Great Scientific Discoveries Part 9

Courtesy of Reid Gower:

“Curiosity is the essence of our existence.”
Gene Cernan

Courtesy of Nigel John Stanford:

This final post in my Great Scientific Discoveries is about the discoveries that are born of chance, but then they seem to take on an impetus of their own and become established, whatever the real needs of the community. The most famous example is that of the motor car, the usefulness of which is becoming geometrically inverse to the numbers on the road, but which continues to feature in public opinion as a necessity of life. In the United States, for example, airlines have created such congestion that sometimes, taking into account the delays and the transport time from the airport to the city centres, they take three times the theoretical time of the journey to get from one town to the other. Meanwhile, a train, which would carry at least five times more passengers on each journey, would be on time and would take travellers from city centre to city centre with less risk. But the aeroplane has the image of speed and so is preferred.

The history of inventions in the 20th century includes a lesson in philosophy, whilst that of the preceding centuries includes one in psychology. In considering the past, one can only marvel at the precocity of technical inventiveness, and also at the strange slowness with which some of the major inventions have come to light. In recent decades it is surprising what modest beginnings some inventions have had, and the tremendous, even excessive, influence which they have exercised over time.  A new branch of study has developed lately reflecting the destiny of the human race: the philosophy of science.


Born 8 June 1955

In modern life, it seems incredibly hard for an individual to invent something that truly changes the world; however, one person who did just that is an English physicist and computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee. In 1990, he invented the World Wide Web.

Courtesy of DW Shift:

A plaque at CERN commemorating the invention of the Web:

Timothy Berners-Lee was born in London. His parents were both computer scientists. As a boy, Tim became interested in electronics after building circuits to control his model train set. He studied at The Queen’s College, Oxford University; while he was there, he built his first computer. After graduating in 1976, he worked as a computer systems engineer at various companies.

“A Kaleidoscope of Mathematics” by James Horner, from “A Beautiful Mind” (courtesy of Elliot Walsh):

The Queen’s College, Oxford University

In 1980, Berners-Lee spent six months at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, a particle physics facility on the outskirts of Geneva, on the border between France and Switzerland. It is better known by the acronym CERN, which derives from the facility’s original name, Conseil European pour la Recherche Nucleaire. While at CERN, Berners-Lee devised a computer system, for his own use, to store and retrieve information. Named ENQUIRE, this was a forerunner of the Web. It was based upon hyperlinks, cross-references in one document that enables a computer to call up another, related document.

From “Cern – The Sense of Beauty” (courtesy of First Hand Films):


Geneva, Switzerland

Courtesy of Drone Snap:

In 1984, Berners-Lee was back at CERN, on a computing fellowship programme. He became frustrated by the lack of compatibility between different computer systems, and between documents written using different software applications. In a memo, which he sent to his manager in 1989, Berners-Lee set out his vision of a ‘universal linked information system’ with which to organise the huge amounts of information produced at CERN. He proposed that a ‘web of links’ would be more useful than the ‘fixed, hierarchical system’ that existed. Documents available on computers within CERN’s network would contain hyperlinks to other documents, including those on different computers. In 1990, Berners-Lee’s manager encouraged him to spend some time – as a side project – on developing his idea.

Part of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN

From “Symmetry”, a CERN dance-opera film (courtesy of

During the autumn of 1990, Berners-Lee, along with his colleague, a Belgian computer scientist Robert Cailliau (born 1947), created all of the now-familiar fundamental components of the World Wide Web. The universal language he invented for writing linked documents (web pages) is ‘html’ – hypertext markup language. The software that responds to ‘requests’ from hyperlinks is called a ‘web server’, a term that also refers to the hardware that hosts the web pages. And the language, or protocol, computers use to communicate the hyperlink requests is ‘http’ – hypertext transfer protocol. Berners-Lee had to write the first web browser, the application used to view the documents hosted on web servers. He called his browser ‘World Wide Web’. Berners-Lee also wrote the first web pages, which he published on his server in December 1990.  It was on 25th of that month that Berners-Lee first ‘surfed’ from one web page to another, via http, by clicking a hyperlink in his browser.

The corridor at CERN where the Web was born:

“A Sense of Symmetry (Day 1)” by Ludovico Einaudi:


The following year, Berners-Lee made available his software to people outside CERN, and the idea quickly caught on. By 1994, the Web had grown so much that each ‘resource’ – a document or image, for example – needed a unique ‘address’ on the Internet. In consultation with the Web community, Berners-Lee created the format for web addresses, called the ‘uniform resource locater’ (URL). After 1994, the Web spread rapidly beyond academic and military circles. Within a few short years, most people in the world had been affected directly by its existence, and millions were already regularly ‘surfing’ from documents to documents online.

Below is the Nataraj statue at CERN, a depiction of a Hindu cosmic dancer which is a metaphor for modern physics

Courtesy of The British Museum:


Tim Berners-Lee has received a huge number of accolades for his invention, which he gave free to the world without patent or rights. In 1994, he founded the World Wide Web Consortium, which helps keep the Web working smoothly and aims to foster its future growth. He also campaigns to keep the Internet ‘neutral’ – free of restrictions on content and what kinds of computers may be connected.


Doug Engelbart (30 January 1925 – 2 July 2013)

Two very important technologies underpinned Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the World Wide Web: hyperlinks and the computer mouse. An American computer scientist Douglas Engelbart invented the mouse in 1967, and he was also heavily involved in the development of hyperlinks.

Courtesy of Silveira Brothers:

In the 1960s Engelbart headed a team at the Augmentation Research Centre at the Stanford Research Institute, California. Engelbart’s team devised an online ‘collaboration system’ called NLS (oN-Line Systems). This included the first use of hyperlinks and the mouse. In 1968, Englebart demonstrated NLS to a large audience of computer scientists. In addition to hyperlinks and the mouse, the 90-minute session referred to as ‘The Mother of All Demos’, introduced such ideas as e-mail, video-conferencing, and real-time collaboration between computer users far apart.

Courtesy of Stanford:


Stanford University, California

Courtesy of Stanford:


“California Dreamin'” by The Mamas and The Papas (courtesy of Wudood Omran):


25 November 1844 – 4 April 1929

The person responsible for designing the first true motor car, a German engineer Karl Benz, had no idea what effect his invention would have on the world. By increasing mobility, less than 100 years after the rise of the railways, the motor car once again revolutionised patterns of work and play and the distribution of goods and its rapid uptake in the twentieth-century changed the landscape quickly and dramatically.

Karlsruhe, Baden

Karl Benz was born in Karlsruhe, Baden, Germany. His father died when Karl was just two years old, but his mother encouraged him greatly, working hard to put him through grammar school and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. It was his dream from early to invent a form of transport that would run without horses and off rails.

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Courtesy of Colossal Cranium:

The idea of self-propelled road vehicles was already popular before Benz was born. Some engineers had made ‘cars’ – mostly steam carriages and electric vehicles; all of them were adaptations of horse-drawn carts and none was particularly effective. The most crucial invention in the development of the motor car was the internal combustion engine. In a steam engine, the combustion – the fire that heats the steam – is produced outside the cylinder. The first practical engines in which combustion took place inside the cylinder, and drove a piston directly, appeared in the 1850s. The most important was invented in 1859 by Belgian engineer Etienne Lenoir (1822 – 1900).

Below are shown Etienne Lenoir and one of his automobiles

The next step towards the motor car was the ‘four-stroke’ engine designed by German inventor Nikolaus Otto (1832-1891) in 1876. The four-strokes – intake of the fuel-air mixture; ignition, and exhaust – still form the basis of petrol engines today. Otto’s engine was the first alternative to the steam engine.

Below are shown Nikolaus Otto and one of his engines

Karl Benz closely followed developments in engine design after leaving college, and worked towards his dream of building a motor car. He had been employed on various mechanical engineering projects, and in 1871 had moved to the nearby city of Mannheim. In the 1870s, Benz designed a reliable, two-stroke petrol engine, in which the four operations of the four-stroke engine are combined into one upward and one downward stroke , for which he was granted a patent in 1879. Four years later, he formed a company with two other people: Benz & Company Rheinische Gasmotoren – Fabric. The company began as a bicycle repair shop, and quickly grew when it began making machines and engines.

Mannheim, Germany

Benz & Company did well, giving Benz the time and the confidence he needed to pursue his dream. By the end of 1885, Benz’s car was ready. It was a three-wheeled carriage powered by a single-cylinder four-stroke engine, which he had created specially. Benz’s motor car incorporated several important innovations of his own design. These included an electric starter coil, differential gears, a basic clutch, and a water-cooling system for the engine. Despite his hard work and obvious brilliance, Benz had not quite worked out how to achieve steering with four wheels. He took the easy option and had three wheels, the single front wheel is turned by a ’tiller’ – type handle.

Benz applied for a patent in January 1886, and it was granted in November of that year. His application was successful because his motor car had been designed from the start as a self-powered vehicle. and not simply as a cart with an engine attached. After a few improvements, including the world’s first carburettor, the first Benz Patent Motorwagen was sold in 1887. Benz began production of the car and advertised it for sale in 1888; it was the first commercially available production car in history. Uptake was very slow, however, so Benz’s wife Bertha (1849-1944) decided to try to raise awareness. In August 1888, she drove with her two sons from Mannheim to her home town of Pforzheim and back – a total distance of nearly 200 kilometers (120 miles). The stunt generated a great deal of publicity – and thanks at least in part to that publicity, Benz’s Motorwagen became a great success. The age of motoring had begun.

Bertha Benz

Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz USA:

By 1888, Benz had improved his design and began producing cars in greater numbers. A French engineer and entrepreneur Emile Roger, in Paris, held the sole rights to sell Benz’s cars outside Germany and helped to popularise the vehicle.

“Mercedes-Benz” performed by Horst Gössl:



30 July 1863 – 7 April `1947

For twenty years after, Karl Benz’s Patent Motorwagen motor cars were not available to most people. The fact that each one had to be made individually kept the cost high, which in turn kept demand low. In 1908, an American entrepreneur Henry Ford set out to change that, when he introduced what he called ‘a car for the great multitude’.

Courtesy of Innovative History:

The affordable Ford Model T was a breakthrough being made from interchangeable parts in a factory with tools laid out in an efficient arrangement. From 1913, the cars were manufactured on assembly lines.  Ford’s famous motto was: ‘You can have a car in any colour you want, as long as it is black.’

Courtesy of Bloomberg Quicktake: Originals:

One of Ford’s employees had seen how effective production lines could be when he visited a meat-packing factory in Chicago. The application of the idea to the motor car industry brought costs down dramatically, made Henry Ford incredibly rich and had a rapid and profound effect on the world of the twentieth century.

“Drive” by The Cars (courtesy of Cafe Instrumental):


Courtesy of Reid Gower:


Courtesy of Inspiration Journey:















68 thoughts on “Great Scientific Discoveries Part 9

  1. I do write about my experience with living in the wonderful company of unusual wild animals, also I wrote the first volume of my family history in a fiction style based on letters and facts known to my parents.

    Thank you, Robert, for asking and for your interest.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. PS. Thank you for your kind praise!


    Liked by 1 person

  3. You could perhaps combine both those subjects (family and animals) in much the same way that Gerald Durrell did in ‘My Family and Other Animals’. 😃

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I could but the story of my family goes a few hundred years back, so while I can tell about a dog or a horse it wouldn’t be feasible as apart from myself, I don’t know anyone who had a close friendship with a hedgehog, a feral cat, and a frog.


  5. Haha – me.neither! 😂 My wife thinks hedgehogs are really cute, but I doubt that she would have one in the house. 😃

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your wife doesn’t know much about animals, when they love you they keep the spikes so flat you would think that you are stroking a puppy.

    tails Sent: 04 July 2022 23:02 To: Subject: [naturetails] Comment: “Great Scientific Discoveries Part 9”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think it’s the fleas she is more concerned with. But I’ll tell her about the spines laying flat – she’ll be fascinated to learn that, thanks. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  8. JoAnna, I have loved your science series. Gaining knowledge, understanding, and perspective make taking in your posts a rewarding experience. Highlights of this post that I especially enjoyed were the explanation of the statue of Shiva and the inspiring story about Bertha Benz.

    I enjoyed the tour of Stanford where my late husband had the distinction of receiving both his Harvard Law degree and his Stanford Masters in Health Services Research in the same graduation ceremony. He took me back there once to meet one of his favorite professors and tour the campus. We also visited Oxford when we were in England for a few days.

    Thank you again, JoAnna, for this enlightening series.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you, Cheryl, for your wonderful comments! It made me happy to know that my post brought a few happy memories from your life and your travels. I hope that you will enjoy my great books
    series too!


    Liked by 1 person

  10. I am hooked to this series! Thank you for sharing these 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you so much, Raina, for your kind comments! I hope you like as much the series on the great books.



  12. kshitija sawant 26/07/2022 — 6:44 am

    This is something very interesting to read!!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you, Kshitija, for your kind comment. I am glad that sometimes you are going to read it. The next post will definitely trill you.



  14. kshitija sawant 26/07/2022 — 7:59 am

    Also just wanted to tell that your writing is good. Keep it up but I’m not sure if I will get time now onwards read more content.
    If you wish not to get updates from my blog you can unsubscribe 👍🏻

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Creation and discovery, whether it be along scientific or artistic lines seems to be one essence of human existence. I found the creation of the world wide web to be the most fascinating part of this blog, perhaps because I understand it the least. Tim Berners-Lee’s inspiration for the WWW was remarkable and today I still have no idea of its complexity. We just turn on our phone/laptop/tablet and begin typing (or dictating). Who knows or cares about HYPERTEXT, TCP or DNS? But where would we be without it? For example, just this moment, I let our dog out and saw a bright star near the crescent moon in our southern sky. A few entries into my favorite search engine and I determined that object to be Jupiter with a bonus of information about other planets as well (that would be the hyper links). So easily that questioned was answered and my curiosity satisfied. It is true that this “grand passion for knowledge is a universal language which transcends race, religion, age, etc.” Thank goodness the WWW is not censored here. It is a miracle! And then, another click, and I am back to arena of my favorite blogger.

    You have a way of educating and entertaining simultaneously. That is an art although it may be about science. Thank you, Joanna, for your creative way of finding a way for your readers to discover. Stewart


  16. Thank you, Stewart, for such a wonderful start to my day, the last this year!

    I wholly agree with your words on the human curiosity being mother of invention. That is how the first insect learned to fly – to see what is above the tree tops.

    Thank you again, Stewart, greatly appreciated.



    Liked by 1 person

  17. You are most welcome, Joanna, for your well deserved kudos. And a happy, safe and healthful 2023 to you and all of those close to you. Stewart


  18. Thank you, and same blessings to you too!


    Liked by 1 person

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