16 January 2007

Inventions/Inventors Quiz Answers - don't peek!

1) answer: (b)
It is almost certain that the Mesopotamians were the first to use the wheel/axle combination in the 5th millennium BC, making pottery wheels and carts that could move crops easily.

2) answer: (a)
In 1862, Abbe Giovanna Caselli, an Italian priest and physics professor, demonstrated that a still image can be transmitted over wire. Electromagnetic television was used by the German engineer Paul Nipkow in 1884. The first electronic televisions were developed in the 1920's.

3) answer: (c)
Thomas Alva Edison was one of many "inventors" of the incandescent light bulb, though he is often credited with its invention because he was involved in the R&D that led to the first commercially successful light bulb for common use. At the time of his patent, streetlights which arced electrical current between two carbon rods were in common use. Edison used carbon materials, finally settling on carbonized bamboo as his filament of choice.

4) answer: (c)
Though Edward Jenner is generally credited with developing the first smallpox vaccination procedures in 1796, it was widespread knowledge in farming communities that people who had already had the milder illness cowpox seemed to be immune to smallpox. A few years before Jenner's vaccinations, Benjamin Jesty swabbed his pregnant wife and two sons with a sample of cowpox, successfully vaccinating against smallpox. Earlier in the century, vaccinations were performed using smallpox samples from ill people. The earliest documented case in the Western world occurred in 1717. Catherine the Great and her family were inoculated against smallpox in 1768. A 1776 letter from Abigail Adams to her husband, congressman John Adams, detailed her plan to take their children to Boston to be inoculated against smallpox.

5) answer: (d)
All of the above! In the 1889, census worker Herman Hollerith (whose company later became IBM) developed a punchcard system for tabulating the results for the US census, which is administered every ten years. Previously, the census had taken seven years to tabulate, making the results obsolete by the time they were compiled. The 1890 census was completed in only two years, using Hollerith's system.

In 1801, French weaver Joseph Marie Jacquard introduced a prototype loom which used punchcards to automate the process of weaving complicated patterns. His invention was met with much resistance by weavers whose livelihoods were threatened, but by 1806 his loom was declared public property, and Jacquard received royalties accordingly. Complicated weaving patterns are sometimes called "jacquard" patterns. His punchcard system was the inspiration for player pianos.

The ENIAC was the first electronic, digital, programmable computer, and it was developed during the 1940's to calculate ballistics tables for weapons being used in combat during World War II. Until ENIAC, these calculations were made by a corps of female civilian and military mathematicians. Though the ENIAC's design is credited to two men, some of the construction and all of the programming of the ENIAC was performed by women who became some of the first computer scientists of the modern age.

6) answer: (b)
Thomas Alva Edison became partially deaf in adolescence as the result of an accident. This was one reason he was successful as a telegraph operator - his hearing loss helped him block out ambient noise. Alexander Graham Bell was a teacher for the deaf and created several inventions (the telephone, the microphone) with this community in mind. Bell's mother and wife were deaf. He is a controversial figure in the Deaf community, since he believed that hereditary deafness should be eliminated by preventing deaf people from marrying, and that sign language should be forbidden in order to encourage deaf children to learn speech and lipreading skills.

7) answer: (d)
Alexander Graham Bell gets the credit for inventing the telephone, but an Italian immigrant, Antonio Meucci, demonstrated the basic technology of telephonic communication 25 years earlier. Meucci had no money for a patent, but US Congress issued a resolution in 2002 acknowledging his work in the field of telephony.

Alexander Graham Bell filed his patent just a few hours earlier than his rival, Elisha Gray. A decade later, a patent clerk admitted he had been bribed to backdate Bell's patent application so it would be accepted ahead of Gray's.

Among the many people working on radio, Nicola Tesla was among the first to have US patents issued for technology that could reliably reproduce a radio frequency. His work was chronicled in ten patents issued between 1898 and 1903. In 1904 Marconi filed a patent duplicating Tesla's work, and in 1915 Tesla sued Marconi for patent infringement. Nothing came of this litigation, and soon after, Marconi sued the US government for use of wireless communication during WWI. The ruling of this case invalidated Marconi's patent, determining that Marconi's technological developments had been anticipated by Tesla.

Calculus was simultaneously developed by Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz in the 1690's. Newton was reluctant to publish his work, though it seems that Leibniz did have an opportunity to see one of Newton's unpublished manuscripts about Calculus ("Fluxions") in 1677. Leibniz first published his own development of Calculus in 1684. Once Newton published his theory of Fluxions in full, in 1704, Leibniz's notation and methods were widely in use on the European continent. The Royal Society accused Leibniz of plagiarism, and sparked a bitter dispute that continued well beyond the death of Leibniz in 1716. It is generally accepted by mathematicians and historians that each man developed Calculus independently of the other.

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