Tag archives for Mysterious Science

MySci Round-Up, September 27: Hail, Ammonia!

On this day in 1910, German scientist Fritz Haber and his British colleague Robert Le Rossignol were issued a U.S. patent for an industrial process to synthesize ammonia from its chemical components nitrogen and hydrogen. It was Haber who gets most of the credit for actually inventing the process—Le Rossignol’s contribution was designing equipment to perform it—so…

MySci Round-Up September 24-27: Dialing-In

On this day in 1889, a Scottish physician named Alexander Dey patented the dial time recorder, a device that allowed employers to track the exact time at which workers arrived and how long they spent on the job. The device featured a dial, which employees used to point to their assigned identification number and then pressed…

MySci Round-Up, September 23: Happy B-Day, Typhoid Mary

On this day in 1869, Mary Mallon was born in County Tyrone, Ireland. As a teenager, Mallon emigrated to the U.S. According to a biography of her by Judith Walzer Leavitt, Mallon was skilled in the kitchen, and eventually found employment as a live-in cook for affluent families in New York City. Unfortunately for those who ate…

MySci Round-Up September 22: A Real Dynamo

On this day in 1791, Michael Faraday, whom Wired magazine once called “the Einstein of the 19th Century,” was born in England. Faraday grew up in a working class family and to quit  school in his teens to help support his family. While working as a bookbinder, he continued to study on his own, and…

MySci Round-Up, September 21: Oppau, Ka-Pow!

On this date in 1921, one of the worst industrial disasters in history occurred in Oppau, Germany. A fertilizer stockpile in a chemical plant exploded, killing an estimated 500-600 people and injuring thousands; in addition to destroying 80 percent of the buildings in the town around it. The blast, the equivalent of one-to-two kilotons of TNT,…

MySci Round-Up, September 20: Ah, it’s so-o-o Delightfully Shiny!

On this day in 1819, inventor Seth Boyden produced the first batch of a new material called patent leather at his tannery in Newark, NJ, and created a fashion revolution.Boyden was born in 1788 on a farm in Foxboro, MA, where as a teenager he honed his inventive skills by tinkering with watches. In 1815, at age…

MySci Round-Up, September 17-19: The Father of Cosmonautics

On this day in 1857, Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky was born in Izhevskoye, a village in Ryasan Province in Russia. One of eighteen children of a forestry worker, he suffered a bout of scarlet fever at the age of 10, which cost him his hearing. At 14, due in part to his disability, he dropped out of school.…

MySci Round-Up September 16: Rabbit Ears!

Today would be the 91st birthday of Marvin P. Middlemark, the inventor of the “rabbit ears” antenna, which graced the top of many a TV set during the pre-cable analog age of television, and numerous other gadgets, including the water-powered automatic potato peeler. Middlemark grew up on Long Island and in New York City, and studied at Cornell University…

MySci Round-Up September 15: And no, it wasn’t a UFO!

On this day in 1904, the first U.S. lighter-than-air balloon equipped with meteorological instruments was launched at the World’s Fair in St. Louis. The balloon was the work of pioneering American meteorologist Abbott Lawrence Rotch, founder of Boston’s Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory and the first to suggest the use of daily maps at local weather…

MySci Round-Up September 14: Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey, Medical Heroine

On this day in 1960, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulator named Dr. Frances Kelsey, who had been assigned to review a seemingly routine application by William S. Merrell Co. to market the sedative Kevadon in the U.S., declined to approve it. The drug manufacturer was shocked. Kevadon–today better known by its generic name…