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posted Jan 28, 2015, 10:05 PM by Ranmini Perera   [ updated Dec 4, 2015, 1:22 AM by Upali Salpadoru ]


This 5 letter word could be a prefix to 
give 3 broad meanings. 
Radio waves (A section of the Electromagnetic spectrum)  
A radio receiver ( A device that can detect radio waves) ] 
A radio transmitter.

 The development of all these started with the production of current electricity.

In 1780,  Luigi Galvani obtained for the first time in recorded history a continuous electric current while dissecting a frog. While he thought that it came from animal tissue , in 1790 Alessandro Volta showed that the current is produced by two kind of metals dipped in a suitable solution. ( Now referred to as an electrolyte) , Hans Christian Oersted in 1820  discovered that an electric current can twist a magnetic compass needle placed nearby. This probably was the first time a human has produced action at a distance without a material connection.   But the distance was too short for It to be of much use.

In 1830 Michael Faraday experimenting on these lines discovered that electricity and magnetism are inter convertible. Many scientists in Europe and America experimented with electricity and magnetism and came out with new discoveries and inventions. 

One device that became a very vital piece of equipment for Radio transmission was the induction coil discovered  around 1836 by an Irish Priest Father Nicholas Callan. This could multiply the pressure (Voltage) of a direct current by several Forty years later in 1860, James Clerk Maxwell  mathematically proved the connection between electricity and magnetism and predicted that a  wave must propagate due to changing of electric and magnetic lines of force. (Now referred to as Electromagnetic waves)  
Twenty five years after The Italian Physicist Henrich Hertz in 1885  demonstrated the existence of Electric / magnetic waves (Now called  Radio waves ). He was the first person known to have transmitted and received a radio wave although it did not carry a signal.

Fig.2. When Hertz gave a high voltage current to charge the metal spheres a spark resulted between the two connecting wires. This produced a spark in the copper loop kept at a side un connected.

Nikolai Tesla was a pioneer in developing alternating current. He made very efficient powerful coils yielding high tension high frequency current. These are still in demand and known as Tesla coils. Addressing  the American Engineers in 1891 he made the maximum use. Using extremely high voltages produced from Ultra High Frequency AC dynamos (Alternators)  connected to one wire, or  no-wire at times (wire-less) he got the glass tubes to glow. As a high class magician he got the High Voltage current to pass through his body and spark out at his fingertips.

Tesla was probably the first person to demonstrate remote control in a very vivid way in 1898. It was in the Madison square , he had a large tank built and a large boat floating.. To the utter amazement of all present the boat obeyed every  wireless command given by Tesla standing at a distance away.
  In 1909, Guglielmo Marconi gained the Nobel Prize for his development of Radio and soon accumulated wealth. {Tesla is now credited with inventing modern radio as well; since the Supreme Court overturned Guglielmo Marconi's patent in 1943 in favor of Nikola Tesla's earlier patents. When an engineer (Otis Pond) once said to Tesla, "Looks as if Marconi got the jump on you" regarding Marconi's radio system, Tesla replied, "Marconi is a good fellow. Let him continue. He is using seventeen of my patents
The names of Nikola Tesla and Thomas Alva Edison were announced by the Swedish Academy, as the Winners of the 1912 Nobel Prize. It was not to be so. The assumption is that Tesla refused the share it with Edison as he did not consider him as a Physicist. Tesla was also sore over the awarding of the Prize 3 years earlier to  Marconi.


 Louis Pasteur  22/`12/ 1822 -  28/9/1895  introduced the germ theory .  It showed that most of the diseases are caused by bacteria. Joseph Lister (Br) 1883 and 1897, being a follower of this theory used to clean the surgical instruments and the wounds with carbolic acid. Although this reduced the infections after surgery , the damage on healthy tissue was considerable.

Dr. Alexander Fleming  through the experience gained by serving in the Royal Medical Co during  world war 1,.  realised that antiseptics  killed more than they healed. So after the war he started looking for chemicals that could fight germs without harming the healthy tissue. in 1921  he discovered ‘lysozyme’,. This is an enzyme  found in body fluids such as tears and saliva, responsible for our natural defence system.
 Although Fleming was a brilliant microbiologist his laboratory was not  spic and span. Often he left the used glassware un-cleaned for days. On the 3rd  of September 1928  on arrival after a holiday he noticed something unusual  In some of the un-washed petri dishes that he had cultured staphylococcus bacteria there were patches of a fungus.  What amazed him was the fact that around these fungal colonies the bacteria had disappeared.
A common man would have just ignored such an insignificant incident.  But Fleming realised the significance  He cultured the mould and continued further testing. He soon find out that an enzyme secreted by the fungus can kill quite a number of deadly germs without harming the human tissue.

“Then in 1928 an accidental contamination of a culture plate by a mould set me off on another track. I was working on a subject having no relation to moulds or antiseptics and if I had been a member of a team engaged on this subject it is likely that I would have had to neglect the accidental happening and work for the team with the result that penicillin would not then have been described and I would not be here today as a Nobel Laureate.” …. Nobel Prize Banquet Speech.

He got the help of experts to identify the fungus, which was found to be Penicillium notatum.  So the extract derived from this he baptised as Penicillin.  He published his discovery in a medical journal but  hardly any attention was paid to it by the medical community.  He also found that growing the mould  and isolating the enzyme was rather a difficult task. He sought the experts to develop a practical process to produce penicillin   He perused the project for over a decade and ultimately gave up unwillingly.
In 1940, with the start of the WW II.  US and British governments engaged two scientists at Oxford for research on Penicillin.  Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain  They were quite successful and learned to produce the drug in a large scale. The news spread that  Penicillin cured the wounded soldiers. Fleming was overjoyed  and thanked the researched team.  Hearing this Chain exclaimed, “I thought the man was dead”.


Apart from  the electric and the solar powered vehicles, all the other cars are powered by  a petrol or gas driven engine called the ‘Internal Combustion Engine’.(ICE)  In 1869 a Belgian Joseph Etienne Lenoir patented the first practical ICE in France. He used this on a three wheeler which qualified him to be the first man that made the Motorcar. His model used liquid petroleum fuel spark ignition with a two stroke cylinder with slide valves. His best model was capable of 11km in 90 minutes.

 Fig. Father Etienne Lennoi (Belgian)

The three giants behind the development of this into the modern automobile were Nikolaus Augus Otto , assisted by Eugen Langen Gottlieb Daimler with his partner Wilhelm Maybatch, and Karl Benz 1844 - all from Germany.

In addition to these, there were engineers in the background, who drew the plans and had actually taken some patents but they were not assembled. In 1862, a Frenchman, Beau de Rochas, gave the  idea of the four-stroke engine. But he did not build that. In 1876 Otto obtained the US patents for the  four stroke and the two stroke as well.. Nicholaus Otto may have used the plans of the Italian inventors Eugenio Barshanti and Felice Matteucci  but it has not been traced.

Nicolaus Otto was the son of a farmer . After a period of apprenticeship he became a trader who gave it up to make engines along with Langen who was a trained technician. Their engines were very bulky and produced very little power to the weight ratio. Three to four meters long.

They were not suitable for any mobile equipment ; They sold their  engines for heavy work in places such as printing presses, and factories . It came to be known as ‘Otto Cycle Engine”. He married Anna Gossi and the couple produced seven children. His son Gustav Otto grew up to become an aircraft builder. 

In 1872 Otto and Langen employed Gottlieb Daimler as their factory manager. This was a great success as along with new staff Daimler employed it was possible to compress the bulky monsters at the same time improving their efficiency. In the late 1890′s Otto developed the first ‘spark plug’ which was used to ignite liquid fuels for internal combustion. As there were no filling stations, benzene, which was a cleaning fluid,  had to be obtained from the pharmacies.

Fig. Nicholaus Otto.
Gottlieb Daimler was an engineer trained as a gunsmith. After several occupations in a few foreign countries Nicholas Otto employed him to improve his engines. Due to a conflict with Otto he left it and set up his own own company, along with Maybach in 1882. Very soon they assembled an engine much faster than the Otto engine. The secret was the introduction of a spray nozzle carburettor  (Carbon aerator) invented by Maybach and a self ignition system of Daimler. When this was fixed to a carriage it achieved the top speed of 10 mph.


Karl Benz did not have the same comfortable launching pad to build engines as for the other two. His father died of an accident when the boy was only 2 years. Earning a few coins by repairing watches to help his mother to float above the poverty line he completed the schooling in a satisfactory manner. As a young boy he used to take photos of tourists that visit the Black forest  He developed and printed them in his home and earned an extra buck. He joined a polytechnic and passed out as a mechanical engineer 1864 at 19. Serving in a couple of factories he acquired a thorough training  in all the relevant areas of the trade. At the age of 27 he started his own work shop  along with a partner Augustus Ritter “ Machines for sheet metal working”

Soon he developed an interest to build engines

Within a year the company reached bankruptcy mainly due to the negligence of his partner. At this hour of need,  young and slim Bertha Ringer bought Ritter’s share and revived the company. He married her and within a few years time he obtained a patent for a two stroke internal combustion gas engine and got himself into the group of inventors. What is considered as the first automobile today is a three wheeled vehicle made by Karl.

For the first time in the history of vehicle development this one had spark plug ignition, an accelerator, a carbon aerator, a clutch and a gear system with a water cooled radiator. Such a number of firsts may never have been included in any of the inventions made in the entire history of mankind.

Although Benz sold the highest number of cars in 1900 there was a rival Gottlieb Daimler who also made fantastic vehicles. In 1926 the two companies merged and came to be known as Daimler-Benz AG. Daimler Chrysler was another arm of this parent company.

Benz used one wheel in front in his auto to overcome the steering problem. At the time they did not know how to turn two wheels with one axle. This he overcame in 1893 by introducing an axle pivot steering system in his Benz Victoria model designed for two. In 1896 he introduced the flat engine with pistons placed horizontally , working opposite a device which is even used today in some racing cars.

On the 5th of August in 1888 Berta Benz did the first long distance auto trip with two of their children, 106km  without the consent of her husband. On the way she had difficulty in purchasing fuel from pharmacies and the car had to be pushed to climb steep hills. In a telegram she sent to her husband,  at the end of the journey she suggested the addition of another gear to climb hills.

Today this event is celebrated annually in Germany with an
antique automobile rally.

Emil Jellinek, the Austrian diplomat, was the main distributor for Daimler cars in France.He was on the board of Daimler Benz co. and frequently made caustic comments on the design of cars. Once he wrote , “Your cars are cocoons. I want a butterfly” He got the company to custom build a car and baptize it in the name of his daughter, Miss Mercedes. The name which means ‘mercy’ preceded their brand name and it remains up to the present day.

  1. Arc Lamp

In 1809, Humphry Davy invented the first electric light. Davy connected two wires to a battery and attached a charcoal strip between the other ends of the wires. The charged carbon glowed making the first arc lamp.

2.     Incandescent lamp (Electric bulb)

Fig. Joseph Swan

Joseph Swan   1828 -  1914  (Br)  worked as a pharmacist in a company that specialised in photographic  emulsions. Ultimately, he became a partner of the company and improved the photography printing process. At the same time in 1860  he developed an incandescent light and was working on improving it.  Unfortunately  his work was hindered by irregular current sources and the poor vacuums he was able to get into his globes.  
Thomas Alva  Edison also obtained patents in America for a fairly direct copy of the Swan light, . In 1882, Swan took Edison to court in Britain for patent infringement. Edison lost and as part of the settlement, Edison was forced to take Swan in as a partner in his British electric works. (which by merger eventually became the Edison and Swan United Company)
He lay dormant for a couple of years. With the advent of better vacuum pumps and dynamo to provide current he resumed the research with a new vigour. In 1881 he developed and patented a process for squeezing nitro cellulose through holes to form conducting fibres. His newly established company  used these filaments in their bulbs.
His house in Gatehead became the first house to be lit by an electric bulb.
In 1881 when he went to Paris the city was lit using Swan bulbs and on his visit he was bestowed with the highest honour of the land “Legion d’honneur “
1904 he was knighted by the King Edward VII.

3.    High Frequency lighting.

Nikola Tesla 1856 – 1943, resumed his favorite work—experimentation. Back at his laboratory on Grand Street in New York City, Tesla engrossed himself in the exploration of high frequency electricity.  He knew that higher frequencies would have many technical advantages: lamps could glow brighter, energy could be transmitted more efficiently, and this would all be less dangerous because the energy could pass harmlessly across the body.
Tesla's initial goal was to approximate the frequency of sunlight and create lamps of revolutionary brightness and configuration. This, he hoped, would eliminate Edison's incandescent lamp, which utilized only five percent of the available energy.
Tesla began his high frequency investigations by building rotary AC generators that could run at higher speeds; but as he approached twenty thousand cycles per second, the machines began to fly apart, leaving him far short of his goal. The answer came with a remarkable device still known today as a Tesla coil. Patented in 1891, this invention took ordinary sixty-cycle per second household current and stepped it up to extremely high frequencies—into the hundreds of thousands of cycles per second. In addition to high frequencies, the coil could also generate extremely high voltages.
With high frequencies, Tesla developed some of the first neon and fluorescent illumination. He also took the first x-ray photographs. But these discoveries paled when compared to his discovery of November 1890, when he illuminated a vacuum tube wirelessly—having transmitted energy through the air.
At the 1893 World's Fair, the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois displayed Nikola Tesla's fluorescent lights.

This was the beginning of Tesla's lifelong obsession—the wireless transmission of energy

 4. Neon Lights

By passing an electric current through a glass tube containing tiny amounts of a gas, Plucker and Geissler found they could make light. The French engineer, chemist, and inventor Georges Claude  1870 - 1960, was the first person to apply this method using  neon gas to create a lamp. He displayed this  to the public in December, 1910, in Paris.

5.    Light Emitting Diodes

in 1927 Oleg Vladimirovich Losev (Russian) reported creation of the first LED. but no practical use was made for a couple of years The first practical (red) LED was developed in 1962 by Nick Holonyak, Jr., while working at General Electric Company.[5] Holonyak first reported this breakthrough  on 1st December 1962.[16] Holonyak is seen as the "father of the light-emitting diode"
Now the LED's are fast replacing all other forms of electric lighting.

 5. PENS


Stylus, used for  writing on clay tablets and “Ola Leaves” (Treated leaves from Talipot palm).had to be discarded with the appearance of papyrus, parchment and paper. The new tools that evolved were the brushes and the pen. Brushes may have been archaic and there were various paints to work with. The pens required a sticky dye in the form of a dilute coloured solution  Various civilizations have made “ink” using different concoctions. The main ingredients have been tannin from plants (nut- galls) salts of iron with a binding material like gum or glue.
The earliest pens were ‘quills’, made from bird’s feathers. Every scribe, at the time had to learn the art of making quill pens, as the point would get blunt after writing a few pages. One big advantage was that the nib of the quill could be custom designed to suit individual needs. These had to be dipped in a concoction called “ink” just as a brush had to be dipped in paint.

Then came the ‘dip pens’ with metal nibs.  This saved a lot of time as they lasted almost a lifetime. There was one famous design called the “G-nib” which became very popular the ‘ink pots’ or ‘ink wells’ as they were called. These were attached to student desks in schools and an assistant filled them up every morning. End of the day the white uniforms of students often had blue stains;  fortunately the school authorities selected a kind of washable ink instead of ‘Parker Quink Permanent’.

As it takes some time for the ink on a page to dry up writing can sometimes get smudged.  It was an essential item on every writing desk to have an ink blotter.
The next step was the ink filled pens which conveniently did away with the ‘ink wells’.

Fountain Pens


At the beginning of the 18th Century, umpteen number of people devised ink filled pens to replace the dip pen. Some even obtained patents; but they had major short comings. Either the ink did not flow properly or documents got spoiled by an excessive flow. At the nib the flow clogged due to drying up of ink due to evaporation.  Filling them without spilling ink was also a difficult task. Sometimes the ink leaked while carrying the pen due to temperature changes.
Here are some of the earliest patents.
1702  French Royal instrument maker named Nicolas Bion (1652-1733)
1809. John Scheffer received a British Patent.
1819 John Scheffer received a British patent for his half quill, half metal pen that he attempted to mass manufacture. Peregrin Williamson obtained the American Patent for a similar device.
1831 John Jacob Parker patented the first self-filling fountain pen
1884 Lee Waterman patented his invention in.
“Decades later, once it had overshadowed all its earliest rivals, the Waterman company boldly began to claim to have invented the first practical fountain pen – a claim which is now as widely accepted as it is false……..Lewis Edson Waterman's first pens were conventional in design, and while his original patented feed was undoubtedly effective, it was by no means the first designed to harness the principle of capillary attraction………it is surely no accident that the Waterman company's claim of having made the first practical fountain pen was not trumpeted until well after its founder's death -- indeed, after virtually all the pioneers of the 1870s and 1880s were safely off the scene.”

The fountain pens are still in demand and according to reports the sales are increasing. “ the fountain pen has been a practical tool for over 200 years, evolving over an extended period in a long series of gradual improvements.” The introduction of the tongue with several grooves below for the ink to flow freely by capillary action, gold and iridium or platinum points in the nibs and the improved ink could be considered as landmarks.. 

 Ball Point pen
Just as for many other inventions, a date and a name cannot be assigned to the discovery of the ball point pen. Most of the earlier versions fount the steel ball that replaced the nib either too tight preventing the ink flow or too loose allowing excess. The problem was partly due the incorrect viscosity of the ink.
In 1938, two Hungarian brothers Laszlo Biro a jourbalist and  Gregory Biro a chemist  obtained a British patent for a ball point pen Their pen had a spring pressing the ink cartridge down on the steel ball  for better contact.

 6. Microwave Oven

Fig. Dr. Percy Lebaron Spencer  19/7/1894 - 8/ 9/1970

Ovens have been in use since antiquity.  It is simply a confined space which would keep air at a high temperature for the purpose of cooking, roasting or baking. The source of energy has continuously changed  from wood fire, ( sunlight on rocky cavities) , gas. Electricity to microwaves.

The production of microwaves can be traced back to 1920 when a research scientist, Albert W Hull, working on amplifiers invented a unit ,what we now call a ‘magnetron’ .  It was at the General Electric Laboratory in New York. He somehow anticipated that the magnetron would find greater use as a power converter than in communication applications.
 Yet, for twenty years it remained only as a strange device that can convert emanation of electrons from a cathode to electromagnetic waves of wave length ranging from one centimetre to a meter.

In 1940 when  Sir John Randall and Dr. H. A. Boot discovered a more powerful unit of this which assisted the allied forces to win thhe WW II. It produced RADAR, . (Radio Detection and Ranging). These could be sent as narrow beams which got reflected by materials such as metals, that helped to detect enemy planes and submarines and assisted the navigation of ships and planes under foggy conditions.

The British engineers who maintained these, during the war , often detected half cooked birds beneath the microwave sources. They never cared, or did not have the peace of mind to investigate this phenomenon.

Microwaves have not come without sacrifice.

SEED Expert Tony Veneruso adds:

"One day during the war while he ( a
microwave engineer)was working on a military Radar system, someone
powered-up the magnetron while he was adjusting the horn antenna,
while looking into it with one eye. His eye was permanently blinded.
It was cooked white by microwave energy, which was converted into heat
within the tissue of his eye. His was not an isolated case. There were
other accidents and some deaths when microwaves burned internal

Courtsey:- SEED.

One day In 1946, Percy LeBaron Spencer, feeling hungry after working on a magnetron,   searched  for a chocolate bar in his pocket. He found none,  but instead felt a sticky substance, the chocolate has been cooked. He quickly grasped the importance of the incident.
He correctly theorized that the frequency of the microwaves coincided with the natural frequency of the molecules in the food causing resonance. This causes rapid vibrations increasing the temperature. An entirely a new way of cooking food was born.
He exposed some pop corn to these waves. They popped one by one. Then he kept a raw egg and watched. His assistant moved closer to egg when it exploded all over him. Dr. Spencer soon produced a unit called the ‘Radar range, for cooking and baking needs which are more efficient that all other types.

It may be interesting to  learn that Spencer was an orphan who did not even complete the grimmer school.


  • Thermos Flask


This is an example where application of simple science in pure scientific research has percolated down to the benefit of common man.

Sir James Dewar (Scot)    1842-1923 at the climax of his brilliant carrier, after making an indelible mark in various fields of science wished to study liquid air. He had not only liquefied Oxygen and hydrogen but he even managed to get them in solid state.
It was not easy to keep these samples for any length of time as they change back to gaseous state by absorbing heat from the surrounding. He resorted to the  basics of heat transfer and tackled the problem head on. Any school child would know that there are three methods by which heat can pass from one place to another. They are conduction, convection and radiation. He devised simple methods to inhibit these pathways. 
Conduction:- As the heat energy goes from molecule to molecule, vacuum was the best choice to prevent this. He created the vacuum be fusing two bottles and evacuating the air in between.
Convection:- The vacuum also prevented air molecules carrying the  heat from the external surface . A proper lid (cork) prevented and gases moving up from the liquid.
Radiation:- Emanation of heat waves from a body can be minimized by having a silvery surface ; such a surface can also reflect the heat waves.

Sir james built this in 1892 as it served the purpose of maintaining liquid air he never thought beyond that. After 12 years a German firm, GmbH,  got the idea of this and started making vacuum flask.. They had a competition to find a suitable name for the product. The name chosen was “Thermos” They never thought it was wrong to patent this flask Sir James had failed to do that.

Later Sir James contested this patent in a judicial court but lost the case. The GmbH Thermos prospered while the real man who discovered it was disappointed

  • Refrigerator


Next to the cooker, refrigerator has become the most important item in today’s kitchen,  If not for fridges, a large percentage of the world’s food supply will rot and become unhygienic. That can make more than  half the population in the world  malnourished.
The men who showed the way were neither  physicists nor  chemists but two Physicians. Dr. William Cullen FRS, (Scot) 1710 – 1790,  the President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, , during one of his lectures,  evaporated ‘Ethyl ether’ under reduced pressure.  To the utter amazement of his audience ,    underneath the flask that evaporated the ether water was frozen to ice. It was around 1748. This was the first demonstration of artificial cooling or refrigeration.  But he never applied this phenomenon for any useful purpose. No one else took any interest either. 

It was almost after a century, in 1844, another doctor Dr, John Gorrie (Am) following the attempts of Oliver Evans (1805), and Jacob Perkins (1834), built a unit to make  ice to cool the air for his yellow fever patients
The next  giant step was taken by Carl von Linde, a German engineer . He was interested in liquefying atmospheric gases.  He used a continuous cycle in a closed circuit . Although he started with dimethyl ether soon switched over to Ammonia.   Giving up his medical practice to engage in time-consuming experimentation with ice making, he was granted the first U.S. patent for mechanical refrigeration in 1851.  He made use of a cooling process  devised by  James Prescott Joule and Lord Kelvin
Early mechanical refrigeration systems used sulphur dioxide, methylchloride which caused many accidents due to leakage.. In 1928, Thomas Midgley, Jr. and Charles Kettering invented a "Miracle Compound" called Freon. Freon is now abandoned as it causes the depletion of the ozone layer..
  • From a Beet root can to Tomato sauce and beer.


 Napoleon Bonaparte ,  legendary Emperor of France  1769 to 1821 who noticed his soldiers starving in battlefield offered 12,000. fr for the development of a technique to preserve food. Many would have reached without much success.  Nicholas Appert 1750 1841 knowing that cooked food could be kept if properly closed tried to keep hot food in glass jars. Although he did not have much success at the beginning, he pursued the project for over ten years, using trial and error, . In 1811 he perfected the method of preserving vegetables, dairy products etc, in hermetically sealed glass jars. He kept these for various lengths of time in boiling water. (The word ‘  did not exist at the time) The money he won , he invested in building the first cannery in the world.  Unfortunately  the factory gutted down after a few years.

Fig. Nicholas Appert. Courtsey:- Encyclopedia Britannica.

Peter Durand of  (Eng)  took a giant step by introducing the unbreakable metal cans.  The first cannery in UK was opened in 1813.  The first can opener   came in 1841.
The development of canning did not come without risk and sacrifice.  When the cans were not properly sterilized, an anaerobic bacteria , Clostridium botulinum  could cause food poisoning called botulism. This is a nerve poison that can kill: considered to be the most poisonous substance in the world, one gram of which could kill 10 million people.

Fortunately heating the can for 10  minutes in boiling water can de-toxify the poison.

The theory behind the food canning was discovered only in 1861  by Louis Pasteur, half a century after the process had been going on,

Recent studies find many canned foods are even more nutritious than their fresh counterparts. Your kitchen should always be stocked for any natural disaster,




A photograph could be taken only with a camera.
Could you believe,  the first camera could not take a photo.
An artist had to sketch the image produced on a surface either from inside, if the surface was opaque, or outside if the surface was translucent. Earliest cameras,   were as big as a room.  (In Latin, camera means a room) An artist could go in and sketch the real, inverted image produced by the light entering through a tiny hole. These were known as ‘camera obscura’. ( a darkened room)

Fig.  Camera Obscura    White lines represent the light rays.

The first photograph, meaning a drawing made with light, was achieved in the 18th Century by a potter, named Thomas Wedgwood (1771 –1805). He learned about the light sensitive chemicals from the  famous chemist,  Sir Humphry Davy.  The secret chemical was silver nitrate. By placing objects on the surface of his ceramic creations , and exposing to light for a few minutes he could get a profile.  His attempts to  fix images from the ‘camera obscura’ seem to have failed. But he obtained silhouette pictures on various surface and he had great success on getting them on white leather.

The person credited  with the first true photograph, which he described as a heliograph at the time , was  Joseph Niepce 1765 – 1833 (Fr)  He used a metal plate with a layer of bitumen, a tar like substance and exposed it for 8 hours. The exposed regions hardened and rest was washed away with an oil. A photo he obtained , named . “View from the Window at Le Gras” has been preserved up to date and may be viewed online. ( This man also invented the first internal combustion engine which he named as Pyréolophore,)

Niepce heard about  Louis Daguerre who was also interested in fixing images from camera obscura. He divulged his method to the famous painter who had become popular by drawing very large scenes for the theatre. Since 1829 both worked together to achieve their common goal until Niepce’s death .   Daguerre working alone finalised the process which came to be known as daguerreotype.
 A silvered copper plate is coated with iodine vapour which forms a coating of silver iodide.  When an image was allowed to form on this, a latent image results. Working in a dark room, this is then dipped in hot mercury for the image to develop. Image was viewed in feint light  and washed with a solution of salt for fixation; Later this was changed to sodium thiosulphate.(hypo) Using a mixture of halides (compounds of chlorine, bromine and iodine) and better lenses he was able to reduce the time of exposure to a few minutes.
Daguerre sold the copyrights of his process to a man in England but it was freely available to the rest of the world.

William Fox Talbot, (Eng) a contemporary of Daguerre, in 1839 announced an entirely a different method of getting pictures. He used translucent paper (similar to oil paper) to get the pictures instead of metal plates. An emulsion of light sensitive chemicals was applied to paper in darkness and exposed to an image inside a camera. The latent image develops when immersed in gallic acid which had to be fixed using hypo. What develops is not a true picture but the reverse of a picture what we describe now as a negative. This had an added advantage as it was possible to get any number of copies subsequently.

these lacked in quality as they could not avoid the distortion due to paper fibres. This was overcome by using glass.             

  • Dicovering the Polio Vaccine


Who discovered Polio Vaccine?

Almost every one without an exception, will scream the name, Jonas Salk.  No wonder as  it has been named as the Salk vaccine. Almost every reference book and web site will confirm this as a bible truth.

Dr. Julius Youngner was the Chief Research Officer in the Laboratory where Prof. Salk was the . Director of Virus Research at Pittsburgh

A book written by Morton A Meyers MD  , published in 2012 , Prize Fight- The Race  and the Rivalry to be the First in Science.  Has this to say.   “ Salk had been coldly  distant from his staff’  An incident in 1954 showed that he was capable of duplicity.

Did he get the Nobel Prize?.......Yahoo answers.

Jonas Salk did not get the Nobel prize in Medicine.  Why ?
Salk's first challenge was to obtain enough of the virus to be able to develop a vaccine in doses large enough to have an impact; this was particularly difficult since viruses, unlike culture-grown bacteria, need living cells to grow. The breakthrough came when the team of John F. Enders, Thomas Weller, and Frederick Robbins found that the polio virus ould be grown in embryonic tissue--a discovery that earned them a Nobel Prize in 1954.
The same year Dr. Julius Youngner developed a test to measure the amount of polio vaccine in tissues.

He handed over a report on this with his name and that of an assistant.  After
a few days he received a revised version of it with the name Jonas Salk heading the list. The explanation was that he had laost the original. According to sources Jonas Salk had done nothing to initiate, advice or carry out the work.

In 1955 Salk summoned the press to announce the discovery. The entire staff sat together when he addressed over one hundred reporters. He claimed credit for the entire process of discovering the effective vaccine without a word of thanks to anyone else.

The announcement was heralded as,   “ People observed moments of silence. Rang bells, honked horns, blew whistles…kept the traffic lights red and took the day off, drank toast, hugged children, ….smiled at strangers ”.
Prof.Jonas Salk became a demi-god overnight. Recognition , awards , Honours poured from all over the globe.  His name became immortal as the hormone injection of insulin was named as  “Salk Vaccine’

Jonas Salk became a hero and a ground breaking scientist overnight

In 1993  Prof. Julius Youngner met his former boss. “ Have you ever re read it? (referring to the announcement of the vaccine)  We were in the audience, your closest colleagues and associates who worked hard on the project.Do you realise how devastated when you persisted making your co workers invisible?."

Pittsburg University Times has this to say.

Dr. Youngner’s very significant contributions to the success of that magnificent triumph took many forms,” including the development of trypsinization, a technique for culturing animal cells on a large scale that aided in the production of vast quantities of the polio virus in cell cultures, Nordenberg said.
“This technique changed the face of tissue culture investigation and became the standard laboratory procedure throughout the country,” the chancellor said. “He made significant contributions in developing processes for inactivating the virus, weakening it enough so that it would not cause the disease, but keeping it strong enough that it would cause an immune reaction.In addition, Youngner developed tests for quantifying polio and determining its strength, Nordenberg  said.

  • INSULIN - The cure for Diabetes.

  •  It all started with the discovery that patients who died of diabetes had malfunctioning pancreas.

Fig.  Frederick and Charles Best.

  • In 1921 Dr Banting. approached the chairman of the Physiology department at the University of Toronto Prof. John Macleod,. Although Macleod did not have much faith in the project, he allotted some space in a foul smelling place next to where the animals were kept. He also assigned an assistant Charles Best, an undergraduate and gave 10 dogs to be used in experiments.
    Banting and Best became very good friends and worked very hard towards the isolating sugar controlling  hormone from the dogs. They divided the dogs into two sets; lets say

    A and B.
    Set A
    Dogs with pancreas completely removed.   (These in a few days became diabetic)
    Set B
    Pancreatic duct tied up.    (They did not show symptoms of diabetes.  Their pancreas could no longer supply trypsin, the digestive hormone)
    The experiment was to extract the essential hormone from the islet cells of pancreas of set B and inject it to the set A.
    Many of the dogs died; probably due to shock and infection. Banting being a lover of dogs, was deeply grieved. The experiment seemed to be facing disaster. They ran short of dogs, At times Banting used to get them from the street and led them to the lab leashed with his own tie.
    With improved techniques and strategy they carried on. In order to treat one diabetic dog, they had to sacrifice many others. When they did not have sufficient dogs to get the hormone they even resorted to cows. They called this ‘isletin’ but later accepted the earlier name insulin.  
  • In December 1921 Banting presented the results to the American Physiological Society at Yale. During the discussion Macleod referred to the experiment as “our work” which Banting interpreted as another step to get credit.
    In January 1922 there was a 14 year old boy Leonard Thompson condemned to die in the

    Toronto General Hospital. Banting persuaded the doctors to inject Insulin. There was an allergic reaction. They further purified the extract and injected again. The boy had a miraculous cure, who went on living for another 13 years. (Ultimately the boy died of pneumonia)
    In February 1922 Banting and Best published the results in a Medical Journal. The next

    step was to purify the extract for the treatment of diabetes in human patients. A  biochemist, James Collip was employed for this purpose.  It did not take more than a few weeks for him to obtain a clinically pure form of insulin.
    Next to be injected was Banting and Best, probably they wanted to experience the after effects.
    At the time when everybody was feeling high there was a conflict. Collip wanted to patent the method of purifying the extract in his own name. Banting who regarded him as a stooge of Macleod lost his temper. He knocked him cold over an argument. Ultimately

    they decided to get the patent rights not for an individual but to the University of Toronto.
     On May 3 , 1923 Macleod read a paper before the Association of American Physicists in

    Washington DC. The discovery was acknowledged as a remarkable scientific achievement.
    The competitive nature for credit became obvious when Banting / Best and Callop published separate papers describing the extraction process.
    Before the year ended over 25 thousand diabetics were receiving insulin injections.

    Doctors went from ward to ward injecting diabetic children in various stages of coma.. Iy has been reported that prior to injecting the last patient the first started to wake up.
    On October 1923 Macleod and Banting were named for the years Noble award for medicine .  Banting was furious that Best had been excluded. He immediately announced to share it with Best whom he considered as his partner. On hearing this Macleod announced to share his part along with James Callop.

  • In 1950 for the first time in the history of the Nobel Prize , the committee admitted that an error had been made with regard to the 1923 Nobel award. They accepted that Charles Best also deserved to be a Nobel Laureate but the prize could not be awarded posthumously.