The 1900s Science and Technology: Headline Makers
The 1900s Science and Technology: Headline MakersLuther Burbank
Lee De Forest
Thomas Alva Edison
George Ellery Hale
Granville Stanley Hall
Albert Abraham Michelson
Robert Edwin Peary
Wilbur and Orville Wright
Luther Burbank (1848–1926) Luther Burbank is one of America's most renowned botanists. Largely self-taught, Burbank was heavily influenced by Charles Darwin's research into hybridization, or how breeders could develop better specimens of plants and animals. He began experimenting with growing improved varieties of vegetables. His most successful experiment was the Burbank potato hybrid. Burbank gained national prominence through his popular plant catalogues and writings on hybridization.
Lee De Forest (1873–1961) Lee De Forest is known as "the father of radio" for his invention of the audion in 1906. The audion generated, amplified, and detected radio signals, making it possible to transmit the human voice and other broadcasts via wireless telephony. De Forest used his invention to make numerous important broadcasts during the following decade, such as the first transmission of live music in 1910 and the first radio news report in 1916. In the 1920s De Forest developed a sound process for motion pictures called Phonofilm, but it failed commercially due to Hollywood's commitment to silent movies. De Forest patented three hundred inventions during his career.
Thomas Alva Edison (1847–1931) Ohio native Thomas Alva Edison, who received only three months of formal education in his lifetime, is hailed as one of the most important inventors in human history. In 1876, he opened a laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, in which he created hundreds of his inventions. The following year, he invented the phonograph and gained international acclaim. Edison's most noteworthy experimentation produced the incandescent light bulb in 1879. During his long career, Edison received more than one thousand patents on numerous inventions related to such diverse technologies as motion pictures, batteries, and automobiles.
George Ellery Hale (1868–1938) To astrophysicist George Ellery Hale, more powerful telescopes were key to finding out the physical nature of celestial bodies. With the help of others, including the Carnegie Institution, he was able to build increasingly large instruments that repeatedly surpassed all others in focal length and light-gathering power. Using a sixty-inch telescope on top of Mount Wilson near Pasadena, California, he discovered that sunspots are cooler than other regions of the Sun and also possess intense magnetic firelds. These were the most significant discoveries regarding sunspots since Galileo first discovered them in the seventeenth century.
Granville Stanley Hall (1844–1924) Granville Stanley Hall pioneered "scientific" psychology, the theory that human mental and emotional states were based completely on physiology. In 1884 he established the first experimental psychology laboratory in the United States at Johns Hopkins University, where he researched how physical sensations triggered mental perceptions and emotions. Hall also conducted extensive investigations into hypnosis and the unconscious mind, and he later studied developmental psychology in children. One of the founders of the American Psychological Association, he served as the organization's first president.
Albert Abraham Michelson (1852–1931) Physicist Albert Abraham Michelson dedicated his professional life to researching the speed of light and devising a means to measure it accurately. In 1881, he invented the interferometer, which studied the nature and behavior of light waves. In 1887, Michelson worked with fellow physicist Edward Morely on a famous experiment in which they proved light could be detected regardless of a light beam's rotation. This experiment served as a significant basis for Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. In 1907, Michelson was the first American to be awarded a Nobel Prize for his advances in optical measuring instruments, meteorology, and spectroscopy.
Robert Edwin Peary (1856–1920) Explorer Robert Edwin Peary began his career in 1886 when he journeyed to Greenland on a self-designed, one-man sled. He traveled around the area's Mount Wistar, which is now called Peary Land. Subsequent treks through the region made him an international celebrity. Peary confirmed Greenland was an island in 1895. In 1898, he began a five-year leave of absence from the U.S. Navy to explore the Arctic. Peary's ambition was to lead the first expedition to the North Pole. He reached the Pole on his eighth and final attempt, on April 6, 1909.
Wilbur (1867–1912) and Orville (1871–1948) Wright In the late 1890s the Wright brothers became intrigued with aeronautics and began to study the principles of flight by using gliders. After several years of study, experimentation, and construction, the Wright brothers designed a glider with a twelve-horsepower engine and propellers turned with bicycle chains. On December 17, 1903, Orville made humankind's first successful flight, 852 feet in fifty-nine seconds. The Wright brothers improved their designs and were awarded a U.S. patent for their "flying machine" in 1906. Soon the British, French, and American governments entered into negotiations with the Wright brothers to manufacture aircraft and train pilots.