On the 3rd November 1957, Laika the dog became the first animal to enter orbit around the Earth when she was launched into space on board the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2. Laika was never intended to return as the technology to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere had not yet been developed. However, the launch of a canine into space was seen by the Russian scientists as a precursor to human spaceflight in order to determine the effect of launch and prolonged weightlessness on a living passenger. Laika survived the launch, but died due to overheating as a result of a malfunction in the temperature control system.
Laika was a stray dog who was found on the streets of Moscow. Strays from Moscow were specifically chosen on the assumption that they had already learned how to deal with extreme temperatures and prolonged periods without food. However, Laika and two other dogs still had to undergo extension training ahead of the mission. This included long periods of time in cramped conditions, extreme G-forces on centrifuges, and exposure to loud noises to simulate the conditions of spaceflight.
Throughout the mission, scientists on the ground monitored data coming from sensors attached to Laika. The readings indicated significant stress, but she survived the launch and made four circuits of the Earth before dying of overheating. The exact cause of her death was only confirmed in 2002.
Laika’s death raised ethical questions about the use of animals in scientific research since the spacecraft was not designed to be retrievable. She was, therefore, knowingly sent a mission from which she would not return.
Einstein, who was Jewish, was undertaking a visiting professorship at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena when Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor on 30 January 1933. With the Nazis expanding their power in Germany, Einstein chose not to go home when he returned to Europe in March. When his ship docked at the Belgian port of Antwerp on 28 March he renounced his German citizenship by handing in his passport at the German Consulate.
While the Nazis seized Einstein’s cottage and converted it to a Hitler Youth camp, the government barred Jews from teaching at universities and the German Student Union burned his books. With a bounty on his head, Einstein stayed in Belgium for a few months before moving to Britain where he was guarded by his friend, naval officer Commander Oliver Locker-Lampson.
While a refugee in Britain, Einstein lobbied foreign governments and universities to find employment for former German Jewish scientists. Many places were found around Europe, with over 1,000 German Jewish scientists being placed in Turkish universities alone, but Einstein himself was refused British citizenship and instead accepted an offer from the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study in New Jersey. He departed England on 17 October 1933.
Although Einstein initially intended to only stay in the United States for a short time, in 1935 he chose to seek American citizenship, which he gained in 1940. By this time he had warned President Roosevelt about the danger of Hitler developing nuclear weapons, and encouraged the United States to begin its own research.
Known as the Orloj, the astronomical clock was designed and built by the Imperial clockmaker Mikuláš of Kadaň and Charles University professor Jan Šindel. Consisting of three main components, the astronomical dial and the mechanical clock itself were first noted in a document on 9 October 1410. The third component – a calendar dial – was added around 1490 when the façade was decorated with additional gothic sculptures.
One of the most famous features of the clock is the hourly “Walk of the Apostles” in which carved figures of the Apostles appear in procession at two windows above the main clock face. These were not added to the Orloj until a major repair on the clock in 1787-1791, although some of the other moving allegorical statues such as Death had been added beforehand. Further statues were added in later years, including the golden crowing rooster that didn’t appear until 1866.
The clock is a masterpiece of medieval engineering, and also serves as evidence of the European view of the universe at the time since the Earth appears at the centre. Against this background are the four key moving parts of the astronomical dial: the zodiacal ring, the Old Czech time scale, and two clock hands representing the Sun and the Moon and their position on the eliptic. The half-black, half-silver Moon even contains a mechanism to show the lunar phases.
The Orloj suffered serious damage in the Second World War when German forces attempted to suppress the Prague Uprising of May 1945. Restoration successfully returned the clock to working order in 1948, since when it has been renovated another two times.
On the 8th October 1829, Robert Stephenson’s steam locomotive The Rocket won the Rainhill Trials and secured a prize of £500 and the contract for Robert Stephenson and Company to produce locomotives for the new Liverpool & Manchester Railway that opened the following year. Although not the first steam locomotive, it is notable for being the first to bring together a number of innovations that made it the basic template for subsequent steam engines.
A specific set of rules had been produced for the Rainhill Trials which, among other things, emphasised speed, reliability, and a low weight. The Rocket was built specifically to take account of these rules, with Stephenson realising that the relatively light haulage demands meant that a small and nimble locomotive with only moderate pulling power would be more successful than a heavier engine with greater strength.
The approximately 1-mile stretch of track at the Rainhill section of the line was straight and flat, so although it posed no significant challenges to the competitors, it allowed the judges to see all locomotives in an identical setting. Each engine was required to run up and down the section twenty times, meaning that they travelled a distance roughly equivalent to the full journey from Liverpool to Manchester.
Of the ten locomotives entered into the competition only five turned up to the first day on the 6th October. By the end of the competition only the Rocket had completed the full competition without suffering any damage, despite reaching speeds in excess of 25 miles per hour while hauling a train of 13 tons.
On the 4th October 1582, Pope Gregory XIII implemented the Gregorian calendar. Although this calendar is now the most widely used calendar in the world, it was initially only adopted by the Catholic Church and the Papal States since to become a nation’s official calendar it had to be approved by the civil authorities. The only areas to therefore implement it on the specified date were the territories governed by Philip II of Spain, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Papal States.
Due to a drift between the Julian calendar, the lunar calendar, and the real moon, the date on which the church celebrated Easter had begun to move away from when it had been celebrated by the early church. The Catholic Church disliked this seasonal drift, and so decreed the papal bull Inter gravissimas in early 1582 to reform or – in the words of the Latin text to ‘restore’ – the calendar to align with that at the time of the First Council of Nicaea in 325.
Due to thirteen centuries’ worth of accumulated variations between the existing and new calendars, the change to the Gregorian calendar demanded the deletion of ten days. Consequently, in the territories that adopted the new calendar, the day after the 4th October 1582 became the 15th October – although the day of the week did not change.
Although most Catholic countries swiftly adopted the Gregorian calendar, Protestant governments initially rejected it. However, by the end of the 18th Century most of the countries of Western Europe – including the sizeable British Empire – switched to the Gregorian calendar to ease international trade.
On the 28th September 1928, the bacteriologist Alexander Fleming laid for the foundation for a revolution in modern medicine when he discovered the world’s first antibiotic. Penicillin – which Fleming originally referred to as ‘mould juice’ – was initially met with little attention or enthusiasm by the medical establishment. However, the early 1940s saw research by Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford raise the profile of the drug and begin mass-production to treat Allied casualties in the Second World War.
Fleming was always very modest about his contribution to the development of penicillin, and often referred to the ‘Fleming myth’ surrounding the drug. However, as the first person to identify the antibiotic properties of the active substance, Fleming earned the right to name it. He made the discovery after returning to his laboratory after a family holiday and finding that a petri dish containing staphylococci bacteria had been contaminated with an unidentified fungus. The bacteria around the fungus had been destroyed, whereas bacteria that was further away survived. It was at this point that he famously uttered the words, “That’s funny” and began investigating the fungus.
Over time Fleming identified that the fungus came from the genus penicillium, and laboratory tests indicated that it could be used to destroy a variety of disease-causing bacteria. However, despite his best efforts he was never able to cultivate the fungus in any significant quantity or isolate the active ingredient. The work of subsequent scientists was therefore vital to the development of the antibiotic, although without Fleming there would have been no fungus to investigate.
On the 12th August 1865 Joseph Lister carried out the world’s first antiseptic surgery using the chemical phenol, otherwise known as carbolic acid. Lister is remembered among the greats of medical science for being the first person to identify the link between clean hospital conditions and infection rates.
To understand the importance of Lister’s achievement, it’s important to remember that in the 19th Century up to 50% of all hospital patients died of infection. This often occurred after surgery, during which time patients developed ‘ward fever’ – a non-specific range of secondary infections caused through poor hospital hygiene where surgeons weren’t required to wash their hands or even their stained operating gowns.
Having read the work of the Frenchman Louis Pasteur regarding the spread and growth of bacteria, Lister became interested in finding a way to remove infection-causing micro-organisms from hospitals. Germ theory of disease was only just becoming more widely accepted, but after discovering that carbolic acid, now referred to as phenol, had successfully been used to reduce the smell of raw sewage Lister began experiments using it as what became termed an ‘antiseptic’.
On the 12th August Lister used a piece of lint covered in carbolic acid to cover the compound fracture wound of a seven-year-old boy, and found that over a period of six weeks the wound healed without developing gangrene. Developments in surgical hygiene followed. As well as surgeons wearing gloves, they began to wash their hands in carbolic acid, as well as washing their instruments in Lister’s 5% solution and spraying it liberally around the operating theatre.
RAF Flight Officer T. D. Dean became the first Allied jet pilot to achieve a combat victory when he ‘tipped’ a Nazi German V-1 ‘doodlebug’ flying bomb with his Gloster Meteor jet fighter.
The V-1 was specifically designed for terror bombing civilians, and had first been used on 13 June 1944. The RAF began to investigate ways to intercept and destroy the Nazis’ new weapon, and soon found that they could be tipped over by positioning an aircraft’s wing to within 6 inches of the V-1’s wing. This manoeuvre used the changing airflow of the interceptor’s wing to force the V-1 upwards, confusing the flying bomb’s gyroscope and resulting in it diving into the ground before reaching its target. The first aerodynamic flip manoeuvre was performed by Major R. E. Turner on 18 June, using a North American P-51 Mustang.
The following month, No. 616 Squadron of the RAF received the first ever Gloster Meteor jet planes. This new aircraft, equipped with Sir Frank Whittle’s revolutionary turbojet engines, could reach speeds in excess of 400 miles per hour and placed it well within reach of the average speed of a V-1. The hope was that the new Meteors would be able to shoot the flying bombs down using their 20mm cannons, but the guns had a habit of jamming.
On 4 August Flight Officer T. D. Dean experienced a problem with his Meteor’s cannons as he approached a V-1. He consequently resorted to the tipping manoeuvre and successfully sent the bomb off course. It is believed to have crashed on farmland near Headcorn in Kent, where shrapnel said to be from the explosion can be detected deep inside the trunk of a nearby oak tree. The destruction of this V-1 marked the first ever ‘kill’ for an RAF jet plane.
Napoleon granted a patent for the Pyréolophore to Nicéphore Niépce and his brother Claude.
Nicéphore Niépce had fled France during the Revolution as he was the son of a wealthy lawyer who was suspected of having royalist sympathies. He later returned to France where he served in Napoleon’s army before resigning on health grounds and becoming the Administrator of the district of Nice.
By 1801 Niépce and his older brother Claude had returned to manage the family’s estate while conducting scientific research. It was here that they developed their internal combustion engine, which harnessed the power of hot air expanding during an explosion. Their first fuel was lycopodium powder, made of dried plant spores, which was ignited inside the airtight copper machine.
The brothers presented their internal combustion engine in a paper to the French National Commission of the Academy of Science in 1806. However, the engine’s major test came in 1807 when it was installed on a boat on the river Saône. Small amounts of fuel were released into a jet of air provided by mechanical bellows inside the machine. The pressure of the explosion forced water out of an exhaust pipe protruding from the boat’s rear. This in turn propelled the boat forward in short bursts, and successfully moved it upstream against the flow of the river.
Following the successful boat test, Napoleon granted a patent to the brothers. However, despite experiments with other fuel sources, they struggled to find a commercial use for their invention. Nicéphore instead turned his attention to photography, and became the first person to produce a permanent photographic image.
The Islamic calendar was dated to start with the first new moon after the Prophet Muhammad and his followers migrated to Medina.
The calendar begins with the Prophet’s Flight as this is a key event in Islamic history for which all early followers could agree on the specific date. There was disagreement over the exact date of other events, such as the birth of the Prophet or when he first received the Divine message.
Known as the Hijra the Prophet Muhammad led his followers from Mecca to Medina, which at the time was called Yathrib, due to rumours of an assassination plot against him. Despite the migration taking place in 622, this year was only set as the start of the Islamic calendar by the Caliph Umar in 638 due to the pressing need to have a formalised dating system to improve administration. Until then the Muslim community had identified years according to a key event that took place within it – such as ‘the year of permission’.
While the Islamic calendar is linked to the Hijra, the actual start date is based on the beginning of the month of Muharram in the year of the Prophet’s arrival in Medina. This lunar month was already important to pre-Islamic Arabs and so served as a sensible demarcation, especially as it had been named by Allah in the Quran as one of the four sacred months.
16 July 622 was only identified on the Western Julian calendar during the medieval period. Muslim astronomers created a tabular Islamic calendar that they then projected backwards to identify the equivalent date on the Julian calendar. A tabular Islamic calendar relies on arithmetical rules to determine the length of the months, rather than astronomical calculations. Lunar observations are still used to specify the correct date of Islamic holidays and rituals.