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See Inside Scientific American Volume 306, Issue 5

50 Years Ago: The First Gamma-Ray Satellite

Innovation and discovery as chronicled in past issues of Scientific American



SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, VOL. VI, NO. 19; MAY 10, 1862

MAY 1962

First Gamma-Ray Satellite
“Within the past year or so the merest glimpse has been obtained of the universe as revealed by the very-high-energy photons called gamma rays. The glimpse has been provided by fewer than 100 energetic photons, recorded by a gamma ray ‘telescope’ carried into orbit on April 27, 1961, by the artificial satellite Explorer XI. It is doubtful whether such a small number of particles have ever before been analyzed so intensively in an effort to extract information about the uni­verse. The analysis is still continuing in our laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the entire sample of events that we are prepared to discuss numbers only 22. —William L. Kraushaar and George W. Clark”

MAY 1912

Montessori Method
“It is not yet clear to what the great popular interest in Dr. Maria Montessori’s method is due. Is it the fact that we are all so much dissatisfied with the results of our educational efforts that we look with interest to every new method offered; or is it that we now have means for securing publicity that were not available to educational reformers of earlier times? Whatever the cause, the interest is well deserved. Here is a woman, scientifically trained, with a broad love of humanity and high educational ideals, who has devoted years of her life to developing what she considers a rational and effective method of educating children between the ages of three and six. She uses, to a great extent, methods that have been successful in the training of defectives. Applying them to normal children, her results have been truly remarkable.”

Retail Theory
“There are as many women as there are men who pursue odd ways of earning money, one class of which would be designated as ‘goats,’ for it is their business to be ‘discharged’ from the department stores in which they are ‘employed’ a number of times each day. When a grouchy or haughty customer makes complaint of discourteous treatment against a clerk, one of the ‘goats’ is summoned to the office as the person in charge of that particular department. There she is given a good talking to in front of the angry customer and summarily ‘dismissed,’ and the complainant goes away rejoicing.”

MAY 1862

Underground Railway
“A subterranean railway in London is now in an advanced state of construction, running about four and a half miles under the city of London. It commences at Victoria Street, in the midst of what was formerly a disreputable thoroughfare, but is now a common center for the Great Northern, the London, Chatham and Dover, and the Metropolitan lines. On the occasion of a recent trip made through a portion of its length, the air was found to be perfectly sweet, and free from all unpleasantness or dampness. The locomotives used condense their steam and consume their own smoke, so that nei­­ther gas nor vapor is perceptible.”
The railway opened in 1863; portions of its tunnels are still used in the modern London Underground.

Sled Invention
“Every boy may now slide down the steep sides of snow-covered hills sitting com­fortably in an upright position, legs and feet all aboard, guiding his vehicle by reins, as if he were driving a mettled steed. It will be seen by glancing at the engraving how this is accomplished by a new invention, Isaac N. Brown’s coasting sled, which has a guiding runner attached to the front of the sled. The engraving also illustrates the danger of sliding the old kind, such as we used when a boy.”
This sled seems like such a great idea—and who can ignore the cautionary tale in the drawing? For other great ideas from 1862, some workable, some not, see the slideshow at www.ScientificAmerican.com/may2012/inventions

This article was originally published with the title "50, 100 & 150 Years Ago."

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