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50, 100 & 150 Years Ago: Wright Brothers in the News Again, 1914

Innovation and discovery as chronicled in past issues of Scientific American
WRESTLING WITH A GYROSCOPE


WRESTLING WITH A GYROSCOPE: A demonstration on the physics of angular momentum, China, 1914.
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, VOL. CX, NO. 4; JANUARY 24, 1914

More In This Article

January 1964

Battling Trachoma
“Nearly 500 million people—more than a sixth of the world's population—are infected with the blinding eye disease known since ancient Greek times as trachoma. It is only within the past six years that investigators have positively identified the cause. The agent of the disease is a virus, or near virus, markedly similar to those responsible for psittacosis (‘parrot fever’) and the venereal disease lymphogranuloma venereum. This knowledge offers the exciting prospect that it may be possible to control the disease by vaccination and thus bring to an end its long career as a major scourge of mankind. In the U.S. the disease has all but disappeared from the ‘trachoma belt’ that used to extend from West Virginia to Oklahoma.”

In 1966 the pathogen was identified as an intracellular bacterium.


January 1914

Gyroscope Lecture in China
“The wrestling gyroscope has been one of the very popular features of the Young Men's Christian Association gyroscope lectures in China. It consists of a strong bicycle wheel with the rim loaded with lead pipe. When spun up to high speed and the outer case closed and set upon its edge, it will stand up with a light list to one side, and will precess slowly around on a nearly vertical axis. A member of the audience is invited to use a strong staff padded at one end with a solid rubber ball and make the wheel lie down on its side [see illustration]. Unbelievable as it may seem, the strongest man is unable to push it over. This experiment delights the audience. The audience then also readily comprehends how it may be possible for a wheel weighing tons and running thousands of revolutions per minute, to stabilize a monorail car.”

Wrights' Legal Triumph
“The decision handed down by the Circuit Court of Appeals in the infringement suit brought by the Wright Company settles once and for all, in this country at least, the question: Who invented the flying machine? To be sure, there was never any doubt in the popular mind. The decision of the Circuit Court of Appeals stamps the popular verdict with approval and recognizes Orville and Wilbur Wright as the inventors of the man-carrying, motor-driven aeroplane. The Wright brothers succeeded, not because they built a light motor with their own hands, but because they solved a problem in aero-dynamics which had baffled the best scientific thought of centuries.”

>> See a photograph album for a look at what other civilian aviation pioneers were accomplishing in 1914.


January 1864

Satirical Rant on Corsets
“Messrs. Editors:—The air we ladies have to breathe up here in Vermont circulates all round the world and is breathed by all the filthy creatures on the face of the earth, by rhinoceroses, cows, elephants, tigers, woodchucks, hens, skunks, minks, grasshoppers, mice, raccoons, and all kinds of bugs, spiders, fleas and lice, lions, tobacco-smokers, catamounts, eagles, crows, rum-drinkers, turkey buzzards, tobacco-chewers, hogs, snakes, toads, lizzards, and millions of other nasty animals, birds, insects and serpents; and we ladies are obliged to breathe it over after them, ough! bah!

“Now we want, and must have, some contrivance that will effectually keep this foul, disgusting stuff out of our lungs. We have tried the three kinds of corsets which you noticed in your paper the last year; but when we do the best with them that we can, about a teacupful of this nasty air will rush into our lungs in spite of these miserable contrivances. If these corsets are worth anything to keep this disgusting air out of a body, and we have not put them on right, please come immediately yourself or send the inventors to show us how. If they are a humbug I hope their inventors will be tarred and feathered and rode on a rail. —Susie Pinkins”

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

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