Archives October 2014

"It was evident that it was much^ more economical to renounce the lighting power of the open flame" Carl Auer von Welsbach In 1807 Pall Mall in London became the first public street to be lit with coal gas, and other countries soon followed. Although gaslight was much cheaper than oil lamps or candles, it also produced smoke, bad smells, and lots of heat. These problems were resolved by an Austrian chemist. Carl Auer von Welsbach (1858-1929) had studied chemistry at the University of Heidelberg under Robert Bunsen (co-inventor of the Bunsen burner). In 1885, Welsbach discovered the rare-earth elements neodymium and praseodymium. In the course of his research he found that some rare-earths produced a bright light when heated in a Bunsen burner. In 1885, he patented a mantle, a sheath of metallic threads, made of 60 percent magnesium oxide, 20 percent yttrium oxide, and 20 percent lanthanum oxide. more...

"Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away." Elvis Presley, singer When the legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel inadvertently developed a suntan during a Mediterranean cruise in the 1920s, tanned skin immediately became synonymous with beauty, fashion, and a healthy lifestyle. When the Popular Front won the 1936 French general elections and legislated for annual paid holidays, people began to spend more of their time in the sun. In response to increasing French demands for a product to assist in the tanning process/the' French chemist and founder of L'Oreal, Eugene Schueller (1881-1957), created "Bellis," the world's first sunscreen lotion. Its effectiveness in the prevention of skin cancers, however, was poor when compared with modern formulations, and many early attempts at tanning lotions amounted to nothing more than crude oil- based pastes. Twenty-six years would pass before the chemist Franz Greiter more...

"The fact that fat oils from vegetable sources can be used may seem insignificant today..." Rudolf Diesel, 1912 While it can be safely asserted that the Diesel engine was, indeed, invented by Paris-born inventor Rudolf Diesel (1858-1913), it is not the case that we can attribute to him the very first "diesel" engine. "Diesel engine" has for some time been the generic term used to describe any compression ignition (Cl), internal-combustion engine, that is an engine that has no carburetor or spark plugs but instead injects a fuel oil directly into the cylinder. Because the piston has compressed the air therein so tightly, it is hot enough to ignite the fuel with no spark. As a cold engine cannot ignite the diesel fuel, glow plugs are sometimes used to preheat the cylinder/mixture. Diesel researched Cl engine technology for many years, testing a variety of fuels ranging from coal dust to more...

"AT&T is proud to follow in the footsteps of Espenschied and Affel as we continue to drive innovation." Dave Belanger, chief scientist at AT&T Labs In the early 1920s it was clear to communications engineers that high-frequency transmission lines were paramountto the success of any further developments in communications, since ordinary wires and cables simply could not cope. Two engineers at Bell Laboratories, Lloyd Espenschied (1889-1986) and Herman A. Affel (1893-1972), came to the rescue. Together they created the coaxial cable, which is capable of carrying high-frequency (or broadband) signals successfully. Instead of having just single strands of copper covered by a jacket of a flexible plastic, they widened their working diameter to include an insulating spacer and a conducting shield, which gives the cable a very distinctive cross section. Running through the very center of the cable is the conductor, which carries the signal. Wrapped around this is the more...

"My head is full of [ideas] ...but they serve no purpose thereby must be put down on papery Camilo Jose Cela, writer The first modern paper was invented in 105 C.E. by a Chinese court official called Ts'ai Lun. He made sheets out of mulberry bark, rags, and hemp waste mixed with water. Paper continued to be made primarily of rags until the early nineteenth century, when mechanized papermaking took off. Soon, demand for paper far outweighed the supply of rags, and wood was explored as a substitute. In order to make paper from timber, the plant fibers must be turned into a pulp, which is then spread onto a flat screen. When the fibers dry, they stick together forming a sheet of paper. In 1866, Benjamin C. Tilghman invented the sulphite process, where wood is heated in a liquor containing an excess of sulfur dioxide to create pulp. Then more...

The Sturtevant family business was founded in 1883 by Thomas L. Sturtevant, with the aim of satisfying the increasing need for mechanization in the fertilizer industry. Thoms's son Lawrence, and his nephew Thomas J. Sturtevant, came to work for him—Thomas bringing with him a degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sturtevant soon branched out into the automotive field and designed various improvements including vacuum brakes and automatic engine lubrication. However, it was his bold invention of the automatic transmission that paved the way for today's automatic cars. At the time, one of the biggest headaches for designers in the fast evolving car industry was simply getting the power from the engine to the wheels. Sturtevant wanted a way to change gear without having to depress a clutch and temporarily disengage the engine from the wheels. His solution was innovative, but initially a failure. His first automatic car of 1904 more...

"If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves." Thomas Alva Edison On November 21, 1877, Thomas Alva Edison (1847- 1931) announced the invention of the first device for recording and replaying sound—the "phonograph." Like the development of photography, it was a landmark invention that allowed for moments or periods in time to be captured in perpetuity. This worked by engraving a visual representation of a sound wave on a sheet of tinfoil wrapped around a grooved cylinder; the sound was captured as a series of indentations in the foil using a cutting stylus that responded to the vibrations of the sound being recorded. When a playback stylus passed over the cylinder a crude representation of the original recording could be heard. As with so many of his inventions, Edison was spurred on in his efforts by his own hearing difficulties. The inventor's first more...

The rivet has existed for a very long time, in fact since the Bronze Age, and remains one of the best methods of permanently fastening two things (normally metal sheets) together. Rivets are commonly used when it is really rather important that whatever has been fastened stays that way, such as aircraft and ship hulls. The vibrations created by movement also have a habit of loosening nuts and bolts so the rivet is generally the preferred fastening. Back in 1931, Louis Huck was looking for a method to speed up aircraft production, and the blind rivet was his answer. Unlike normal rivets, the blind rivet requires only one-sided access to your desired material, which is particularly useful in airplane construction because of ergonomically shaped hulls that are tricky to access. Just as with normal rivets, a blind rivet is inserted into a predrilled hole, but the rivet has a mandrel—a more...

"He [Paul de Vivie] was a man who devoted a lifetime to the perfection of the bicycle..." Clifford L. Graves, writer Paul de Vivie (1853-1930) did not buy his first bicycle until he was twenty-eight, but his passion for cycling would eventually take over his life, and led to the invention of a new system of variable speed cycles. De Vivie's first bike was an "ordinary" high-wheel, or penny-farthing as it's more commonly known. The pedals of this bike were attached directly to the wheels so that one turn of the pedals equaled one turn of the wheel. De Vivie sought a way to improve this ratio to make cycling more energy-efficient. In 1887, he set up a cycle shop in the mountainous region of Saint-Etienne, France, and launched a magazine, Le Cydiste, in which he wrote passionately about cycling, under the pen-name "Velocio." De Vivie's first attempt at creating more...

"[C] otton-bud-related injuries are a common reason for attendances at... clinics" J. C. Hobson and J. A. Lavy Leo Gerstenzang began to design a cotton swab after he saw his wife gluing cotton onto the ends of toothpicks to clean their baby's ears. He used cardboard material for the stem of the swabs to avoid any splinters harming the baby, found a way to attach equal amounts of cotton to each end of the swab, and ensured that the swab stayed put during cleaning. He created the Leo Gerstenzang Infant Novelty Company to supply his swabs and, in 1923, launched his refined product under the name "Baby Gays." In 1926 Gerstenzang changed the name to Q-Tips Baby Gays, with the "Q" standing for quality, but eventually the product became known simply as the Q-Tips that we know today. As well as supplying the baby accessory market, Q-Tips expanded into the more...


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