Here are some highlights from this week in science history. For further reading on these intriguing topics, just click on the underlined words in blue print to access the library catalog. Happy reading!
Mar. 16, 1750 astronomer Caroline Herschel was born. Caroline, the sister of Sir William Herschel, went to live with Sir William at the age of 22 and served as his apprentice in his work in astronomy and making telescopes. Sir William is famous for discovering the planet Uranus which I talked about last week. Caroline helped him develop the modern mathematical approach to astronomy. She also made some discoveries of her own documenting eight comets (1786-97) and three nebulae (1783). She was the first woman to discover a comet! Caroline catalogued every discovery they made and two of her astronomical catalogues are still used today. On her 96th birthday she was awarded the Gold Medal of Science by the King of Prussia. It is interesting to note that Caroline was struck with typhus at the age of ten and remained frail throughout her life never growing taller than 4’3”. An intriguing woman of science!
Mar. 16, 1819 as we head into spring this week and another hay fever season, I thought you might like to know that the first clinical description of the allergy, hay fever, was delivered by Dr. John Bostock to a meeting of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society in London on this day. Hay fever was referred to as “Bostock’s catarrh” for many years. The main causes of this type of allergy are pollens of grasses, weeds and trees and many of us are miserably affected by it.
Mar. 20, 1904 American psychologist B. F. Skinner was born. Skinner’s pioneering work centers around the concept of behaviorism and operant conditioning. He is famous for his 1930 experiments using the “Skinner box” in which he observed animal behavior. Animals placed in the box learned to activate a simple lever which would reward them with food/water or to ignore the lever when it did not reward them. The reward of food or water acted as a primary reinforcer of the behavior. Skinner extended his theories to the behavior of humans and verbal behavior as well. If you have never studied his work, it is well worth your time to check it out!
Mar. 21, 1859 the Charter establishing the first Zoological Society was approved and signed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Due to the Civil War, though, it was another fifteen years before the zoo was opened on July 1, 1874. More than 3000 visitors attended with admission .25 for adults and .10 for children. Thezoo had 813 animals. Dr. William Carmac, a prominent Philadelphia physician, is credited as the zoo’s founding father in taking the lead to make the zoo a reality.
The Georgian Star: How William and Caroline Herschel Revolutionized Our Understanding of the Cosmos