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1850-1877: Science and Medicine: Chronology

1850-1877: Science and Medicine: Chronology




  • John E. Heath invents the agricultural binder.
  • 11 Mar. The Womans Medical College of Pennsylvania, the first medical school for women in America, is incorporated.
  • 21Aug. The Collins Line steamer SS Atlantic sets a new transatlantic speed record, arriving in New York after crossing from England in ten days, sixteen hours.


  • Dr. William P. Channing and Moses Gerish Farmer install the first electric fire alarm.
  • John Gorrie receives a patent for an ice-making machine.
  • The Erie Railroad opens in New York; at 483 miles, it is the longest railroad line in the world.
  • 12Aug. Isaac Merrit Singer patents a sewing machine, prompting Elias Howe, who first patented such a device in 1846, to sue him.


  • Alexander Bonner Latta invents the first effective steam engine.
  • Elisha Graves Otis invents the passenger elevator.
  • The American Pharmaceutical Association is formed in Philadelphia.



  • Walter Hunt invents the disposable paper shirt collar.
  • 6 May Cyrus W. Field receives a charter and a fifty-year monopoly for his company to lay a transatlantic cable between the United States and Great Britain.




  • The first patent for a postmarking and stamp-canceling machine is issued.
  • William Kelly receives a patent for a device to manufacture steel by channeling a current of air into molten pig iron.
  • 12 May Elizabeth Blackwell and her sister Emily open the New York Infirmary for Women and Children.


  • Lyman R. Blake patents a machine that can sew shoe soles to uppers, eliminating hand sewing and making possible the production of inexpensive shoes.
  • George M. Pullman invents the railroad sleeping car.
  • 5 Aug. The first transatlantic cable, between the United States and Great Britain, is completed; after a few weeks of operation, the cable will break.


  • The first hotel passenger elevator in America is installed in New York Citys Fifth Avenue Hotel, but many guests continue to use the stairs.
  • John F. Appleby invents the harvester-binder, which binds sheaves of cut grain.
  • Charles Darwins On the Origin of Species is published in England.
  • 28 Aug. Edwin L. Drake discovers oil at Titusville, Pennsylvania, marking the start of the modern petroleum industry.


  • Oliver F. Winchester begins production of his repeating rifle in New Haven, Connecticut.
  • Dr. Abraham Jacobi of the New York Medical College becomes the first professor of childrens diseases in the United States; he also establishes the first free clinic for childrens diseases.


  • Erastus B. Alcott performs the first successful removal of a human kidney.
  • The first transcontinental telegraph line is completed.
  • Richard J. Gatling invents the revolving machine gun.
  • The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is incorporated in Cambridge.
  • 13 June President Abraham Lincoln establishes the United States Sanitary Commission.


  • The United States Department of Agriculture is established to promote technical knowledge among farmers.
  • Congress passes the Morrill Act, granting federal land for the establishment of agricultural and technical colleges.


  • William Bullock invents the continuous-roll printing press.
  • The first orthopedic clinic in America, the New York Hospital for Ruptured and Crippled Children, opens in New York City.
  • 3 Mar. Congress authorizes the creation of the National Academy of Sciences.


  • New York City rejects Hugh B. Wilsons proposal to create an underground transit system.
  • John Thompson and John Ramsey create the checkrower corn planter.


  • Thaddeus Lowe perfects the compression ice machine.
  • At Vassar College, Maria Mitchell becomes the first female astronomy professor in the United States.
  • The American Social Science Association is established.


  • The public is allowed to view construction of the worlds first mountain-climbing railroad, the Mount Washington Cog Railroad in New Hampshire; it will be completed in 1869.
  • 27 July The first permanent transatlantic cable is completed.


  • James Cruikshanks Primary Geography is published; it will be widely used as a textbook for the rest of the nineteenth century.
  • Christopher Latham Sholes invents the first practical typewriter.
  • The first elevated railroad in the United States begins operation in New York City.


  • William Davis invents the refrigerator car.
  • James Oliver patents the chilled-iron plow.
  • American Journal of Obstetrics begins publication.
  • George Westinghouse invents the air brake, making high-speed railroad transportation safer.


  • I. W. McGaffey invents the suction-type vacuum cleaner.
  • Thomas Alva Edison invents the electric voting machine.
  • John Wesley Hyatt Jr. and Isiah Smith Hyatt patent a process for the production of celluloid.
  • The first state board of health is established in Massachusetts.
  • The first history seminar is held by Charles Kendall Adams at the University of Michigan.
  • 10 May. The first transcontinental railroad in the United States is completed when the tracks of the Union Pacific, laid from east to west, and those of the Central Pacific, laid from west to east, are joined at Promontory Point, Utah.


  • 9 Feb. Congress establishes the United States Weather Bureau.


  • The cable car is perfected by Andrew S. Hallidie.
  • In a pamphlet, The Needs of the University, Yale University calls for increased education in science.



  • The first nurses training schools are established in New York, New Haven, and Boston.
  • 1 Aug. The worlds first cable car line begins operation in San Francisco.
  • 27 Nov. The Hoosac Tunnel, the first major railroad tunnel in the United States, is completed in Massachusetts; construction of the tunnel marked the first practical use of nitroglycerin and the compressed air drill in the United States.


  • Joseph F. Glidden receives a patent for barbed wire.
  • Stephen Dudley Field invents the electric streetcar.


  • Dr. Andrew T. Still of Kirksville, Missouri, establishes the new medical field of osteopathy.
  • Horticulturalist Luther Burbank establishes a plant nursery in Santa Rosa, California, where he will produce new strains of fruits, berries, vegetables, grasses, and grains.
  • The American Forestry Association is founded in Chicago.


  • The first meeting of the American Chemical Society is held.
  • Johns Hopkins University is founded in Baltimore.
  • Alexander Graham Bell patents the telephone.
  • 10 Mar. A complete sentence is transmitted by telephone for the first time when Bell says to his assistant, Watson, come here. I want you.
  • 9 Oct The first transmission of a telephone message over an outdoor wire is accomplished.


  • A telephone is installed in a private home for the first time.
  • Thomas Alva Edison invents the phonograph.
  • Astronomer Asaph Hall at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., discovers two moons of Mars.

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