Celsius (1701-1744) was a Swedish professor of astronomy who devised the Celsius thermometer.

He also ventured to the far north of Sweden with an expedition in order to measure the length of a degree along a meridian, close to the pole, later comparing it with similar measurements made in the Southern Hemisphere. This confirmed that that the shape of the earth is an ellipsoid which is flattened at the poles. He also cataloged 300 stars. With his assistant Olof Hiorter, Celsius discovered the magnetic basis for auroras. COMPOUND MICROSCOPE: Zacharias Janssen was a Dutch lens-maker who invented the first compound microscope in 1595 (a compound microscope is one which has more than one lens).

His microscope consisted of two tudes that slid within one another, and had a lens at each end. The microscope was focused by sliding the tubes. The lens in the eyepiece was bi-convex (bulging outwards on both sides), and the lens of the far end (the objective lens) was Plano-convex (flat on one side and bulging outwards on the other side). This advanced microscope had a 3 to 9 times power of magnification. Zacharias Janssen’s father Hans may have helped him build the microscope. DA VINCI, LEONARDO: Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was an Italian inventor, artist, architect, and scientist.

Da Vinci had an interest in engineering and made detailed sketches of the airplane, the helicopter (and other flying machines), the parachute, the submarine, the armored car, the ballista (a giant crossbow), rapid-fire guns, the centrifugal pump (designed to drain wet areas, like marshes), ball bearings, the worm gear (a set of gears in which many teeth make contact at once, reducing the strain on the teeth, allowing more pressure to be put on the mechanism), and many other incredible ideas that were centuries ahead of da Vinci’s time.

DAVY, HUMPHRY: Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829) was an English scientist who invented the first electric light in 1800. He experimented with electricity and invented an electric battery. When he connected wires from his battery to two pieces of carbon, electricity arced between the carbon pieces, producing an intense, hot, and short-lived light. This is called an electric arc. Davy also invented a miner’s safety helmet and a process to desalinate sea water. Davy discovered the elements boron, sodium, aluminum (whose name he later changed to aluminum), and potassium.

EDISON, THOMAS ALVA: Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) was an American inventor (also known as the Wizard of Menlo Park) whose many inventions revolutionized the world. His work includes improving the incandescent electric light bulb and inventing the phonograph, the phonograph record, the carbon telephone transmitter, and the motion-picture projector. Edison’s first job was as a telegraph operator, and in the course of his duties, he redesigned the stock-ticker machine. The Edison Universal Stock Printer gave him the capital ($40,000) to set up a laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, to invent full-time (with many employees).

Edison experimented with thousands of different light bulb filaments to find just the right materials to glow well, be long-lasting, and be inexpensive. In 1879, Edison discovered that a carbon filament in an oxygen-free bulb glowed but did not burn up for quite a while. This incandescent bulb revolutionized the world. ELION, GERTRUDE: Gertrude Belle Elion (January 23, 1918 – February 21, 1999) was a Nobel Prize winning biochemist who invented many life-saving drugs, including 6-mercaptopurine (Purinethol) and 6-thioguanine (which fight leukemia), Imuran, Zovirax, and many others.

Elion worked at Burroughs- Glaxo Wellcome for decades (beginning in 1944) with George Hitchings and Sir James Black, with whom she shared the Nobel Prize. She is named on 45 patents for drugs and her work has saved the lives of thousands of people. ENIAC: ENIAC stands for “Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer. ” It was one of the first all-purpose, all-electronic digital computers. This room-sized computer was built by the physicist John William Mauchly (Aug. 30, 1907 – Jan. 8, 1980) and the electrical engineer John Presper Eckert, Jr. (April 9, 1919 – June 3, 1995) at the University of Pennsylvania.

They completed the machine in November, 1945. FARNSWORTH, PHILO T. : Philo Taylor Farnsworth (1906-1971) was an American inventor. Farnsworth invented many major major components of the television, including power, focusing systems, synchronizing the signal, contrast, controls, and scanning. He also invented the radar systems, cold cathode ray tube, the first baby incubator and the first electronic microscope. Farnsworth held over 300 patents. FOUCAULT, JEAN: Jean Bernard Leon Foucault (1819-1868) was a French physicist who invented the gyroscope (1852) and the Foucault pendulum (1851).

A gyroscope is essentially a spinning wheel set in a movable frame. When the wheel spins, it retains its spatial orientation, and it resists external forces applied to it. Gyroscopes are used in navigation instruments (for ships, planes, and rockets). Foucault was the first person to demonstrate how a pendulum could track the rotation of the Earth (the Foucault pendulum) in 1851. He also showed that light travels more slowly in water than in air (1850) and improved the mirrors of reflecting telescopes (1858).

FRANKLIN, BENJAMIN: Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706-April 17, 1790) was an American statesman, writer, printer, and inventor. Franklin experimented extensively with electricity. In 1752, his experiments with a kite in a thunderstorm (never do this, many people have died trying it! ) led to the development of the lightning rod. Franklin started the first circulating library in the colonies in 1731. He also invented bifocal glasses and the Franklin stove. The idea of daylight savings time was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin in 1784.

GALILEI, GALILEO: Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was an Italian mathematician, astronomer, and physicist. Galileo found that the speed at which bodies fall does not depend on their weight and did extensive experimentation with pendulums. In 1593 Galileo invented the thermometer. In 1609, Galileo was the first person to use a telescope to observe the skies (after hearing about Hans Lippershey’s newly-invented telescope). Galileo discovered the rings of Saturn (1610), was the first person to see the four major moons of Jupiter (1610), observed the phases of Venus, studied sunspots, and discovered many other important phenomena.