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
German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe writes The Morphology of Plants stating that all plant organs, flowers included, began as leaves — an assertion that will enjoy some support from 21st-century genetic research.
First U.S. census is conducted, showing a population of 3,939,214.
Society of Friends petitions Congress for abolition of slavery.
The first ten amendments to the US Constitution — The Bill of Rights — are ratified.
Washington, D.C., founded as the capitol of the United States.
Luigi Galvani announces that electricity applied to severed frog's legs causes them to twitch and that frogs legs twitch in the presence of two different metals with no electric current present. The latter discovery eventually leads to Alessandro Volta's developing the electric battery.
Pierre Prévost develops his theory of exchanges of radiation of heat. He correctly shows that cold is merely the absence of heat and that all bodies continually radiate heat. If they seem not to radiate heat, it means that they are in heat equilibrium with their environment.
Vermont admitted as 14th state (first addition to the original thirteen colonies).
Charles Babbage is Born
John Stone, Concord, Massachusetts, patents a pile driver.
New York City traffic regulation creates first one-way street.
(no entry for this year)
U.S. authorizes $10 Eagle, $5 half-Eagle and 2.50 quarter-Eagle gold coins and silver dollar, dollar, quarter, dime and half-dime. (In today's dollars, the $10 coin would be worth $231.00 and the half-dime would be worth $1.16.)
U.S. postal service created; postage 6-12 cents, depending on distance. (In today's dollars, that would be somewhere between $1.40 and $3.00.)
Guillotine first used (to execute highwayman Nicolas J. Pelletier).
Captain George Vancouver claims Puget Sound for Britain.
France declares war on Austria, starting French Revolutionary Wars.
The dollar is approved as the currency of the United States. The first dollar coin is minted in 1794.
The French Republic is proclaimed.
Twenty-four merchants form New York Stock Exchange at 70 Wall Street.
Reverend James Douglas publishes Nenia Britannica; or, A Sepulchral History of Great Britain providing perhaps the first record of a fossil (sea urchin) at an archaeological site.
To enforce Article IV, Section 2, the U.S. Congress enacts the Fugitive Slave Law. It allows slaveowners to cross state lines to recapture their slaves. They must then prove ownership in a court of law. In reaction, some Northern states pass personal liberty laws, granting the alleged fugitive slaves the rights to habeas corpus, jury trials, and testimony on their own behalf. These Northern state legislatures also pass anti-kidnapping laws to punish slave-catchers who kidnap free blacks, instead of fugitive slaves.
France becomes first country to use the metric system.
Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin (cotton enGINe), a machine that quickly and easily separates cotton fibers from their seeds, allowing for much greater productivity than manual cotton separation. By reducing the labor of removing seeds, the cotton gin made cotton growing more profitable, thereby raising demand for slave labor. The first federal census of 1790 counted 697,897 slaves; by 1810, there were 1.2 million slaves, a 70 percent increase. Slavery spread from the seaboard to some of the new western territories and states as new cotton fields were planted, and by 1830 it thrived in more than half the continent. Within 10 years after the cotton gin was put into use, the value of the total United States crop leaped from $150,000 to more than $8 million.
King Louis XVI of France is executed.
John Frere describes and illustrates handaxes from Hoxne that will turn out to be some 400,000 years old.
Erasmus Darwin (Charles' grandfather) publishes Zoonomia, or the Laws of Organic Life.
James Hutton publishes An Investigation of the Principles of Knowledge. Buried in the 2,138-page philosophical tome is a chapter about variety in nature in which Hutton anticipates Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection.
John Dalton's Extraordinary facts relating to the vision of colors gives an early account of red-green color blindness, which he refers to as Daltonism, since he is afflicted with the condition.
Zoonomia, or the Laws of Organic Life by Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles Darwin) contains his ideas about evolution, which are Lamarckian in that they assume the environment has a direct influence on organisms, causing permanent changes in the germ line.
Alessandro Volta demonstrates that the electric force observed by Galvani is not connected with living creatures, but can be obtained whenever two different metals are placed in a conducting fluid.
Slavery abolished in the French colonies.
James Hutton's Theory of the Earth published, interpreting certain geological strata as former sea beds. Hutton proposes geological theory of gradualism.
Johann Friedrich Blumenbach publishes De generis humani varietate nativa liber arguing that humans comprise a single species with five varieties: Caucasian, Mongolian, Ethiopian, (American) Indian and Malayan.
James Hutton overturns the "Neptunian" view of rock formation in his Theory of the Earth, suggesting instead that forces of rock creation are balanced by forces of rock destruction.
The US flag is modified to have fifteen stars and fifteen stripes, reflecting the addition of two new states: Vermont and Kentucky. This is the only US flag to have other than thirteen stripes.
(no entry for this year)
George Washington declines a third term as President, gives his Farewell Address.
(no entry for this year)
Publication of Thomas Malthus' Essay on the Principle of Population, a work that Darwin asserted helped him frame the principle of evolution by natural selection.
Henry Cavendish determines the mass of Earth by measuring the gravity between two small masses and two large masses. This gives the gravitational constant G, which was the only unknown in Newton's equations. Solving for G enables Cavendish to establish that Earth is about 5.5 times as dense as water.
Enquiry concerning the source of heat which is excited by friction by Count Rumford (Benjamin Thompson) describes his experiments with boring cannons that show that the caloric theory of heat cannot be true, and that heat should be considered a kind of motion.
Napoleon invades Egypt and defeats the Egyptians at the Battle of the Pyramids.
The first mammoth fossil fully documented by modern science is discovered near the delta of the Lena River in 1799 by Ossip Schumachov, a Siberian hunter. Schumachov allows it to thaw (a process taking several years) until he can retrieve the tusks for sale to the ivory trade in Yakutsk. He then abandons the specimen, allowing it to decay before its recovery. In 1806, Russian botanist Mikhail Adams rescues what remained of the specimen and brought it to the Zoological Museum of the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. The specimen, which became known as the Adams Mammoth, is stuffed and mounted, and continues to be on display at the Zoological Institute.
Charles White publishes An Account of the Regular Gradation in Man, and in Different Animals and Vegetables, a treatise on the great chain of being, showing people of color at the bottom of the human chain.
Faujas publishes a description of the Maastricht animal, a spectacular mosasaur found in chalk quarries in the Netherlands, describing it as a crocodile.
Thomas Jefferson publishes a paper describing Megalonyx, a North American fossil ground sloth similar to the one found in South America.
George Shaw publishes a description of a platypus even though he suspects the odd animal might be a hoax.
Alexander von Humboldt names the Jurassic System, after the Jura Mountains. This time period will later be identified as the "middle period" for the dinosaurs.
William Smith maps rock formations in the vicinity of Bath, England, making perhaps the world's first geologic map. The same year, Smith, Joseph Townsend and Benjamin Richardson recognize rocks containing the Permian and Triassic, though not necessarily by those names. (These periods will later be identified as spanning the Earth's most catastrophic mass extinction.)
The British government purchases the collection of Scottish anatomist John Hunter, forming the Hunterian Museum.
The Rosetta Stone is discovered in Egypt. The stone is a fragment of an Egyptian stele with the same inscription in three texts: ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Egyptian demotic script, and Greek. This side-by-side translation allows historians to translate ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs for the first time.
Napoleon Bonaparte becomes First Consul and seizes power in France.
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.
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