Special Sub-Topic: Let Me Be Your Fantasy
|Many schoolchildren know that Alexander Graham Bell was the inventor of the telephone. However, history shows that he might not have been the originator of the concept. Allegedly, Bell stole the design for his contraption from which American inventor, who developed a telephone almost simultaneously?|
Elisha Gray. On February 14, 1876, both Bell and Gray filed patent requests for their separate, independent inventions of the telephone. In an affadavit from March 1877, patent officer Zenas Wilber swore that, while drunk, he accepted a bribe from Bell's lawyer Marcellus Bailey in order to let Bailey see Gray's diagrams. Later affadavits by Wilber implied that it never occurred, and Bell swore that he had no knowledge of the event. While there is no smoking gun evidence to prove that Bell deliberately copied Gray's diagrams, conspiracy theorists believe that Elisha Gray, and not Alexander Graham Bell, was responsible for the invention. Other controversies exist in the patent of the telephone, including the question of who arrived at the patent office first, and whether Bell actually changed the content of his patent request after its submission.
|Sir Isaac Newton was indubitably responsible for many major breakthroughs in science, such as the discovery of universal gravitation and the visible light spectrum. However, his "Principia Mathematica" contained a major breakthrough in the field of mathematics, which he named "fluxions", and would revolutionize science in the years to come. Unfortunately for Newton, German mathematician Gottfried Leibniz made the discovery almost simultaneously, and published earlier. What was the discovery these men made, and argued about, for years?|
Calculus. The debate over calculus began in 1696 when French mathematician Guillaume de L'Hopital wrote a paper about the new mathematical discoveries of Leibniz, a German who hit upon the major concepts of differential calculus by studying the instantaneous rate of change of a function at a point in time. However, L'Hopital pointed out that Newton's "Principia", published in 1687, had many of Leibniz's principles of calculus in it, but Newton's failure to publish a specific paper dealing with his discoveries allowed Leibniz to take credit. The Englishman protested, stating that Leibniz had seen some of his work in 1676, and arguing that he had copied from Newton's fluxions to develop calculus. The actual inventor of the mathematics is still uncertain, but the different notations used in Newtonian and Leibnizian calculus indicates some independent developments.
|The structure of DNA was determined to be a double helix in 1953 by American James Watson and Englishman Francis Crick. Watson and Crick did almost no experimental tests of their own, and in fact, many suspect that Watson appropriated the work of another scientist in discovering DNA's structure. Who was this scientist, whose work with x-ray crystallography was never awarded a Nobel Prize?|
Rosalind Franklin. Watson and Crick's method of determining DNA's structure sharply contrasted with Rosalind Franklin's approach, which consisted of intensive data gathering. The Frenchwoman's knowledge and ability were unmistakable, but her failure to work with the B-strand of DNA, as well as her reluctance to make hypotheses without hard data, allowed Watson and Crick to make their findings first. Franklin worked with Maurice Wilkins, a friend of Watson's, and Wilkins allowed Watson to view Franklin's crystallographs of DNA's structure without her knowledge. Viewing the picture, Watson realized that DNA had a double helix, and a few weeks later, he and Crick were able to create a tin-and-wire model of DNA, with a sugar-phosphate backbone connected by nitrogenous bases.
Watson and Crick won the Nobel Prize in 1962 for their discovery, but Franklin's death of pancreatic cancer a few years earlier made her ineligible for the prize, which is never awarded posthumously. Instead, they shared the Prize with Maurice Wilkins. In his memoir "The Double Helix", Watson describes the discovery of the structure DNA, but he continues to protest against allegations of him and Crick stealing Franklin's work.
|Charles Babbage is traditionally credited as the inventor of the modern computer with his tinkerings with the Analytical Engine, a hypothetical machine that would use inputs of punch cards in order to program the computer for future tasks. However, he came to be at odds with an inventive female, who is often credited as the first computer programmer. Who was this 19th century female mathematician?|
Ada Lovelace. Ada Lovelace, the daughter of famous poet Lord Byron, is traditionally considered the pioneer in computer programming, through her designs of programs conceived for Babbage's Analytical Engine. Because his ideas never came to fruition, Lovelace never was able to implement her programs. Her conceptions of the possible uses of computing set her apart from scientists of the day, who were solely concerned with machines that could perform elementary mathematical operations, and indeed, she conflicted with Babbage over several of his ideas, which she considered plagiarism from her own work. The programming language used at the US Department of Defense, "Ada," was named after her more than a century after her death.
|Which two chemists, working independently, developed a namesake process for the industrial manufacture of aluminum almost simultaneously?|
Charles Hall and Paul Heroult. The Hall-Heroult process allowed aluminum, an incredibly important and versatile metal in industry, to be produced quickly and efficiently. Alumina and cryolite are mixed together at (relatively speaking) low temperatures and form aluminum. Electrolysis, or the separation of a compound with electric current, allowed production to be much cheaper, and a patent was filed in 1888 by both the American Hall and Frenchman Heroult. Although Hall won the fight over patent rights, both chemists were given the distinction of having the process named after them, stopping any feud from occurring.
|Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont was responsible for the invention of a machine in 1906 that some people believe shamed the earlier "invention" of the same contraption by a more famous team, which hadn't been confirmed by eyewitnesses. What was Santos-Dumont's contribution to science and transportation?|
Airplane. Santos-Dumont made a flight of 50 meters on his own propulsion in Paris in October 1906, three years after the Wright Brothers' famous flight at Kitty Hawk. Lack of witnesses brings the Wright Brothers' achievement into doubt, especially because they were propelled by the wind during their famous aviation. Santos-Dumont also flew the first successful dirigible airships, and in Brazil he is known as "The Father of Aviation". While it is unlikely that the Wright Brothers' achievement was falsified, Santos-Dumont both influenced their work and one-upped them in his completely machine-propelled flight in 1906.
|Which scientist's work in the Amazon River Basin and the Malay Archipelago allowed him to develop his own theories about evolution, and spurred Charles Darwin to publish "The Origin of Species" independently?|
Alfred Russel Wallace. A British naturalist like Darwin, Wallace travelled far more widely than his contemporary, and his experiences in the jungles of South America and Southeast Asia led him to publish his own theory on natural selection. The two collaborated frequently, and Wallace gained fame in his own time for his theories on the bright "warning" coloration of poisonous animals, as well as the "Wallace effect," the separation of species due to natural selection far enough to create a reproductive barrier between them. Wallace generally agreed with Darwin's precepts of evolution by natural selection, but his belief in Spiritualism led him to doubt the possibility of the evolution of the human brain, thus exempting humans from the laws of evolution.
|Elias Howe and Isaac Singer were responsible for the development of a major appliance in many households today. However, their dispute over who was responsible was ugly. What product did these two men work on in the 1840s and 50s?|
Sewing machine. In 1845, Elias Howe created his first sewing machine by building upon the work of those before him. His idea of putting a groove in the needle was patented, and became standard. In 1851, Isaac Singer designed a machine that held the needle vertically and used foot pressure to keep the needle in place. Howe sued, claiming it violated his patent, and he ultimately won the suit; as a result, Singer had to pay Howe more than one dollar for each machine already produced. Singer's later partnership with Edward Clark led to the development of the first hire-purchase system of goods, where a machine can be leased for a given amount of time until both its cost and interest have been paid off in full.
|The invention of the humble cotton gin was one of the many factors that led to the American Civil War. Although Eli Whitney is traditionally given credit for the machine, it was actually an associate of his that originated the idea. Who (allegedly) suggested the idea of a cotton gin to Whitney, but according to in-place regulations, was unable to apply for a patent?|
Catherine Littlefield Greene, a woman. Greene was the wife of Nathanael Greene, a Revolutionary War general often considered Washington's most talented officer. Her association with Whitney began when he tutored neighborhood children, and she encouraged him to pursue his own inventions. Evidence shows that Greene actually brainstormed the cotton gin, but Whitney took the patent because women weren't eligible for them.
However, all of these stories might be false too. While Whitney is duly given credit for the cotton gin, the device might also have been the invention of other inventors, such as Sandi Buchanan, Hodgen Holmes, and Joseph Watkins. It is Greene's work, however, that is documented in "The Library of Southern Literature" of the 1870s, for the creation of the first mechanical cotton gin.
|Arthur Eichengrun and Felix Hoffmann, two Bayer chemists, were involved in a controversy over who was responsible for the discovery of pure acetylsalicylic acid and its medical uses. What chemical was it that they created?|
Aspirin. Traditionally, Felix Hoffmann has been credited with the discovery of aspirin as a painkiller, but, in 1949, Arthur Eichengrun published a scientific paper that established his directorial role in the synthesis of acetylsalicylic acid. His story was ignored until 1999, when Walter Sneader analyzed the case and gave Eichengrun credit for aspirin's discovery. Bayer denied the story, saying that Hoffmann was still responsible, and no new progress on the identity of aspirin's inventor has been made.
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