Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
Albert Einstein made one of the greatest contributions to the world of all times. However, it is interesting to note that he was a very poor student at 14, but by 26 he had changed our impression of time and space. In fact, Einstein's teacher even told his father that "It doesn't matter what he does, he will never amount to anything." However, contrary to what the teacher said, Einstein was very successful and his name has even become synonymous with success and genius.
Einstein was born to parents Hermann and Pauline Einstein on March 14, 1879. He was born into a family of non-practicing Jews with a family business manufacturing electrical parts. When this business failed in 1894, the family moved to Milan, Italy. Einstein stayed behind to finish the school year, but only lasts a term on his own. His next attempt is to try to get out of high school by entering the Swiss Polytechnic, a top university, but he failed the entrance exam in the arts section. So, Einstein was sent to Aarau, Switzerland to finish high school and he succeeded in 1896. Einstein then enrolled at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and graduated in 1900 as a secondary school teacher of mathematics and physics.
Love hit in 1898 when Einstein met Hungarian Mileva Maric. They met again in northern Italy in 1901 and Mileva became pregnant. Their daughter Lieserl was put up for adoption, became sick, and was never heard of again. In 1903, Einstein and Mileva married. In 1904, their son Hans Albert was born and in 1910 their son Eduard was born.
Working in a Swiss patent office from 1902 to 1909, Einstein wrote many papers on theoretical physics on the side. With one, he got his Ph.D. degree from the University of Zurich and he eventually became an associate professor of physics at the University of Zurich. In 1914, Einstein went on to become a professor at the Kaiser-Wilhelm Gesellschaft in Berlin, the most prestigious position possible. That same year, Einstein and his wife Mileva got divorced.
Einstein was seriously ill in 1917 but his cousin Elsa nursed him back to health. The two married in 1919.
In 1905, Einstein began developing his Theory of Relativity, submitting his paper "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies" to the leading German physics journal on June 30th. Ten years later, he completed his General Theory of Relativity. Then in 1919, a solar eclipse proved that Einstein's theory was true. Relativity means that light always moves in a straight line through empty space and always at the same speed in a vacuum, no matter where you are. This causes a whole realm of problems for us. First of all, relativity has a huge affect on time. For example, a man riding a moving train that is looking at a light would see it move straight down and straight up. However, someone on the ground would see the light move diagonally since the train is going side ways, and from there it would appear that the light travels farther. So, the same event took more time to the person outside. Relativity also has an affect on space. For example, if someone threw a football on a train, it would go (lets say) forty feet to them. However, to the person on the track, the retreating train looks smaller and thus the distance the football was thrown is also shorter to them. If any of this made any sense to you, it would now be obvious that time and space are all relative to where you are in them.
Einstein received the Nobel Prize in physics in 1921, but he actually received it for his work on the photoelectric effect that he did in 1905. Then, in 1933, Einstein had to emigrate to the United States because he lived in Nazi Germany and was identified as a Jew. They end up in Princeton, New Jersey where Einstein works at the Institute for Advanced Study. Three years later, Elsa died after a short illness.
When World War II started in 1939, Einstein told President Roosevelt that Germany might have been building an atomic bomb, and thus it was necessary for the United States to start such research. His plea, along with the follow-ups, caused the President to set up the Manhattan Project which researched and developed the atomic bomb. Einstein continued perfecting his theory and looking for more answers until his death on April 16, 1955 when he died of a heart failure at the age of seventy-six.
Williamina Fleming (1857 - 1911)
Williamina Fleming was born in Scotland. She was the first to discover white dwarf stars. In addition, she developed a system of classifying stars according to their spectra. Using this system, which was later named after her, she successfully catalogued over ten thousand stars.
In 1907, she published a study of two hundred and twenty two stars that she had discovered. A British astronomer noted her achievement when he made the following observation, "many astronomers are deservedly proud to have discovered one...the discovery of two hundred and twenty two...is an achievement bordering on the marvelous."
Fleming published her discovery of white dwarfs, stars that are very hot and dense that appear bluish or white in color. White dwarfs are believed to be stars in their final stage of existence.
Robert H. Goddard (1882 - 1945)
Robert Goddard an American who is known as one of the founding fathers of modern rocket propulsion. In 1926, he designed, built, and launched the world's first liquid fuel rocket. This was one of Goddard's "firsts" in the area of rocket propulsion as it pertained to the fields of military missilery as well as the scientific exploration of space. Goddard was internationally recognized as an engineering genius whose rockets were years ahead of t heir time. At the time of his death, he held over two hundred patents in rocket technology.
Goddard was one of the first scientists to realize the potential of missiles and space flight, and brought some of these ideas to practical realization. In 1969, a liquid fuel rocket built according to his principles landed on the moon, carrying the first humans.
Most of Goddard's work went largely unrecognized in the United States until the start of the space age. High honors and wide acclaim were finally given to the name of Robert H. Goddard. In 1959, fourteen years after his death a major space science laboratory was established in Maryland, known as NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
Edwin Powell Hubble (1889 - 1953)
Edwin Powell Hubble was an American astronomer who was a pioneer in the study of extragalactic astronomy. He developed the classification scheme for the structure of galaxies which is still used today. In 1929 Hubble's study of the distribution of galaxies resulted in the discovery of Hubble's law. He also demonstrated from his observations of the Andromeda nebula and other galaxies that the universe is expanding. Today, his name is carried b y the best telescope in the world, a satellite observatory orbiting the earth, known as the Hubble Space Telescope. This telescope is continuing the work begun by Hubble to map the universe by producing remarkable images of distant galaxies.
The Wrights Wilbur (1867 - 1912) Orville (1871 - 1948)
The Wright Brothers were fascinated by the concept of flight from early on. Their father, a bishop in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, game them a flying toy that was made of cork and bamboo in 1878. Of course, this toy didn't last long in the hands of young boys, but such a memory stayed with them all their life.
Wilbur and Orville were two of five children born to Bishop Milton Wright and Susan Catharine Wright. Their older brothers were Reuchlin and Lorin and their younger sister was Katharine. Wilbur was born on a small farm in Indiana on April 16, 1867, and Orville followed four years later when he was born in Ohio on August 19, 1871.
These children had a good childhood, with loving (and strict) parents and resources such as the two libraries in their house in Ohio. Orville described his childhood as "an environment where there was always much encouragement to children to pursue intellectual interests; to investigate whatever aroused curiosity." From this atmosphere came two very curious brothers, who managed to take a step toward air flight.
The two brothers built a scaled-down flying machine in 1899. This kite had a five-foot wingspan, and was constructed of wood, wire, and cloth. The next step was to build a machine capable of holding someone. With this adventure as a side job, their main source of income was a bicycle business in Ohio: the Wright Cycle Co. was founded in 1892.
Orville and Wilbur had to experiment with kites and gliders to get the feel for their flying machine. Since the published information was rather unreliable, this pair of brothers build a wind tunnel to do some tests. They discovered that a long, narrow wing shape was the best shape for flight. They also figured out how to move the vehicle up and down on a cushion of air. They even developed a light-weight gas-powered engine since none existed. Theirs produced twelve horsepower and weighed only 152 pounds.
So the result of all this work was an airplane called Flyer, a skeletal flying machine made of spruce, ash, and muslin, with a wingspan of 40 ft. and weighing 600 lbs. This device took off from Kitty Hawk on Dec. 17, 1903 and flew 120 ft. during its 12 second flight.
This flight set the stage for many technological advancements soon after. The Wright Brothers continued their work, even getting patents for their airplane-control system in 1906. Then in 1908, they got a contract to make planes for the U.S. Army. The brothers died in 1912 (Wilbur) and 1948 (Orville), but their influence is longer-lived.
This nonsense could all be blamed on Leonardo DaVinci. With his famous "flying machine," DaVinci started a frenzy and people since then have been intrigued by the possibility of actually flying through the air. Then in 1891, Otto Lilienthal started experimenting with hang gliders, using what Sir George Cayley had discovered at the beginning of the 19th century. Cayley studied birds and their flight and realized that the lift function of the wings were separate from the thrust function. Thus, they could be imitated by different systems on a "flying machine." Lilienthal followed up by focusing on a fixed-wing glider, but was killed in a gliding accident in 1896.
Many people continued Lilienthal's work including Captain F. Ferber, Henri Robart, Solirene, Levavasseur, Clement Ader, Percy Pilcher, Sir Hiram Maxim, Octave Chanute, and Samuel Pierpont Langley, most of whom worked in Europe.
Then the Wright brothers came along. They began by reading what others had done to learn from what others had already tested. They used what others had found out: patterning their plane after the Chanute-Herring biplane and lifting the wing surfaces like Lilienthal suggested.
After research, the Wright brothers entered construction. Instead of designing and building a whole plane to start off with, this pair tested individual parts first. They also figured out that twisting the wings helped with lateral control, a major factor in their patent.
In 1900, the Wrights flew a glider but it didn't produce as much lift as they thought it would. Of course, they had substituted 15 foot spars for the intended 18 foot spars, so they tried again a year later. Bringing along an anemometer so they could measure wind speed themselves, they tried again. This time, they realized the results were correct. The lift of the airplane wasn't as great as the formula said it would.
So the brothers took the next step in research. With their own wind tunnel, which was complete with special instruments to clock the lift and drag of wing segments, they tested different wing shapes and discovered that the commonly accepted theory of lift was wrong.
This knowledge was very useful for their 1902 glider, a heavier-than-air craft that flew up to 662 feet when against the wind. To make the aircraft powered, the next step was just to find a motor that worked. They developed their own gasoline engine, tested it in the windtunnel, and applied it to their next craft. When they took this airplane to Kitty Hawk, it worked!
Of course, many more developments had to be made before the airplanes we see today came about. The Wright brothers, along with all the other tinkerers before them, truly set the stage for faster and more advanced travel. Hey, without them we couldn't hop a plane to anywhere in the world whenever we wanted (with a little cash)!