Dave Barry Biography
Her father, a math and physics professor, and her mother, headmistress of a respected boarding school in Russian-occupied Warsaw, instilled in their five kids a love of learning. They also imbued them with an appreciation of Polish culture, which the Russian government discouraged. Their only options were to marry or become governesses. Curie and her sister Bronislawa found another way.
The pair took up with a secret organization called Flying University, or sometimes Floating University.
Fittingly, given the English abbreviation, the point of FU was to stick it to the Russian government and provide a pro-Polish education, in Polish — expressly forbidden in Russian-controlled Poland. Eventually, the sisters hatched a plan that would help them both get the higher education they so desperately wanted. Then, Bronislawa would return the favor once she was established. Curie endured years of misery as a governess, but the plan worked. In , she packed her bags and headed to Paris and her bright future. For more on influential women scientists throughout history, check out our free e-book.
In , he discovered that uranium emitted something that looked an awful lot like — but not quite the same as — X-rays, which had been discovered only the year before. Intrigued, Curie decided to explore uranium and its mysterious rays as a Ph. It was a defining moment for what Curie would eventually call radioactivity. The two started examining minerals containing uranium and pitchblende, a uranium-rich ore, and realized the latter was four times more radioactive than pure uranium.
They reasoned some other element must be in the mix, sending those radioactive levels through the roof. They published a paper in July , revealing the find.
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And just five months later, they announced their discovery of yet another element, radium, found in trace amounts in uranium ore. In , Curie, her husband and Becquerel won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on radioactivity, making Curie the first woman to win a Nobel. Tragedy struck just three years later. Pierre, who had recently accepted a professorship at the University of Paris, died suddenly after a carriage accident. Curie was devastated by his death. In Curie won her second Nobel Prize, this time in chemistry, for her work with polonium and radium. She remains the only person to win Nobel prizes in two different sciences.
She died in from a type of anemia that very likely stemmed from her exposure to such extreme radiation during her career. Isaac Newton was born on Christmas Day, Never the humble sort, he would have found the date apt: The gift to humanity and science had arrived. A sickly infant, his mere survival was an achievement. Just 23 years later, with his alma mater Cambridge University and much of England closed due to plague, Newton discovered the laws that now bear his name.
He had to invent a new kind of math along the way: calculus. The introverted English scholar held off on publishing those findings for decades, though, and it took the Herculean efforts of friend and comet discoverer Edmund Halley to get Newton to publish. A bet the former had with other scientists on the nature of planetary orbits. When Halley mentioned the orbital problem to him, Newton shocked his friend by giving the answer immediately, having long ago worked it out. Not only did it describe for the first time how the planets moved through space and how projectiles on Earth traveled through the air; the Principia showed that the same fundamental force, gravity, governs both.
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Newton united the heavens and the Earth with his laws. Newton never went halfway on anything. It would take too long to list his other scientific achievements, but the greatest hits might include his groundbreaking work on light and color; his development and refinement of reflecting telescopes which now bear his name ; and other fundamental work in math and heat. So how did Newton pass his remaining three decades?
But Newton, focused as ever, threw himself into it. He also focused his attention on counterfeiters, searching them out as zealously as he sought answers from the heavens. Newton was known by his peers as an unpleasant person. He had few close friends and never married. He famously feuded with German scientist Gottfried Leibnitz, mainly over who invented calculus first, creating a schism in European mathematics that lasted over a century. How fitting that the unit of force is named after stubborn, persistent, amazing Newton, himself a force of nature.
As a young man, his main interests were collecting beetles and studying geology in the countryside, occasionally skipping out on his classes at the University of Edinburgh Medical School to do so. It was a chance invitation in to join a journey around the world that would make Darwin, who had once studied to become a country parson, the father of evolutionary biology.
Aboard the HMS Beagle , between bouts of seasickness, Darwin spent his five-year trip studying and documenting geological formations and myriad habitats throughout much of the Southern Hemisphere, as well as the flora and fauna they contained. He noticed small differences between members of the same species that seemed to depend upon where they lived. The finches of the Galapagos are the best-known example: From island to island, finches of the same species possessed differently shaped beaks, each adapted to the unique sources of food available on each island.
This suggested not only that species could change — already a divisive concept back then — but also that the changes were driven purely by environmental factors, instead of divine intervention. Today, we call this natural selection.
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When Darwin returned, he was hesitant to publish his nascent ideas and open them up to criticism, as he felt that his theory of evolution was still insubstantial. Instead, he threw himself into studying the samples from his voyage and writing an account of his travels. Through his industrious efforts, Darwin built a reputation as a capable scientist, publishing works on geology as well as studies of coral reefs and barnacles still considered definitive today.
Darwin also married his first cousin, Emma Wedgwood, during this time. This was a level of attention uncommon among fathers at that time — to say nothing of eminent scientists. Through it all, the theory of evolution was never far from his mind, and the various areas of research he pursued only strengthened his convictions. Darwin slowly amassed overwhelming evidence in favor of evolution in the 20 years after his voyage.
All of his observations and musings eventually coalesced into the tour de force that was On the Origin of Species , published in when Darwin was 50 years old. The page book sold out immediately, and Darwin would go on to produce six editions, each time adding to and refining his arguments.
It was based on two ideas: that species can change gradually over time, and that all species face difficulties brought on by their surroundings. From these basic observations, it stands to reason that those species best adapted to their environments will survive and those that fall short will die out. Nikola Tesla grips his hat in his hand. He points his cane toward Niagara Falls and beckons bystanders to turn their gaze to the future. This bronze Tesla — a statue on the Canadian side — stands atop an induction motor, the type of engine that drove the first hydroelectric power plant.
His designs advanced alternating current at the start of the electric age and allowed utilities to send current over vast distances, powering American homes across the country. He developed the Tesla coil — a high-voltage transformer — and techniques to transmit power wirelessly. Cellphone makers and others are just now utilizing the potential of this idea. Tesla is perhaps best known for his eccentric genius. He once proposed a system of towers that he believed could pull energy from the environment and transmit signals and electricity around the world, wirelessly.
But his theories were unsound, and the project was never completed. San Diego Comic-Con attendees dress in Tesla costumes. The American Physical Society even has a Tesla comic book where, as in real life, he faces off against the dastardly Thomas Edison.