Celebrating 17 Years on the Web
Find science on or your birthday

Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “I have no satisfaction in formulas unless I feel their arithmetical magnitude.”
more quiz questions >>
MAY 31 – BIRTHS – Scientists born on May 31st
  Louis J. Ignarro
 Born 31 May 1941.
American pharmacologist who, along with Robert F. Furchgott and Ferid Murad, was co-awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery that nitric oxide (NO) acts as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system, an entirely new mechanism by which blood vessels in the body relax and widen. At first, major professional journals refused to publish his contention that a substance that is basic to nitroglycerin and part of the chemistry of smog is also crucial to the life process. But over the years, others repeated his work and confirmed his discovery that nitric oxide is a neurotransmitter that is, says Ignarro, "perhaps the most widespread signaling molecule that allows a variety of different cell types to communicate with one another."
  Robert Schrieffer
 Born 31 May 1931.
John Robert Schrieffer is an American physicist who shared (with John Bardeen and Leon N. Cooper) the 1972 Nobel Prize for Physics for developing the BCS theory (for their initials), the first successful microscopic theory of superconductivity. Although first described by Kamerlingh Onnes (1911), no theoretical explanation had been accepted. It explains how certain metals and alloys lose all resistance to electrical current at extremely low temperatures. The insight of the BCS theory is that at very low temperatures, under certain conditions, electrons can form bound pairs (Cooper pairs). This pair of electrons acts as a single particle in superconductivity. Schrieffer continued to focus his research on particle physics, metal impurities, spin fluctuations, and chemisorption.
  Ron Toomer
 Born 31 May 1930; died 26 Sep 2011 at age 81.
Ronald Valentine Toomer was an American engineer who was a legendary creator of steel roller coasters. His early career, was in the aerospace industry, where he helped design the heat shield for Apollo spacecraft and was also involved with NASA's first satellite launches. In 1965, he joined the Arrow Development Company to apply tubular steel technology to the design the Runaway Mine Ride, the world's first all-steel roller coaster. It opened the following year at Six Flags over Texas. By 1975, he designed the Roaring 20's Corkscrew for Knott's Berry Farm, introducing first 360° looping rolls, in fact two of them. Later, his design included seven inversions in the Shockwave roller coaster for Six Flags Great America. He produced over 80 roller coasters before retiring.in 1998.«
  Martin Schwarzschild
 Born 31 May 1912; died 10 Apr 1997 at age 84.
German-American astronomer who worked on stellar structure and evolution, including pulsating stars and differential solar rotation, the helium flash and the ages of star clusters. He traced the post-main sequence evolutionary tracks on the Hertzprung-Russel diagram, indicating how stars become red giants. The computer techniques he used to make stellar models were taken up by subsequent astrophysicists. In 1957, he initiated the Stratoscope projects, using hot-air balloons to carry scientific and photographic instruments to unprescedented stratospheric heights. Using that stable platform he obtained, high-resolution observations of the turbulence in the photosphere of the sun, free from ground-based atmospheric effects. His is the son of German astrophysicist Karl Schwarzschild. In 1936, Martin fled the Nazi regime and moved to America.«
  C. G. Abbot
 Born 31 May 1872; died 17 Dec 1973 at age 101.   quotes
Charles Greeley Abbot was an American astrophysicist who is thought to have been the first scientist to suspect that the radiation of the Sun might vary over time. In 1906, Abbot became director of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and, in 1928, fifth Secretary of the Smithsonian. To study the Sun, SAO established a network of solar radiation observatories around the world-- usually at remote and desolate spots chosen primarily for their high percentage of sunny days. Beginning in May 1905 and continuing over decades, his studies of solar radiation led him to discover, in 1953, a connection between solar variations and weather on Earth, allowing general weather patterns to be predicted up to 50 years ahead.
  Bailey Willis
Thumbnail -
 Born 31 May 1857; died 19 Feb 1949 at age 91.
U.S. geologist known for his structural and geomorphological analysis of the Appalachian Mountains and Mount Ranier. His interests were primarily in the broader aspects of physical and dynamic geology, in the formation and origin of rock structures. His work included studies of denudation (a form of erosion) chronology in North and South America and Africa, model experiments of folding and deformation, paleogeographic mapping of North America, and theories of the differentiation of the Earth's crust. He was interested in California geology, especially in faulting, seismology, and earthquake hazards. His concern over earthquakes led him to study the engineering hazards of the Golden Gate Bridge and to fight for a more stringent municipal building code. [Image (right): Willis' experiment on folding of rock layers]   more
  Richard Julius Petri
 Born 31 May 1852; died 20 Dec 1921 at age 69.
German physician and bacteriologist, remembered for his name given to the Petri dish. This is a shallow, cylindrical dish made of plastic or glass with a cover, used for tissue cultures and to hold solid media for culturing and sub-culturing bacteria. Petri developed it for a technique for cloning bacterial strains using an agar slope and sub-culturing onto his dish, recognizing different bacterial colonies and again sub-culturing. He was in his later days a rather vain, overweight man, who dressed in the uniform of chief army doctor whenever the opportunity presented itself. One observer remarked that the sash around his protuberant abdomen reminded him of the equator around the globe.«
  Rookes Evelyn Bell Crompton
 Born 31 May 1845; died 15 Feb 1940 at age 94.
British engineer and inventor who, as a young man, made a steam road engine (1860) and worked on other steam road haulage projects. When his interests turned to electric lighting, importing then manufacturing arc lamps of his own improved design, he began a career pioneering in the electrical industry, establishing the Crompton Company. By 1883, he had provided public lighting for large buildings, markets and railway stations. His company expanded, making domestic electric appliances (such as for heating and cooking). He was the first important British manufacturer of generators and advocated electrical standardisation. His Kensington Court power station in London was one of the first in the city.«   more
Children of Light: How Electrification Changed Britain Forever, by Gavin Weightman. - book suggestion.
  Richard Lovell Edgeworth
 Born 31 May 1744; died 13 Jun 1817 at age 73.
English-Irish inventor of mechanical innovations including an attempt at telegraphic communication (possibly the first), the creation of various sailing carriages, a velocipede (cycle), a “perambulator” (landmeasuring machine), a turnip cutter, improved agricultural machinery, and made discoveries in the field of electricity. In the late 1790s, he proposed the tellograph for “conveying secret and swift intelligence” using 30 tall towers spaced between Dublin and Galway (130 miles). Relayed from tower to tower using large triangular pointers, encoded messages could reach Dublin in just eight minutes. Unfortunately, poor visibility due to the weather doomed the idea. Edgeworth was also an educationalist.

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
Quotations by: • Albert Einstein • Isaac Newton • Lord Kelvin • Charles Darwin • Srinivasa Ramanujan • Carl Sagan • Florence Nightingale • Thomas Edison • Aristotle • Marie Curie • Benjamin Franklin • Winston Churchill • Galileo Galilei • Sigmund Freud • Robert Bunsen • Louis Pasteur • Theodore Roosevelt • Abraham Lincoln • Ronald Reagan • Leonardo DaVinci • Michio Kaku • Karl Popper • Johann Goethe • Robert Oppenheimer • Charles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about: • Atomic  Bomb • Biology • Chemistry • Deforestation • Engineering • Anatomy • Astronomy • Bacteria • Biochemistry • Botany • Conservation • Dinosaur • Environment • Fractal • Genetics • Geology • History of Science • Invention • Jupiter • Knowledge • Love • Mathematics • Measurement • Medicine • Natural Resource • Organic Chemistry • Physics • Physician • Quantum Theory • Research • Science and Art • Teacher • Technology • Universe • Volcano • Virus • Wind Power • Women Scientists • X-Rays • Youth • Zoology  ... (more topics)
MAY 31 – DEATHS – Scientists died on May 31st
  (Leo) James Rainwater
 Died 31 May 1986 at age 68 (born 9 Dec 1917).
(Leo) James Rainwater was an American physicist who won a share of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1975 for his part in determining the asymmetrical shapes of certain atomic nuclei. During WW II, Rainwater worked on the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. In 1949 he began formulating a theory that not all atomic nuclei are spherical, as was then generally believed. The theory was tested experimentally and confirmed by Danish physicists Aage N. Bohr and Ben R. Mottelson. For their work the three scientists were awarded jointly the 1975 Nobel Prize for Physics. He also conducted valuable research on X rays and took part in Atomic Energy Commission and naval research projects.
  Jacques Monod
Thumbnail - Jacques Monod
 Died 31 May 1976 at age 66 (born 9 Feb 1910).   quotes
Jacques Lucien Monod was a French biochemist who, with François Jacobinvestigated how genes regulate cell metabolism by directing the biosynthesis of enzymes. The pair shared (with André Lwoff) the 1965 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. Monod discovered the operon system that controls gene action in bacteria. In 1931, Monod joined the Pasteur Institute, and in 1971, he became its director.
Origins of Molecular Biology: A Tribute to Jacques Monod, by Agnes Ullmann (ed.). - book suggestion.
  Sir Arthur Herbert Church
 Died 31 May 1915 at age 80 (born 2 Jun 1834).
Sir Arthur Herbert Church was an English chemist and mineralogist who was a leading authority in the chemistry of painting, and gave valuable assistance in the work of preserving the paintings in the Houses of Parliament. He discovered turacin, an animal pigment containing copper, and of several minerals, including the only British cerium mineral. In addition to publishing many books on agricultural chemistry, Church also wrote on earthenware and precious stones. His Laboratory Guide for Agricultural Students had eight editions in his lifetime. He also did research on vegetable albinism colein, and aluminium in vascular cryptogams. Church served three years as president of the Mineralogical Society.«   more
  Elizabeth Blackwell
 Died 31 May 1910 at age 89 (born 3 Feb 1821).   quotes
English-American physician who is considered the first female doctor of medicine in modern times. She was the first woman to gain the M.D. degree from a medical school in the United States. Many 19th century physicians, including a few women, practiced without a degree, but Blackwell wished desired professional status. While rejected by all the major medical schools in the nation because of her sex, her application to Geneva Medical School (now Hobart & William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York) was referred to the student body. They accepted with great hilarity thinking it was a spoof from a rival school. Working with quiet determination, she turned aside the hostility of the professors, students, and townspeople. She earned her medical degree in 1849.   more
Elizabeth Blackwell: First Woman Physician, by Tristan Boyer Binns. - book suggestion.
Booklist for Elizabeth Blackwell.
  Sir John Evans
 Died 31 May 1908 at age 84 (born 17 Nov 1823).
British antiquarian, numismatist, and a founder of prehistoric archaeology. In about 1860, he began his searches for relics of early man in Britain. He garnered a notable collection of prehistoric stone and bronze implements. Evans found humanly made stone axes in the same layers as the bones of extinct European animals like hippopotamus, elephant, and saber-toothed tiger. In 1859, from such evidence, he announced that humans had lived much earlier than 6,000 years ago. This was much older than the long accepted Biblical chronology implied. Evans also collected coins of the ancient Britons, Romans and Anglo-Saxons. His son Sir Arthur (John) Evans followed his interests as an archaeologist.
  Hippolyte M่ge Mouri้s
 Died 31 May 1880 at age 62 (born 24 Oct 1817).
French inventor of margerine who began his science career at age 16 as a chemist's assistant. By the 1840's he had improved the syphilis drug, Copahin. He recieved various patents, including tanning, effervescent tablets, paper paste and sugar extraction. By the 1850's he had turned to food research and developed a health chocolate with his calcium phosphate protein. He also developed a method that gained 14% more white bread from a given quantity of wheat, for which he was awarded two gold medals. After 1862, he concentrated his research on fats. His margerine process was based on the cold saponifiation of milk in fat emulsions (French patent No. 86489, 15 Jul 1869). Another patent he held was for canned meat (1875)*.
  ษvariste Galois
 Died 31 May 1832 at age 20 (born 25 Oct 1811).   quotes
French mathematician famous for his contributions to the part of higher algebra known as group theory. His theory solved many long-standing unanswered questions, including the impossibility of trisecting the angle and squaring the circle. Galois died, at age 20, the day after being fatally shot in a duel with Perscheux d'Herbinville on 30 May 1832. The reasons for the duel remain enigmatic, though related to a love affair. The night before the duel, Galois anticipated his death and wrote in feverish haste his will and notes on the thoughts of mathematics he wanted to remain accessible. His funeral was held on 2 Jun 1832. It became the focus for a Republican rally followed by several days of riots. There are hints that Galois had begun to develop the theory of algebraic functions, which had to wait another 40 years for the German mathematician Bernhard Riemann to complete. He was commemorated as a revolutionary and geometrician on a French postal stamp issued on 10 Nov 1984.
  Sir Samuel Bentham
 Died 31 May 1831 at age 74 (born 11 Jan 1757).
British engineer, naval architect, and navy official in Russia (1780-91) and England (from 1795) who was an early advocate of explosive-shell weapons for warships. In 1780, he was sent by the Admiralty to visit dockyards in Northern Europe. In Russia he improved management of Prince Potemkin's factories. While he was in Russia he built and equipped a flotilla of ships and distinguished himself in a victorious naval battle with the Turks. Using special guns that he had built and mounted in the ships, shells were fired for the first time in naval warfare. There also, he began his ideas for machines which worked by unskilled labour, could produce the same results as skilled workmen.

Sitewide search within all Today In Science History pages:
Custom Quotations Search - custom search within only our quotations pages:
Visit our Science and Scientist Quotations index for more Science Quotes from archaeologists, biologists, chemists, geologists, inventors and inventions, mathematicians, physicists, pioneers in medicine, science events and technology.

Names index: | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

Categories index: | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |
MAY 31 – EVENTS – Science events on May 31st
  Nautilus submarine nuclear power plant prototype test
  In 1953, the land-based Mark I prototype submarine power plant began to produce power in significant amounts. (Note, this was less than 8 years after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on 6 Aug 1945.) This was an experimental unit, built in Arco, Idaho, to gain experience for operating the Mark II unit in the world's first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus, launched 21 Jan 1954. Each reactor generated heat from fission of uranium-235, transferred through a heat exchanger to generate steam that drove turbines to provide mechanical propulsion. The Mark I remained useful for experimental purposes. A third power plant was built at Arco to generate electricity for the city, which became the world's first atomic-powered community on 17 Jul 1955. All were built by the Westinghouse Company.«
U.S. Submarines Since 1945: An Illustrated Design History, by Norman Friedman. - book suggestion.
Booklist for Nuclear Submarine History.
  High jump detectors
  In 1941, electric eye detectors were first used to measure high-jumping height attained. The equipment had Amateur Athletic Union approval. It was designed by General Electric engineers. A light source, which could be moved up or down the vertical pole stand on one side, produced  four parallel light beams, an inch apart, focussed on four electric eyes on the other vertical stand. A control box indicated with red lights any beams broken as the jumper passed over the pole, making measurment of the height the athlete achieved both quick and accurate. Up to an additional three inches above the pole could be credited. The lowest beam skims the top of the laminated crossbar. The event was the first annual Schenectady Patrolman's Association track meet for high school competitors from six states and D.C..«   more
  Edison patent
  In 1898, Thomas A. Edison was issued a patent for a “Governor for Motors” (No. 604,740) which he described as a “means for adjusting the governor for any desired speed, and with the means, such as centrifugal governor-balls, for regulating the friction members to maintain a constant speed.”
  Corn Flakes
  In 1884, a patent for “flaked cereal” was applied for by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. He was trying to improve the vegetarian diet of his hospital patients, by searching for a digestible bread-substitute by the process of boiling wheat. Kellogg accidentally left a pot of boiled wheat to stand and become tempered. When it was put through a rolling process, each grain of wheat emerged as a large, thin flake. When the flakes were baked, they became crisp and light, creating an easy to prepare breakfast when milk was added. His brother Will Keith Kellogg (W.K.) began his cereal-making career in the 1890’s when he assisted his brother, then saw the potential, and on 19 Feb 1906, he created the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Co.
  Electric railway
  In 1879, the first electric railway opened at the Berlin Trades Exposition in Germany. It was the size of what today would be called a passenger-carrying miniature railway. The electric locomotive had a motor with about 3 horsepower, that was capable of hauling three small cars around a belt line 300 m (983 feet) long at up to 7 km (4.2 miles) per hour. Power at 150 volts was taken from a third rail between the running rails, which were bonded to serve for the return circuit. By 30 Sep 1879, it carried 86,398 passengers. The wooden covering over the motor provided a seat for the motorman. Gearing provided the ability to change direction of travel. Werner von Siemans and his firm of Siemens & Haslke was next able to build a line in Gross Lichterfelde, near Berlin, which opened for public use on 16 May 1881.«
  Asphalt pavement
  In 1870, Professor Edward J. de Smedt, was granted a U.S. patent for laying sheet asphalt pavement (U.S. Nos. 103,581 and -2). It was known as French asphalt pavement (where it was first laid in Paris in 1854). Mixing sand with natural asphalt is too stiff to work at suitable temperatures in the needed portions of about seven parts sand. Instead, he made a mix in ratio about 5 to 1, fluxed with certain petroleum oils and mineral particles, which was was easier to work with. On a graded road surface, a half-inch layer of hot sand is laid, topped with a one-inch layer of the hot asphalt and sand mix, and compacted with a hot roller. The process is repeated to build up a thicker road covering. On 29 Jul 1870, an experimental stretch of this type of asphalt pavement was laid in front of the City Hall, William Street, Newark, N.J.« [Image: Road crew laying asphalt for a new road in Florida, 1917.]
  In 1578, the Catacombs of Rome were discovered by accident. A sepulchral chamber was opened by some laborers digging for pozzolana earth. Baronius the ecclesiastical historian was one of the first to visit the new discovery. Fifteen years later, in Dec 1593, 18-yr-old Antonio Bosio began a lifetime exploring the catacombs. Gradually he found links between them, for narrow passageways had been dug from one to another, excavated in the soft rock (tufa). He found 30 additional entrances. He carefully recorded what he found with the care of an early archaeologist. These catacombs, dating from about the 3rd century, were used then by the Christians of Rome since they were forbidden to bury their dead in regular burial grounds. [Image: an archway in a a narrow corridor; beyond, on the left wall are multiple niches for burials.]

who invites your feedback

- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton

Thank you for sharing.
Today in Science History
Sign up for Newsletter
with quiz, quotes and more.