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See Inside November 2010

100 Years Ago: Growing Cells

Innovation and discovery as chronicled in past issues of Scientific American


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NOVEMBER 1960

Radical Husbandry
“Disastrous experience has shown that the habitats afforded by Africa are brittle and susceptible to ruin. The monumental failure of the earthnut (peanut) project in Tanganyika—a megalomaniac pipe-dream advanced in ignorance of the plainest facts about African soils—is well known. Where the vegetation of the great African plateau is replaced by crop plants, many soils either set rock-hard or erode, and carrying capacity declines. The record supports one radical conclusion. Only under the natural communities of game animals can a high biological capture and turnover of solar energy be maintained. This conclusion calls for the management of game to produce protein in the food supply.”
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Fiber Optics Light Up
“Recently, light conductors of a special type have been transformed from trivial curiosities to important optical devices. In this form they are made of bundles of very thin and therefore flexible, glass fibers, usually coated with a layer of glass of a different kind. Such bundles can not only transport an optical image over a tortuous path, but can also transform it in a number of useful ways. As the technology advances, fiber optics will no doubt find wider applications in various areas of research and engineering. —Narinder S. Kapany”

NOVEMBER 1910

First Navy Flier
“The services of Eugene Ely, with his Curtiss biplane, were secured for the making of this first attempt to fly from the deck of a naval vessel to a designated spot ashore. As our image shows, a platform was erected upon the bow of the ‘Birmingham.’ Despite squalls of wind and rain, Ely decided to attempt a flight. Between squalls, he had his engine started. As the machine left the platform, it settled rapidly till it struck the water with a splash, which the spec­tators supposed marked the termination of the flight. Instead, however, the machine rose again and continued on its way. It traveled straight for the nearest land, where it descended without a mishap.”

Growing Cells
“Dr. Alexis Carrel and his assistant in the Rockefeller Institute, Dr. Montrose T. Burrows, have logically observed that it is the part of science to develop methods which permit the discovery of physiological laws. These workers have begun the systematic investigation of one such meth­od, namely, the cultivation of adult tissues outside the body from which they are taken. Their experiments have demonstrated that adult tissues and organs grow very easily outside the body. Carrel and Burrows, who are so scientific and so conservative in their work, consider it can at any rate thus far be assumed that the perfection of the method of cultivating adult tissues of mammals outside of the body will be helpful in the exploration of unknown fields of human pathology—wherein investigation bids fair to be most momentous to human existence.”

NOVEMBER 1860

Brazilian Progress
“We learn from a correspondent of the Philadelphia Ledger that the Don Pedro Railroad is progressing favorably in the hands of the active American engineer engaged in its construction. The emperor [Pedro II of Brazil], who is a friend to progress in the arts and science, has recently visited the road attended by a party who rode through one of the tunnels, and the Emperor descended several shafts, being determined to inspect closely this gigantic undertaking. On descending the main shaft of the grand tunnel, Major Ellison was selected to sit opposite his majesty, as being near his size and weight. The ministers present endeavored to persuade him from the attempt, but as he was satisfied with the security of the arrangements, he determined to gratify his curiosity and set them an example. Since his Majesty’s visit to the road all opposition to the tunneling has ceased. The route will be from Rio de Janeiro to the Parahiba river.” 

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