The ESP Timeline (one of the site's most popular features) has been completely updated to allow the user to select (using the timeline controls above each column) different topics for the left and right sides of the display.
New Left Column
New Left Column
New Right Column
New Right Column
German physicist Gustav Theodor Fechner discovers that an increase in the intensity of a stimulus does not produce a one-to-one increase in the intensity of sensation. Instead, the sensation seems to increase as the logarithm of the excitation.
Mathematician Bernard Bolzano's Paradoxien des Unendlichen is published, two years after the Bolzano's death. It is the first work to use the word "set" in a modern mathematical sense, and also treats infinite sets.
In Über die bewegende Kraft der Wärme, mathematical physicist Rudolf Julius Emanuel Clausius articulates what comes to be known as the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The law states that heat can only be transferred from a warmer body to a colder body. In 1865, he'll restate the Law, saying that in the closed system entropy always increases.
The Compromise of 1850 is introduced into Congress by Henry Clay as an omnibus bill designed to settle disputes arising from the conclusion of the Mexican War. It passes after Stephen Douglas divides the bill into several parts: California enters the Union as a free state; the slave trade (but not slavery) is abolished in Washington D.C.; the fugitive slave law is strengthened; and the Utah and New Mexico Territories are opened to slavery on the basis of popular sovereignty (allowing territorial voters to decide the issue without federa linterference).
Mathematician Joseph Liouville demonstrates the existence of transcendental numbers (transcendentals are numbers that are not the solution to any algebraic equation).
Léon Foucault demonstrates that the Earth rotates using a pendulum, suspended from the ceiling of a church.
Physicist William Thomson proposes a concept of "absolute zero", at which the energy of molecules is zero. He draws on Charles' Law to show that such a condition would hold at -273 degrees Celsius.
(no entry for this year)
Albrecht von Kölliker publishes the first textbook of histology, Handbuch der Gewebelehre.
Hermann Ludwig von Helmholtz becomes the first to discover how fast a message travels along a nerve, measuring the speed of transmission in a frog nerve cell.
James Prescott Joule and William Thompson, later Lord Kelvin, establish that an expanding gas becomes cooler. This is now known as the Joule-Thompson effect.
(no entry for this year)
Rudolph Albert von Kölliker discovers the cellular origin of spermatozoa, which were believed by some to originate from a fermentation process.
In Britain, vaccination against small pox is made compulsory.
Léon Foucault demonstrates that the velocity of light is lesson water than in air, tending to confirm the wave theory of light.
William John Macquorn Rankine introduces the concept of potential energy, or energy of position.
(no entry for this year)
Mathematician George Boole, whose "Calculus of Logic," appeared in 1848, publishes An Investigation of the Laws of Thought, on Which are Founded the Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities, which articulates a system of "symbolic logic".
Kansas-Nebraska Act: In an attempt to spur population growth in the western territories in advance of a transcontinental railroad, Stephen Douglas introduces a bill to establish the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. In order to gain Southern support, the bill stipulates that slavery in the territories will be decided by popular sovereignty. Thus the Kansas-Nebraska Act repeals the Missouri Compromise ban on slavery north of 36° 30' in the lands of the Louisiana Purchase.
Ostend Manifesto: The U.S. ministers to Britain, France, and Spain meet in Ostend, Belgium. They draft a policy recommendation to President Pierce, urging him to attempt again to purchase Cuba from Spain and, if Spain refuses, to take the island by force. When the secret proposal, called the Ostend Manifesto, is leaked to the press, it creates an uproar since Cuba would likely become another slave state.
On May 24, Virginia fugitive slave Anthony Burns is captured in Boston and returned to slavery under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act. Fifty thousand Boston residents watch his transport through the streets of the city in shackles. A Boston church raises $1500 to purchase his freedom and Burns returns to the city in 1855, a free man.
On May 30, the Kansas-Nebraska act is passed by Congress. The act repeals the Missouri Compromise and permits the admission of Kansas and Nebraska territories to the Union after their white male voters decide the fate of slavery in those territories.
Slavery is abolished in Peru and Venezuela.
The Republican Party is formed in the summer in opposition to the extension of slavery into the western territories.
Alfred Russel Wallace publishes "On the Law which has Regulated the Introduction of New Species," anticipating Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.
Rudolf Virchow states the principle that new cells come into being only by division of previously existing cells: Omnis cellula e cellula.
Recherches sur la putréfaction, by Louis Pasteur, is published. The book describes how fermentation is caused by microorganisms.
The Massachusetts Legislature outlaws racially segregated schools.
The remains of the first known example of what come to be known as the "Neanderthals" is found in a cave near Düsseldorf, in the Neander Valley. The discovery was made by limestone quarry miners and consists of a skullcap, two femora, the three right arm bones, two of the left arm bones, ilium, and fragments of a scapula and ribs. The fossils were given to Johann Carl Fuhlrott, a local teacher and amateur naturalist. The first description of the remains was made by anatomist Hermann Schaaffhausen and the find was announced jointly in 1857.In 1997, the specimen was the first to yield Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA fragments. The description of this discovery represents the beginning of paleoanthropology as a scientific discipline.
Louis Agassiz publishes Essay on Classification advocating a theory of multiple creations and contradicting both evolution and Noah's ark.
Gregor Mendel, a monk at the Augustinian monastery of St. Thomas in Brünn, Austria (now Brno, Czechoslovakia), begins breeding experiments with the garden pea, Pisum sativum.
Heinz Christian Pander describes conodonts — toothy microfossils that will puzzle paleontologists for many years.
The Caning of Charles Sumner: Senator Charles Sumner delivers a stinging speech in the U.S. Senate, "The Crime against Kansas," in which he attacks slavery, the South, and singles out his Senate colleague, Andrew Butler of South Carolina, for criticism. In retaliation, Butler's nephew, Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina, attacks Sumner with a cane while the Massachusetts senator is seated at his desk on the floor of the Senate. The injuries he sustains cause Sumner to be absent from the Senate for four years. The episode revealed the polarization in America, as Sumner became a martyr in the North and Brooks a hero in the South. Northerners were outraged. Southerners sent Brooks hundreds of new canes in endorsement of his assault. One was inscribed "Hit him again." Brooks claimed that he had not intended to kill Sumner, or else he would have used a different weapon. In a speech to the House defending his actions, Brooks stated that he "meant no disrespect to the Senate of the United States" or the House by his attack on Sumner. He was tried in a District of Columbia court, convicted for assault, and fined $300 ($8,000 in today's dollars), but received no prison sentence.
Über die Art der Bewegung, welche wir Wäe nennen (On the type of motion turned heat) by Rudolf Clausius is establishes his kinetic theory of heat of the mathematical basis. It also explains how evaporation occurs.
Farmer Hinton Rowan Helper publishes The Impending Crisis of the South, and How to Meet It, in which he argues that slavery in economically unwise, and particularly devastating to small farmers who do not own slaves. He writes that slavery is "the root of all the shame, poverty, ignorance, tyranny and imbecility" in the South. He also argues that slavery foolishly ties up economic resources in human beings when it might be spent on labor-saving improvements.
The African slave trade is prohibited in the Ottoman Empire
The Dred Scott Decision makes the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional and increases tension between North and South over slavery in the United States. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney asserted that blacks were "beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." This embarrassing decision represents a low point in the history of the United States Supreme Court.
Rudolf Virchow finalizes the cell theory originally announced by Schleiden and Schwann 11 years earlier by declaring that cells are the basic units of all living things, and all cells are formed by the division of existing cells.
Alfred Russel Wallace sends to Darwin a manuscript — "On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type" — that shows clearly that Wallace has independently formulated a model of evolution by natural selection.
Darwin's and Wallace's ideas are jointly presented to the Linnaean Society of London.
The first relatively complete dinosaur skeleton, of Hadrosaurus foulkii, is found in New Jersey.
Physician Henry Gray publishes Anatomy of the Human Body, Descriptive and Surgical. Gray's Anatomy will be a standard textbook of anatomy for more than a century.
The concept of "bonds" is introduced by chemist Archibald Scott Couper, who believes that carbon atoms are the fundamental building blocks of organic compounds.
Julius Plücker shows that cathode rays bend under the influence of a magnet, suggesting they are connected in some way with charge. This is an early step along the path that will lead in 1897 to the discovery that cathode rays are composed of electrons.
(no entry for this year)
Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species.
An exceptionally well-preserved skeleton is discovered in Bavaria. Two years later, this bird-like, bipedal dinosaur will be named Compsognathus, meaning "dainty jaw."
Catholic priest Jean-Jacques Pouech describes fossil eggshell fragments. They will eventually prove to be the first described dinosaur eggs.
Matrix algebra begins, as mathematician Arthur Cayley discusses the matrix in the context of a theory of invariant transformations.
Gustav Kirchoff recognizes that sodium is found on the sun and discovers his black-body radiation law.
Physicist Gustav Robert Kirchhoff and chemist R. W. Bunsen explain that when light passes through a gas, or heated material, only certain wavelengths of the light are absorbed. Therefore, an analysis of the spectrum of the light can reveal the chemical makeup of the gas or material.
Harriet Wilson of Milford, New Hampshire, publishes Our Nig; or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, the first novel by an African-American woman.
On October 16, John Brown leads 20 men, including five African-Americans, in an unsuccessful attempt to seize the Federal Armory at Harper's ferry, Virginia, with the goal of inspiring a slave insurrection. He was captured by US troops under the command of Colonel Robert E. Lee, tried, and hanged on December 2.
In the early 1990's, Robert Robbins was a faculty member at Johns Hopkins, where he directed the informatics core of GDB — the human gene-mapping database of the international human genome project. To share papers with colleagues around the world, he set up a small paper-sharing section on his personal web page. This small project evolved into The Electronic Scholarly Publishing Project.
In 1995, Robbins became the VP/IT of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA. Soon after arriving in Seattle, Robbins secured funding, through the ELSI component of the US Human Genome Project, to create the original ESP.ORG web site, with the formal goal of providing free, world-wide access to the literature of classical genetics.
Although the methods of molecular biology can seem almost magical to the uninitiated, the original techniques of classical genetics are readily appreciated by one and all: cross individuals that differ in some inherited trait, collect all of the progeny, score their attributes, and propose mechanisms to explain the patterns of inheritance observed.
In reading the early works of classical genetics, one is drawn, almost inexorably, into ever more complex models, until molecular explanations begin to seem both necessary and natural. At that point, the tools for understanding genome research are at hand. Assisting readers reach this point was the original goal of The Electronic Scholarly Publishing Project.
Usage of the site grew rapidly and has remained high. Faculty began to use the site for their assigned readings. Other on-line publishers, ranging from The New York Times to Nature referenced ESP materials in their own publications. Nobel laureates (e.g., Joshua Lederberg) regularly used the site and even wrote to suggest changes and improvements.
When the site began, no journals were making their early content available in digital format. As a result, ESP was obliged to digitize classic literature before it could be made available. For many important papers — such as Mendel's original paper or the first genetic map — ESP had to produce entirely new typeset versions of the works, if they were to be available in a high-quality format.
Early support from the DOE component of the Human Genome Project was critically important for getting the ESP project on a firm foundation. Since that funding ended (nearly 20 years ago), the project has been operated as a purely volunteer effort. Anyone wishing to assist in these efforts should send an email to Robbins.
With the development of methods for adding typeset side notes to PDF files, the ESP project now plans to add annotated versions of some classical papers to its holdings. We also plan to add new reference and pedagogical material. We have already started providing regularly updated, comprehensive bibliographies to the ESP.ORG site.
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