The 1950s Science and Technology: Headline Makers

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The 1950s Science and Technology: Headline Makers

Chester Carlson
Grace Murray Hopper
Alfred Kinsey
Arthur Kornberg
Margaret Sanger
Wernher von Braun

Chester Carlson (1906–1968) During his career as a patent attorney, Chester Carlson had to tediously hand-copy material. This experience allowed him to envision the need for a copying machine, so he set out to invent one. Carlson's creation, developed after years of experimentation, was named "xerography" (xeros is Greek for "dry"; graphos is Greek for "writing"). It was unsuccessfully marketed in 1949 and 1950. A more sophisticated version was developed in 1959. This machine became a spectacular success. In 1961, the company that produced it changed its name to Xerox Corporation.

Grace Murray Hopper (1906–1992) Grace Murray Hopper's ground-breaking efforts to devise computer programs and language changed the computer forever. During World War II (1939–45), she learned to program the Mark I, the world's first large digital computer. After the war, she worked at Remington-Rand, the company that marketed the UNIVAC computer. In the 1950s, she created a computer program that translated instructions written in more complex language. Her program provided the bridge between simple commands and the intricate set of purely electronic, machine-language commands that speak directly to parts of the computer. She also developed a programming language called COBOL, which made business applications on computers practical.

Alfred Kinsey (1897–1956) In 1938, Alfred Kinsey became chairman of a Indiana University committee whose mission was to create the content of a new course on marriage. This led him to conduct what would become a landmark study on sexuality: an aspect of human biology that never before had been given scientific scrutiny. Kinsey began collecting data and completing the first of 7,985 interviews in which he charted individual sexual histories. He eventually published two ground-breaking books, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953).

Arthur Kornberg (1918–) Arthur Kornberg's illustrious career in scientific research began when he studied the chemical bilirubin, and how an excessive amount of it in the bloodstream results in jaundice (a yellowing of the white parts of the eyes). Then he explored the role of intestinal bacteria in providing vitamins in the diet. Next he moved on to work with enzymes (large proteins that speed up chemical reactions), focusing on those associated with DNA synthesis (production). The sum total of his research aided immeasurably in the evolution of the field of molecular biology.

Margaret Sanger (1879–1966) During the 1950s, Margaret Sanger was partially responsible for the development of the oral contraceptive pill. However, this accomplishment was a minute part of her life's work. She believed that women had to have control of reproduction as a matter of health and well-being, and she crusaded for their right to receive contraception information. In doing so, she battled a range of opposing forces, from the Roman Catholic Church to such organizations as the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. It was Sanger who coined the term birth control and formed the organization that eventually became the International Planned Parenthood Federation. In 1952, she became its first director.

Wernher von Braun (1912–1977) Wernher von Braun always was fascinated by astronomy and rocketry. By the time he earned his engineering degree in Germany in 1932, he had staged eighty-five rocket test launches. Before coming to the United States in 1945, he designed the first self-contained missile, which Germany employed against Great Britain during World War II (1939–45). Von Braun headed the research team that launched the first U.S. satellite in 1958. Eventually, he helped develop the Saturn rocket employed in the Apollo moon landing. For much of his adult life, von Braun was the world's foremost rocket scientist.

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The 1950s Science and Technology: Headline Makers

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The 1950s Science and Technology: Headline Makers