The Great Scientific Discoveries – Part 1

“The joy of discovery is certainly the liveliest
that the mind of man can ever feel.”

Claude Bernard

“The Joy of Discovery” by Bill Nye (courtesy of melodysheep):

“The Symphony of Life” by Stuart Mitchell (courtesy of Stuart Mitchell Music):

The recently achieved quest to find a vaccine against the coronavirus has made me think about so many scientific discoveries that have allowed humanity to develop in leaps and bounds. I won’t write in chronological order because there are thousands, but I will start with the discoveries relevant to us now.

VACCINATION

Protection against infectious diseases by inoculation with germs themselves goes back to antiquity. The word is derived from the Latin word vaccinae, meaning ‘of the cow’. The word vaccination appeared around 1880, used for the first time by Pasteur, who knew of the work of the Englishman Jenner, who had immunised patients against cowpox and common smallpox. The idea of ‘vaccination’ of this sort was practised in China in the 10th century by a Taoist monk, whose name has not survived. It was based on the principle that you treat evil with evil. To think that this was thought of eleven centuries ago is astonishing. Vaccination then took place not by scarification but by implantation of a pad carrying some attenuated germs in one nostril.

Taoist2

Courtesy of TED-Ed,

Vaccination also had been used in Turkey since time immemorial. Possibly this was a result of the experimentation of the first known toxicologist in history, Mithridates VI, King of Pontus (north of modern day Turkey), who claimed that one could be immunised against poisons by regularly absorbing small quantities of them. The Turks ‘vaccinated’ against smallpox by extracting traces of the contents of the pustule from mild cases of the disease and injecting them into healthy people. This was a rather risky practice and some people died from the effects of the vaccination. I recommend that you don’t try this at home.

Mithridates

Re the chains above, I suspect it was hard to come by volunteers!

The Jenner vaccination method was introduced into France by the Duc de la Rochefoucauld-Liancourt. Meanwhile, the notion of attenuated germs made progress. It was obvious that one could not inject the actual germs of a disease against which one wanted to immunise, for fear of triggering the disease itself. It was recognised that inoculation with an attenuated germ could help the organism to recognise a germ and defend itself against it. This is why this principle of attenuation was implemented by Pasteur in his preparation of a vaccine against rabies. In 1885, Pasteur was presented with a 9-year-old child, Joseph Meister, who had been bitten by a rabid dog. Although not a doctor, Pasteur responded to the challenge: he used the vaccine on the child with successful results. Modern vaccination had been born.

Pasteur

The influence of Pasteur (courtesy of National Geographic):

The only important modification made subsequently was the introduction of vaccines obtained through genetic engineering. These were brought into use in 1983, the first one commercially produced being the vaccine against hepatitis B in 1986.

HepatitisBTest

The above image shows how artificially generated liver cells interact with the Hepatitis B virus.

“The Girl with the Flaxen Hair” by Claude Debussy, performed by Emmanuel Ceysson (courtesy of medici.tv):

 

THOMAS  EDISON’S  LAMP

ScientificDiscovery

A lightbulb moment courtesy of VoicePlay!

Thomas Edison is one of the best-known and most prolific inventors of all time. He was granted 1,093 US patents. At his family home in Port Huron, Michigan, home-schooled 12-year-old Edison set up his first laboratory in his bedroom. When he was 14, Edison built a working telegraph at home. By the age of 16, he was working as a telegraph operator and for the next five years he travelled, working at a number of different telegraph offices in several different cities. At the age of 21, he decided to devote all his time to inventing.

Thomas Alva Edison Holding a Lightbulb

In 1873, he invented the ‘Quadruplex Telegraph’, the rights to which he sold to Western Union. With the proceeds , Edison bought in 1876 34 acres of land in the countryside of  Menlo Park, New Jersey. In his new property he set up a full research and development laboratory – the first of its kind in the world. In Menlo Park he set out to improve the recently invented telephone.

EdisonDynamo
The dynamo room at the first Edison electric lighting station opened in 1882 at Pearl Street, New York, United States, engraving, 19th century.

The most important invention to come out of Menlo Park was the light bulb. Edison demonstrated the new technology in December 1879, lighting the workshop in a public demonstration. His success with electric light led him to work on a system to distribute electric power and to set up a bulb-making factory. Edison patented the system in 1880, and by 1882, he set up a power station at Pearl Street, New York. He continued to invent many more ideas, like Kinetoscope, the first device for showing moving pictures.

EdisonKinetoscope

Edison died in 1931. After his death, US President Herbert Hoover encouraged Americans to turn off their lights for one minute, in tribute to the contribution made by America’s greatest inventor.

EdisonPhone

Above is Thomas Edison working on his telephone.

Courtesy of Biography:

 

GoatsTree

COFFEE

GoatsTree2

KaldiGoats

Around the year 850 BC, a young Ethiopian goat herder, Kaldi, was astonished to see that his goats were not sleeping at night. Watching them closely, he discovered that they were grazing on the red fruit of an unknown tree. Having tasted the fruit, he found that they had a stimulating, exciting effect on him too. The drink called coffee, a name derived from the province Kaffa in Ethiopia, where coffee is cultivated, was discovered around the time Kaldi discovered that his goats were insomniac.

GoatsCoffee

GoatsTree3

Courtesy of ExplainerOfThings:

All coffee trees belong to the genus Rubiaceae. Coffee originated in Ethiopia and is an evergreen shrub whose cherry-like fruits contain the coffee beans.

CoffeeBerries

Complete plants were not exported until the 15th century, destined for Arabia. Coffee houses were very popular in Mecca, then in Egypt and Turkey. Coffee was later introduced to the East Indies, West Indies, South America, and Africa. In England the first coffee shop was set up in Oxford in 1651 by an Armenian man, named Harutiun Vartian, at the parish of St Peter-in-the-East. Today, on the same site there is a cafe-bar called The Grand Cafe.

EnglishCoffeehouse

In London, the first coffee house opened later the same year.

EnglishCoffeehouse2

EnglishCoffeehouse3

It also reminded me of the extraordinary story about the way coffee was first introduced to Europe. It was during the siege of Vienna by the Ottoman Empire led by Suleiman the Magnificent. A Polish man, Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki, a traveller and an explorer living at the time in Vienna, decided to help King John Sobieski to repel the siege. As he spoke eight languages, including Turkish to perfection, he dressed in Turkish clothes and during the night left Vienna for the Turkish camp. Talking to the men in the camp he was able to find out what was planned. Back in the city, he was able to warn the king and prevent problems during the attack. After the siege was destroyed and the Turks repelled, the King asked him what he would like to have as a reward. To everyone’s surprise, Kulczycki asked for a huge number of bags of brown beans. No one could think what they were for. In a short time, Kulczycki opened a shop/drinking establishment, called The Blue Bottle where he served an aromatic drink – coffee made tastier to European likings by the addition of milk and honey. Everyone, including the King, loved the beverage, and that is how coffee conquered Europe.

Aria from “Coffee Cantata” by J.S. Bach (courtesy of cake kim):

 

CHARLES  BABBAGE AND  HIS  ANALYTICAL  ENGINE

26 December 1791  –  18 October 1871

Babbage

Babbage’s design inspired the pioneers of the modern computer. Long before the invention of the modern computer, Babbage, a mathematical genius, designed machines that would carry out complicated mathematical operations. He invented the world’s first programmable computing device but he also contributed to the development of business efficiency and railway travel.

BabbageEngine

As a child, Babbage was extremely inquisitive. In his autobiography, he wrote that whenever he had a new toy, he would ask his mother ‘What’s inside it?’, and would always break things open to find out how they worked. This curiosity gave him an understanding of mechanisms and machines.

TrinityCambridge

In 1810, he went to study mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge University. At the time, mathematicians and engineers relied on books filled with tables of numbers to carry out calculations. In 1812, Babbage moved college, to Peterhouse. In the library there, he realised that there were large numbers of mistakes in the numerical tables, and that they were down to human error.

PeterhouseCambridge

MathematicalTables

AntiqueBooks

Babbage envisaged a machine that would be able to calculate these tables at speed and remove the risk of human error.

In 1822, Babbage presented to the Royal Astronomical Society a proposal to build a calculating machine. The society granted Babbage money, and he hired an engineer to oversee the job. In a workshop close to his house, the engineer, Joseph Clement, a skilled toolmaker and draughtsman, set to work.

BabbageEngine2

Babbage’s Analytical Engine was the first known design for a mechanical general all-purpose computer. Although never finished because of a dispute between Babbage and the engineer, the concepts it utilised in its design were at least 100 years ahead of his time. Programs and data would be inputted using punched cards. Output consisted of a printer, a curved plotter and a bell. The machine memory would be capable of holding 1000 numbers of 50 decimal digits each. The programming language it was to use was very similar to that used in the early computers 100 years later, well before Alan Turing’s concept.

GeorgianaWhitmoreBabbage

Charles Babbage’s beloved wife, Georgiana

Flute Sonata No. 2, BWV. 1031 “Siciliano” by J.S. Bach (trancr. Kempff), performed by Lang Lang:

 

In 1827, his father, his wife and one of his sons died, and Babbage stopped work and took time to travel in Europe. While he was travelling, he dreamed up a more general calculating machine, which would be able to follow a set of instructions. Babbage envisaged a machine that would have a printer that would output the results. By 1835, he had produced the first of many designs for an ‘Analytical Engine’ – the forerunner to the modern programmable computer. His design was expressed in 500 large engineering drawings, a thousand pages of engineering calculations and thousands of pages of sketches. In 1991, the Science Museum in London followed Babbage’s design and constructed it; in 2005, they added a printer that also had been part of Babbage’s original design. Both machines worked perfectly.

Courtesy of Computer History Museum:

 

Babbage’s designs inspired the pioneers of the modern computer and this is what he is remembered for, but he also had a significant influence on other fields. While travelling in Europe in the 1820s,  Babbage toured factories and studied the manufacturing process. In 1832, he published a book called ‘On the Economy of Machinery and Manufacture’, which was the beginning of studies into the efficiency of business and industry – what is now called operational research. He applied his methods to mail in Britain, and the result was the world’s first cheap and efficient national postal system.

Postbox

He also studied the efficiency of the railways, which were in their infancy at the time. He invented a special carriage filled with equipment that would record the bumps in the tracks during a journey, and a device to move objects off the track ahead of the train – affectionately called a cowcatcher. The concept was used on trains around the world.

SteamTrainCowcatcher

Through his inventions, Charles Babbage is recognised worldwide as GENIUS.

“The Poetry of Reality (An Anthem for Science)” (courtesy of melodysheep):

 

 

47 thoughts on “The Great Scientific Discoveries – Part 1

  1. A fun romp through history and the discovery of diverse things. Shortly things were discovered there were people who decided such things were not possible from flat earthers to anti-vaxxers.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Love the upbeat message on the talk Joanna. The discoveries you shared have such merit and are so important which give me hope in the future. It’s amazing what they can do with science now and stem cells which gives me hope in our future. Your pictures and history are cutting edge and love the lightbulb song memory.
    so funny to watch the goats in the trees. Kudos to you on a wonderful comprehensive post!
    👏👏👏💖💖💖🙏🙏🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Cindy, for your wonderful comments! Science fascinated me for many years, and now I am going to publish a series of important discoveries that changed the world.

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  4. You are so welcome Joanna and I do love that you continue to inspire us! 💖💖🙏🙏

    Like

  5. All very fascinating. The Babbage computer is just great. I’m so glad they decided to build it. It’s so interesting that we tend to believe ourselves to be so far advanced and yet as you have written, many discoveries were made hundreds of years ago. When I tell people that we had gas lighting in my school, in London in 1954, I’m not sure they believe me, but I know it is so as I remember the teacher climbing up onto a desk with a flaming spill. Thanks once again!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. A delight to read about science in a fun way. I have never had a knack for discoveries and science, but this post enticed me to the end. Thank you Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you, Aahna for your wonderful comment! You made me very happy! It is our ability to discover that will save the planet and us in the end against the alarming climate changes.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you, Carolyn, for your lovely comments! I am impressed with your school and your memory! Thank you again, greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Like

  9. Thank you, Cindy!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You’re like a walking encyclopaedia Joanna, and you put it all together so well. History, technology, music and fun all in one post. Love it!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Thank you, Malc, for your wonderful comments! Greatly appreciated! There are a few more science posts to follow after this one, and so much more amasing discoveries!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  12. As ever, Joanna, you have given us a fascinating look into areas of science, technology, and history that we so often take for granted. Thank you once agian.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Thank you, Peter, for your kind comments! All greatly appreciated!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Very informative article. Speaking of coffee: I sipped on a cup of coffee as I read your piece. Like countless people, I drink coffee every day. It’s magic!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Thank you for your kind comments.

    Coffee seems to unify everyone!

    Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I thoroughly enjoyed this post, Joanna, as so many facts are new to me. It has rightly been said, as you read more, you will come across more about your ignorance. All the four discoveries, right from vaccination to the first computer, discussed here are of paramount importance. When the first mini computer was installed in my bank, I was astonished to see its size and paraphernalia. But now everything comes in the palms.

    The story of discovery of coffee and its introduction to Europe is interesting. I enjoyed it. Light bulb story is also fascinating. Is it not amazing that despite being deaf and dyslexic, Thomas Edison could achieve so much? He took deafness as a blessing and talked less to work more. His mom was very supportive when his school asked her not to send his addled child to school anymore and started teaching herself. A mother can really change the life of her offspring.

    I’m of the considered view, Joanna, that your posts should be read by all students. These posts are not only informative, but also interesting. Thank you so much for publishing one more well-researched post. I’ll look forward to your next post with eagerness.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Thank you, Kaushal, for your wonderfully detailed comments! It helps me to see what I could improve in future science posts. I know your view of the importance of a good mother and I agree.
    I wrote all my science series posts with the hope that they could be used by some schools. I trust you had some coffee?

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  18. As always, Joanna, you wrote a post that focuses on various fields: science, technology and history and you have provided us with a lot of interesting information.
    I thank you once more for the precise research behind each of your articles🙏💞🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  19. You’re welcome, Joanna! It’s always a pleasure to go through your posts. Yes, today I had coffee incidentally. I don’t take tea/coffee daily. But whenever I get company, I do take.

    Like

  20. Discoveries so fascinating, Joanna. The goats and coffee grabbed my attention, and look how the coffee industry has evolved. I truly enjoyed reading the facts on these incredible inventions with your added photos and videos. Wonderful!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Thank you, Lauren, for your generous comments! More inventions and the people behind them coming! Your praise is greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  22. You’re very welcome, Joanna!

    Like

  23. Thank you, nothing like coffee with friends!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Thank you, Luisa, for your kind comments but it is you who is the true master of erudite research! Your words are greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Thank you, Joanna.
    You know that your encouragement is such a big support for me.💞

    Like

  26. You are more than welcome, Luisa.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  27. 🙏🌹🙏🌹🙏

    Like

  28. It was a gift to all!
    ❤️

    Like

  29. This was very interesting to read. I enjoyed the section on vaccinations, to think that they’ve been around for so many years and are still used today, is fascinating. I knew some of the other histories, Edison’s lamp, and Babbage’s link to modern computers. I didn’t know the story of coffee. I’m excited to read your future posts on scientific discoveries. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Thank you, Rose, for your lovely comments! There will be quite a few interesting discoveries in the following posts as the human brain is capable of extraordinary achievements.

    Thank you again, Rose. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Like

  31. My dearest, it was a fascinating read as i was already anticipating. More so when I see or read something in terms of how my children can take and grow from. This, i am certain is the start of the most wonderful compilation on Science and History ever written on World Wide Web. At least in last many years.

    Even though i was aware of some histories including the vaccination and of the Coffee, what i enjoyed after the posts were the remarkable and unforgettable reviews by all naturetails readers. Joanna, You are someone who is leading us and all into a world which talks about education, creation, future and working towards humanity as whole. And as of now, I can only thank you in words.

    I enjoyed this very much and over all the reactions from everyone. And that is why i would like to wish and congratulate you for bringing a tribe together that is growing with you. And that is your own. With all my Love.

    Narayan x

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Thank you, Dearest Narayan, for the magnificent beyond words comments! You are right about my reader’s reception to the Science Series as this is the best motivation any writer needs. I did think about your school children as sciences are not always appreciated by the very young. I do hope, that in an interesting, lively way presenting my posts might help to change this and inspire them to achieve great things as scientists. This is what the world needs.
    Thank you again, greatly appreciated.
    Love to you too.

    Joanna x

    Like

  33. Thank you Joanna for sharing these discoveries in such a fun way, great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Thank you, Henrietta, for your kind comment. Greatly appreciated!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Very interesting, Joanna. I especially like the insomniac sheep in the trees. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  36. Thank you, LuAnne for your kind comments. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Like

  37. Thank you so much for all these interesting insights, Joanna. This world has evolved so much now, just because some people never hesitated or hesitates to trying the untried. New discoveries would continue to create thousands new frontiers.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Thank you, Ritish, for your kind comments. I agree with your thoughts because not a day goes by without news of new discoveries. I do hope you will find interesting all the following posts in the science series.

    Joanna

    Like

  39. JoAnna, I enjoyed this fascinating post. Although I like the smell of coffee, I don’t like the taste, so I drink tea. The history of coffee, though, is varied and delightful!

    We have visited Edison’s Florida estate, summer home, museum, and laboratory in Fort Myers, FL several times over the years. A reminder of Edison’s horticultural interests are the many huge old banyan trees that grow in South Florida. Edison imported them from India and gave them as gifts.

    I found the story of Charles Babbage truly remarkable! His genius was only fully appreciated long after his death. How sad!

    Although I was familiar with the basic history of germ theory, pasteurization, and vaccines, your post brought it vividly to life. So amazing! Wonderful illustrations!

    Thank you for yet another beautiful and informative post! I am a little behind in reading emails, but I look forward to part two. I always set aside ample time to do justice to your posts!

    I hope you are enjoying the pleasant weather in your lovely garden. It must be spectacular this time of the year! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Thank you, Cheryl, for such a wonderful and analytical comment! It is a great pleasure to have readers like you, and I appreciate your praise with thanks!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  41. This is so informative. I’m off to Part 2. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Thank you for your kind comments. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Like

  43. Thank you for your appreciation, and no, I am not a teacher but I love science and history.

    Joanna

    Like

  44. So fascinating. A treasure trove of amazing information about our world and how we got here!

    Liked by 1 person

  45. I really enjoyed the video on science. Spectacular! 🤩 I think if I was a kid…it would have a great lasting impression. ❤️ Outstanding! ♨️

    Like

  46. Thank you, Eva! Greatly appreciated!

    Liked by 1 person

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