The ESP Timeline (one of the site's most popular features) has been completely updated to allow the user to select (using the timeline controls above each column) different topics for the left and right sides of the display.
New Left Column
New Left Column
New Right Column
New Right Column
Standard Oil Formed On January 10th, 1870, John D Rockefeller and four partners incorporate the Standard Oil Company. The company gains control of nearly 95% of the oil refining industry in the United States.
The First Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church proclaims the dogma of the infallibility of the Pope.
The Franco-Prussian war (1870-71) leads to the formation of the German Empire.
O. C. Marsh discovers the first North American pterosaur, from chalk deposits in Kansas. He calculates the wingspan at 20 feet. The following year, he will collect more fossils that confirm this calculation.
Quarry workers in the Valley Forge area discover the Port Kennedy Bone Cave, under roughly the same site where the Continental Army wintered over a century earlier. The site proves rich in Pleistocene plant and animal fossils, but will be accidentally flooded decades later. The site will be lost to science until its rediscovery after the turn of the 21st century.
The rivalry between fossil collectors O. C. Marsh and E. D. Cope turns ugly when Marsh publicly points out Cope's error in reconstructing a fossil marine reptile (putting its head on the tip of its tail). Their rivalry is the public's gain as they try to outdo each other in identifying new dinosaur species — over 130.
On October 8th, a fire broke out in the west side of Chicago. The Great Chicago Fire lasted two days, killing 300 people, and destroying most of Chicago. Property damages were estimated at 200 million dollars.
On October 8th, a fire broke out in the village of Peshtigo, Wisconsin. The Peshtigo Fire caused more deaths than any other fire in the history of the United States. By the time it was over, 1,875 square miles (1.2 million acres) of forest had been consumed, an area approximately twice the size of the state of Rhode Island. Some sources list as much as 1.5 million acres burned. Twelve communities were destroyed. An accurate death toll has never been determined since local population records were destroyed in the fire. Between 1,200 and 2,500 people are thought to have lost their lives.
The occurrence of this fire, and several other smaller fires, on the same day as the Great Chicago fire has lead some to speculate that all of the fires may have had a common cause: multiple impacts from fragments of a disintegrating comet.
Richard Leach Maddox invents the gelatin dry plate silver bromide process. Negatives no longer had to be developed immediately. Long before his discovery of the dry gelatin photographic emulsion, Maddox was prominent in what was called photomicrography - photographing minute organisms under the microscope. The eminent photomicrographer of the day, Lionel S. Beale, included as a frontispiece images made by Maddox in his manual 'How to work with the Microscope'.
Henry Morton Stanley finds David Livingstone in Africa, greeting the Scotsman with the famous words, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume."
The Second Reich proclaimed With the German victory in France complete, the German Reichstag(parliament) proclaimed the creation of the Second Reich. The Reichstag approved with minor modification the constitution of the Northern German Federation. William I became King of Germany with Otto Bismarck the first chancellor.
Publication of Charles Darwin's Descent of Man, in which the role of sexual selection in evolution is described for the first time.
Lord Kelvin suggests that "the germs of life might have been brought to the Earth by some meteorite," an idea that will enjoy support a century later.
Johann Friedrich Miescher isolates a substance which he calls NUCLEIN from the nuclei of white blood cells. The substance was soluble in alkalis but not in acids and came to be known as nucleic acid.
Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet showed the importance of statistical analysis for biologists and laid the foundation of biometry.
George Johnstone Stoney notes that the wavelengths of three lines in the hydrogen spectrum are found to have simple ratios, and anticipation of Balmer's formula, an important step towards understanding the structure of the atom.
James Clerk Maxwell explains how his statistical theory of heat works by inventing MAXWELL'S DEMON, a mythical creature that can see and handle individual molecules. By opening a gate between two vessels containing a gas only one of fast molecules passing into one, the demon would make heat flow from cold to hot.
(no entry for this year)
Ferdinand Julius Cohn coined the term BACTERIUM and founded the study of bacteriology.
Slavery is abolished in Puerto Rico.
Spain decrees the end of slavery in Cuba, still a Spanish colony.
QWERTY keyboard invented
Hermann Wilhelm Vogel discovers dye sensitization, allowing the blue-sensitive but otherwise color-blind photographic emulsions then in use to be made sensitive to green, yellow and red light. Technical problems delay the first use of dye sensitization in a commercial product until the mid-1880s; fully panchromatic emulsions are not in common use until the mid-20th century.
Anton Schneider observed and described the behavior of nuclear filaments (chromosomes) during cell division in his study of the platyhelminth Mesostoma. His account was the first accurate description of the process of mitosis in animal cells.
Francis Galton publishes a paper entitled "Hereditary Improvement" arguing that people "of really good breed" should be encouraged to reproduce while their inferiors should be discouraged from doing so. This, he argues, will improve humanity the way selective breeding improves livestock.
James Clerk Maxwell's Electricity and Magnetism contains the basic laws of electromagnetism and predicts, in great detail, such phenomena as radio waves and pressure caused by light rays.
Thomas J. Watson Sr. is born
The first electric tram operates in New York City.
The Hamburg Tierpark features an "anthropological-zoological" display of Lapps acting out "daily life" with reindeer. The show draws enthusiastic crowds.
The Mütter Museum buys 139 human skulls from Viennese anatomist Joseph Hyrtl. Hyrtl has compiled the collection to show the remarkable variation within European populations, and to debunk the claims of phrenologists. The collection is unusual for the time, when most skull assemblages are aimed at emphasizing differences between ethnic groups.
Irish physicist George J. Stoney estimates the charge of the then unknown electron to be about 10-20 coulomb, close to the modern value of 1.6021892 x 10-19. He also introduces the term ELECTRON.
The Cavendish laboratory at Cambridge is completed. Although widely believed to have been named after the 18th-century physicist Henry Cavendish, it is, in fact, named after the entire Cavendish family, because the 19th century steel-making descendent of Henry, William Cavendish, financed the laboratory. The structure of DNA was worked out at the Cavendish many years later by Watson and Crick.
(no entry for this year)
Eduard Strasburger accurately described the processes of mitotic cell division in plants.
Francis Galton demonstrates the usefulness of twin studies for elucidating the relative influence of nature (heredity) and nurture (environment) upon behavioral traits.
Oscar Hertwig concludes from a study on sea urchins that fertilization in both animals and plants consists of the physical union of the two nuclei contributed by the male and female parents.
Paleontologist Roberto Lawley collects a badly eroded Pliocene whale bone near Pisa, Italy, and donates it to the paleontology museum of Florence. In the 21st century, close examination will indicate boreholes of Osedax, mouthless, gutless marine worms (nicknamed zombie worms) that extract nutrients by drilling into bones.
Ferdinand Hurter and Vero Charles Driffield begin systematic evaluation of sensitivity characteristics of photographic emulsions the science of sensitometry. They also invent a photographic exposure estimation device known as an actinograph. In 1920, William Bates Ferguson edits a memorial volume: The Photographic Researches of Ferdinand Hurter & Vero C. Driffield: Being a Reprint of Their Published Papers, Together With a History of Their Early Work & a Bibliography of Later Work on the Same Subject.
Custer Killed at Little Bighorn On June 25th, in Dakota territory, at the Little Big Horn, General George Armstrong Custer (who graduated from West Point in 1861, last in his class) and all 256 troops were killed. The defeat of Custer in the Battle of the Little Big Horn was the last Indian victory.
Alexander Graham Bell patents the telephone.
Charles Doolittle Walcott becomes the first to successfully find and describe elusive trilobite legs, ending speculation about how the animals moved.
Eugen Goldstein shows that the radiation in a vacuum tube produced when an electric current is forced through the tube starts at the cathode. Goldstein introduces the term CATHODE RAY to describe the light emitted.
The Compromise of 1877 ends Reconstruction and gives the Presidency to Rutherford B. Hayes. Although Democratic presidential candidate Samuel Tilden won the popular vote, Southern Democratic leaders agreed to support Rutherford Hayes' efforts to obtain the disputed electoral votes of Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina in exchange for the withdrawal of the last federal troops from the South and the end of federal efforts to protect the civil rights of African Americans.
The US flag is modified to have thirty-eight stars, reflecting the addition of one new state: Colorado.
Frederick Douglass becomes US Marshal for the District of Columbia.
Phonograph Invented by Edison On December 15th, Thomas Edison applied for a patent for his phonograph. Edison initially believed it would be used to record business sessions, or family voices. Edison became famous with this invention and was invited to the White House for a demonstration.
Hermann Fol reports watching the spermatozoan of a starfish penetrate the egg. He was able to see the transfer of the intact nucleus of the sperm into the egg, where it became the male pronucleus.
A new Archaeopteryx fossil is discovered in Solnhofen, complete with a toothy jaw. This well-preserved fossil, which will become known as the Berlin Archaeopteryx, supports Huxley's previous observations about its reptilian affinities.
Comparative anatomy professor François Louis Paul Gervais undertakes thin-section microscopy studies of fossil eggs. His work will be largely forgotten until Roy Chapman Andrews discovers dinosaur eggs in Mongolia in the 1920s.
Germ Theory of Disease: Louis Pasteur presented his Germ Theory of disease. Joseph Lister went on to initiate the practice of insuring that surgeons were clean before they conducted surgery.
Thomas Edison and Joseph Wilson Swan produce first successful incandescent electric light.
Willgodt T. Odhner granted a patent for a calculating machine
Eadweard Muybridge uses a row of cameras with trip-wires to make a high-speed photographic analysis of a galloping horse. Each picture is taken in less than the two-thousandth part of a second, and they are taken in sufficiently rapid sequence (about 25 per second) that they constitute a brief real-time "movie" that can be viewed by using a device such as a zoetrope, a photographic "first".
Heat ripening of gelatin emulsions is discovered. This greatly increases sensitivity and makes possible very short "snapshot" exposures.
The world's first oil tanker — the Zoroaster — is launched, in the Caspian Sea. The ship was designed by Ludvig Nobel, the brother of Alfred Nobel.
The first electric street lighting appears, in London.
Wilhelm Friedrich Kühne proposed the term ENZYME (meaning "in yeast") and distinguished enzymes from the micro-organisms that produce them.
Charlotte Hill collects a well-preserved fossil butterfly, later named Prodryas persephone, from the Florissant Formation in Colorado. The fossil is about 35 million years old.
Entire skeletons of Iguanodon are discovered in Belgium, enabling a more accurate reconstruction of this dinosaur than those of Owen and Waterhouse Hawkins in the 1850s. Engineer-turned-paleontologist Louis Dollo will publish the first of several papers on these fossils in 1882.
F. W. Woolworth opens his first "five and dime store".
From 1879 through 1882, Walther Flemming describes and names CHROMATIN, MITOSIS, and the SPIREME. He makes the first accurate counts of chromosome numbers and accurately drew the "longitudinal splitting" of chromosomes.
Eight-year-old Maria de Sautuola finds a Paleolithic cave drawing of bison on her father's property in Spain. It is the oldest artwork yet discovered, but it will be dismissed as a forgery for years, considered too beautiful to be the work of prehistoric savages.
Charles Lapworth resolves a priority dispute between Adam Sedgwick and Roderick Murchison by assigning older rocks to the Cambrian (named by Sedgwick), younger rocks to the Silurian (named by Murchison), and naming the Ordivician System in between.
The United States Geological Survey is formed.
In the early 1990's, Robert Robbins was a faculty member at Johns Hopkins, where he directed the informatics core of GDB — the human gene-mapping database of the international human genome project. To share papers with colleagues around the world, he set up a small paper-sharing section on his personal web page. This small project evolved into The Electronic Scholarly Publishing Project.
In 1995, Robbins became the VP/IT of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA. Soon after arriving in Seattle, Robbins secured funding, through the ELSI component of the US Human Genome Project, to create the original ESP.ORG web site, with the formal goal of providing free, world-wide access to the literature of classical genetics.
Although the methods of molecular biology can seem almost magical to the uninitiated, the original techniques of classical genetics are readily appreciated by one and all: cross individuals that differ in some inherited trait, collect all of the progeny, score their attributes, and propose mechanisms to explain the patterns of inheritance observed.
In reading the early works of classical genetics, one is drawn, almost inexorably, into ever more complex models, until molecular explanations begin to seem both necessary and natural. At that point, the tools for understanding genome research are at hand. Assisting readers reach this point was the original goal of The Electronic Scholarly Publishing Project.
Usage of the site grew rapidly and has remained high. Faculty began to use the site for their assigned readings. Other on-line publishers, ranging from The New York Times to Nature referenced ESP materials in their own publications. Nobel laureates (e.g., Joshua Lederberg) regularly used the site and even wrote to suggest changes and improvements.
When the site began, no journals were making their early content available in digital format. As a result, ESP was obliged to digitize classic literature before it could be made available. For many important papers — such as Mendel's original paper or the first genetic map — ESP had to produce entirely new typeset versions of the works, if they were to be available in a high-quality format.
Early support from the DOE component of the Human Genome Project was critically important for getting the ESP project on a firm foundation. Since that funding ended (nearly 20 years ago), the project has been operated as a purely volunteer effort. Anyone wishing to assist in these efforts should send an email to Robbins.
With the development of methods for adding typeset side notes to PDF files, the ESP project now plans to add annotated versions of some classical papers to its holdings. We also plan to add new reference and pedagogical material. We have already started providing regularly updated, comprehensive bibliographies to the ESP.ORG site.
ESP Picks from Around the Web (updated 06 MAR 2017 )
Science Policy & Funding
Big Data & Informatics