Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Alexander Graham Bell [1847-1922],Scottish and later American, was born on March 14. We know him for the telephone but he was the first to recognize founder effects in genetics (hereditary deafness) and complex inheritance (supernumerary breasts in sheep). On the down side, he was a founder of the American eugenics movement.  Joseph Priestley [1733-1804] was born in England on March 13. He discovered air was not an element but composed of several gasses.  He isolated carbon dioxide (and made soda water as a beverage), discovered oxygen, and helped launch the Unitarian movement that stressed reason and not faith.  His home, laboratory, and church were burned by a mob in Birmingham and he then emigrated to the US. For March 14 Albert Einstein [1879-1955] is the most illustrious of the month, with his contributions that revolutionized our sense of the physical world through relativity, the photon theory of light, the cause of Brownian motion, and the equivalence of mass and energy. Also on March 14 we have Paul Ehrlich [1854-1915] , the physician who developed synthetic chemotherapy for infectious diseases (salvorsan for syphilis) and introduced the lock and key model of immunology. Caroline Herschel [1750-1848] was born on March 16.  She studied comets and mapped stars using telescopes invented by her brother. William Roentgen [1845-1923] was born on March 27.  He discovered x-rays and applied them to the detection of hidden objects and established medical radiology as a field. Rene Descartes [1596-1650] was born on March 31.  He was a philosopher and mathematician. His dualism was a major way scientists did science (separating the known or material world from the scientifically unknowable or spiritual world which at best was separate from the material world. He also developed analytical geometry which combined algebra and geometry and showed their conversion.  

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