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
Painting by Gustave Courbet: A Burial At Ornans (French: Un enterrement à Ornans, also known as A Funeral At Ornans) represents one of the major turning points of 19th-century French art. The painting records the funeral in September 1848 of his great-uncle in the painter's birthplace, the small town of Ornans. It treats an ordinary provincial funeral with unflattering realism, and on the giant scale traditionally reserved for the heroic or religious scenes of history painting. Its exhibition at the 1850–51 Paris Salon created an "explosive reaction" and brought Courbet instant fame. It is currently displayed at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, France.
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).
"Bibless overalls" made of canvas are sold by the 20 year-old Levi Strauss in San Francisco. Within three years he will switch to denim and dye his pants indigo blue.
Daguerreotype by John Adams Whipple: Daguerreoype of the moon. Whipple was an American inventor and early photographer. He was the first in the United States to manufacture the chemicals used for daguerreotypes; he pioneered astronomical and night photography; he was a prize-winner for his extraordinary early photographs of the moon; and he was the first to produce images of stars other than the sun — the star Vega and the Mizar-Alcor stellar sextuple system, which was thought to be a double star until 2009.
The US flag is modified to have thirty-one stars, reflecting the addition of one new state: California.
Arithmometer: first commercially successful mechanical calculator launched
The fast-acting Collodion process invented by Frederick Scott Archer. Images require only two or three seconds of light exposure. Collodion process, mostly synonymous with the "collodion wet plate process", requires the photographic material to be coated, sensitized, exposed and developed within the span of about fifteen minutes, necessitating a portable darkroom for use in the field. Collodion is normally used in its wet form, but can also be used in humid ("preserved") or dry form, at the cost of greatly increased exposure time. The latter made the dry form unsuitable for the usual portraiture work of most professional photographers of the 19th century. The use of the dry form was therefore mostly confined to landscape photography and other special applications where minutes-long exposure times were tolerable.
Isaac Singer patents the continuous-stitch sewing machine.
The Erie Railroad, now controlled by Daniel Drew, becomes the first rail line connecting the Great Lakes with New York City, and begins to compete with the Erie Canal as a transportation route.
Daguerreotype by John Adams Whipple: Henry Winthrop Sargent and His Family. Whipple kept several distinctive pieces of furniture in his studio that he used to solidify his compositions by disposing them within an image in characteristic ways without having the sitter use them. In fact, it is this unique posing style that identifies Whipple as the artist of the portrait of Henry Winthrop Sargent and his family, taken in Boston in the early 1850s. Here, Whipples composition is complex and masterful. The empty armchair at the lower left faces the viewer and draws the eye in. The covered table at the far right connects an occupied chair to the edge of the plate and suggests a vanishing point while giving diagonal movement to what is basically a horizontal composition. The corner of a plain backdrop, barely perceptible at the right, aids the illusion of movement and space. The empty armchair acts as a backrest for young Francis Sargent, who is actually supported by a posing stand, the base of which can be seen between his feet and his mothers skirts. Caroline Olmsted Sargent appears to be reading a letter to her assembled family. Her oldest son, Winthrop Henry Sargent, sits facing her, and their profiles echo across the space as he leans toward her. Henry Winthrop Sargent, at the apex of the composition, leans dynamically into the gathering, supporting his weight on the back of a carved side chair. The division of the family into two pairs of linked figures creates powerful parallel diagonals; but despite this calculated arrangement, all of the sitters appear to be at ease and engaged with one another.
In South Bend, Indiana, Clement and Henry Studebaker found Studebaker Brothers. Joined by a third brother, John, in 1858, the company will become the world's largest maker of wagons and carriages.
In Sweden, safety matches are patented by J. E. Lundstrom.
The brown paper bag is invented.
The elevator is invented, facilitating the future development of skyscrapers.
The U.S. state of Pennsylvania adopts a non-standard railroad gauge in order to prevent New York's Erie Railroad from establishing a route, through Pennsylvania, to Ohio.
The French Republic falls; Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III) is crowned Emperor.
The U.S. state of Massachusetts adopts a compulsory school-attendance law, the first effective example of such a law in the nation.
Daguerreotype by John Adams Whipple: Cornelius Conway Felton with His Hat and Coat. Felton was Eliot Professor of Greek Literature at Harvard University, reaching for his felt hat and duster. The first son of a poverty-stricken furniture maker, Felton became one of the most renowned classical scholars in the country and, in 1860, Harvard's president. This witty photograph lampoons the rigid formality of the portrait process through narrative gesture (the implied reach across two separate images) and nuance (the delicate crush of the soft hat's crown). As opposed to the inflexible silk top hat worn by dandies and professors alike, the broad-brimmed felt hat was worn by outdoorsmen and was practical, casual, and fundamentally democratic.
Commodore Matthew Perry sails into Japan's Edo Bay with his black ships (four modern, steam-powered warships), urging Japan to open trade policies with the United States.
Painting by Gustave Courbet: The Meeting (French: La rencontre) is traditionally interpreted as Courbet greeted by his patron Alfred Bruyas, his servant Calas, and his dog while traveling to Montpellier. The composition is based on the Wandering Jew. The Meeting was exhibited in Paris at the 1855 Exhibition Universelle, where critics ridiculed it as "Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet". Bruyas did not exhibit The Meeting until he donated it to the Musée Fabre in Montpellier in 1868.
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.
André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri credited with introduction of the carte de visite (English: visiting card or calling card) format for portraiture. Disdéri uses a camera with multiple lenses that can photograph eight different poses on one large negative. After printing on albumen paper, the images are cut apart and glued to calling-card-size mounts. Photographs had previously served as calling cards, but Disdéri's invention of the paper carte de visite (i.e. "visiting card") enabled the mass production of photographs. On 27 November 1854 he patented the system of printing ten photographs on a single sheet (although there is no evidence that a system printing more than eight actually materialized). Disdéri's's cartes de visite were 6×9 cm, about the size of conventional (nonphotographic) visiting cards of the time, and were made by a camera with four lenses and a sliding plate holder; a design inspired by the stereoscopic cameras. The novelty quickly spread throughout the world. According to a German visitor, Disdéri's studio became "really the Temple of Photography - a place unique in its luxury and elegance. Daily he sells three to four thousand francs worth of portraits". The fact that these photos could be reproduced inexpensively and in great quantity brought about the decline of the daguerreotype and ushered in a carte de visite craze as they became enormously popular throughout Europe and the United States. Disdéri also invented the twin-lens reflex camera.
(no entry for this year)
The Massachusetts Legislature outlaws racially segregated schools.
A mercury pump is developed by inventor Heinrich Geissler, to produce vacuum tubes. The first cathode rays will be observed in these tubes, after they are modified and improved by Sir William Crookes.
Engineer Frederick Taylor carries out "time-motion" studies of workers with the idea of making their labor more efficient. He will pioneer the "scientific management" of the workplace.
Painting by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres: The Source (French: La Source), was begun in Florence around 1820 and not completed until 1856, in Paris. When Ingres completed The Source, he was seventy-six years old, already famous, and president of the École des Beaux-Arts. The pose of the nude may be compared with that of another by Ingres, the Venus Anadyomene (1848), and is a reimagination of the Aphrodite of Cnidus or Venus Pudica. Two of Ingres' students, painters Paul Balze and Alexandre Desgoffe, helped to create the background and water jar. The first exhibition of The Source was in 1856, the year it was completed. The painting was received enthusiastically. Duchâtel acquired the painting in 1857 for a sum of 25,000 francs. The state assumed title to the painting in 1878 and it passed to the Musée du Louvre. In 1986 it was transferred to the Musée d'Orsay. The painting has been frequently exhibited and widely published. Haldane Macfall in A History of Painting: The French Genius describes The Source as Ingres' "superb nude by which he is chiefly known". Kenneth Clark in his book Feminine Beauty observed how The Source has been described as "the most beautiful figure in French painting."
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.
A railway bridge spanning the Mississippi opens between Rockville, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa. Abraham Lincoln, a lawyer, will defend the legality of the bridge before the Supreme Court, in response to a "right of way" suit brought by a steamship company.
During Easter vacation from London's Royal College of Chemistry, 18-year-old William Henry Perkin synthesized mauve, or aniline purple — the first synthetic dyestuff — from chemicals derived from coal tar. Mauve was enthusiastically adopted by the fashion industry in England and synthetic dyes quickly destroyed the market for natural substances derived from plants like indigo and madder. Perkin's creation was an accident — he was trying to synthesize quinine.
The "Bessemer process" for making inexpensive steel, which involves using blasts of cold air to decarbonize melted pig iron, is developed by inventor Henry Bessemer.
The 458-mile Wabash and Erie Canal opens after 24 years, and is the largest canal ever dug in the U.S. By 1860, however, sections will begin to be close, and, unable to compete for railroads, the entire Canal will be closed by 1874.
In South Africa, Boers establish the South African Republic (Transvaal), with Pretoria as its capital. Marthinus Wessels Pretorius, 37, is named the first president.
The Second Opium War (1856-1860) between Britain and China leads to further erosion of Chinese sovereignty.
Photograph by Gustave Le Gray: Lighthouse and Jetty, le Havre, an albumen print.
Photograph by Gustave Le Gray: The Great Wave. The dramatic effects of sunlight, clouds, and water in Le Gray's seascapes stunned his contemporaries and immediately brought him international recognition. At a time when photographic emulsions were not equally sensitive to all colors of the spectrum, most photographers found it impossible to achieve proper exposure of both landscape and sky in a single picture. Le Gray solved this problem by printing two negatives on a single sheet of paper: one exposed for the sea, the other for the sky, and sometimes made on separate occasions or in different locations. Le Gray's marine pictures caused a sensation not only because their simultaneous depiction of sea and heavens represented a technical tour de force, but also because the resulting poetic effect was without precedent in photography.
Painting by Jean-François Millet: The Gleaners (Des glaneuses) depicts three peasant women gleaning a field of stray grains of wheat after the harvest. The painting is famous for featuring in a sympathetic way what were then the lowest ranks of rural society; this was received poorly by the French upper classes. The painting immediately drew negative criticism from the middle and upper classes, who viewed the topic with suspicion: one art critic, speaking for other Parisians, perceived in it an alarming intimation of "the scaffolds of 1793." Its size (33×44 inches) was also considered offensive, as it was too large for an image depicting mere labor.
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.
In Burrville, Connecticut, commercial production of Gail Borden's patented "condensed milk" begins. The product is made from skim milk, without any fat and without a number of nutrients found in cow's milk.
In California, Tokay, Zinfandel, and Shiraz grapes (all from Hungary) are first planted, and Italian honeybees are introduced. This is the beginning of the U.S. wine and honey industries. In North America, honey bees are an artificially introduced and invasive species.
Robert Wilhelm von Bunsen (along with Henry Roscoe) publish a design for a laboratory burner in Poggendorff's Annalen der Physik und Chemie, 100:84-85.
Giuseppe Garibaldi, who returned to Italy in 1854 after several years working at Staten Island, New York, founds the Italian National Association. The organization is designed to promote the unification of Italy.
(no entry for this year)
The US flag is modified to have thirty-two stars, reflecting the addition of one new state: Minnesota.
J. Schweppe & Co. Ltd. patents a quinine tonic water that they will begin selling in 1880.
John Landis Mason patents a reusable glass jar.
Abraham Lincoln, running for the United States Senate, declares "A house divided against itself cannot stand." He loses the race to Stephen Douglas, but his performance in there now-legendary debates leads to his nomination as the Republican candidate for president in 1860.
In Ireland, the group Sein Fein is founded.
Photograph by Gustave Le Gray: The Pont du Carrousel Seen from the Pont Royal, an albumen print.
The US flag is modified to have thirty-three stars, reflecting the addition of one new state: Oregon.
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 Titusville, Pennsylvania, commercial production of petroleum begins, with drilling of the first well by Edwin Laurentine Drake. The well will produce approximately 400 gallons/day.
The first internal combustion engine is developed by Jean-Joseph-Etienne Lenoir. The engine uses coal gas.
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.
ESP Picks from Around the Web (updated 06 MAR 2017 )
Science Policy & Funding
Big Data & Informatics