On this day in 1869, Fisher A. Spofford and Matthew G. Raffingtonof Columbus, OH, who apparently tinkered a bit when they weren’t teaching at the Ohio School for the Deaf, obtained U.S. Patent 95,531 for a “New and Improved Water-Velocipede.” While it might sound like the name of an insect, it’s actually just a fancy term for a pedal boat, of the sort that kids rent at amusement parks. Spofford’s and Raffington’s innovation had something to do with the configuration of the toothed wheels and drive shaft that utilized pedal power to turn a set of paddle wheels in the rear of the boat.
However, Spofford and Raffington weren’t the first to think of the idea of peddling instead of paddling. A few months before, in July 1869, David Farmer had patented a design for an ingenious “land and water velocipede,” a bizarre sort of amphibious bicycle. Basically, a rider attached floats and a paddle wheel to the bike when he or she wanted to cross a body of water. And at least a dozen other 19th-Century inventors would come up with similar contraptions, as this American Artifacts article details. Our favorite, perhaps, was 1894’s Pinkert Navigating Tricycle, a vehicle that two large balloon tires in the rear to enable it to float. Laugh all you want, but in 1883, an intrepid cyclist-sailor used a similarly outlandish floating tricycle to cross the English Channel in about eight hours.
And with that, here are the science and technology stories of the day.
600-year-old worms among surprises of 10-year sea survey.The international Census of Marine Life details about 6,000 newly discovered species.
New method could make IVF more effective.Octomom will be glad to hear about this, probably.