Greatest Scientific Discoveries

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Antibiotics
Antibiotics transformed medicine. The discovery of antibiotics began by accident. On the morning of September 3rd, 1928, Professor Alexander Fleming was having a clear up of his cluttered laboratory. Fleming was sorting through a number of glass plates which had previously been coated with staphyloccus bacteria as part of research Fleming was doing. One of the plates had mould on it. The mould was in the shape of a ring and the area around the ring seemed to be free of the bacteria staphyloccus. Further research on the mould found that it could kill other bacteria and that it could be given to small animals without any side-effects. However, within a year, Fleming had moved onto other medical issues and it was ten years later that Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, working at Oxford University, isolated the bacteria-killing substance found in the mould - penicillin. Florey got an American drugs company to mass produce it and by D-Day, enough was available to treat all the bacterial infections that broke out among the troops. Penicillin got nicknamed "the wonder drug" and in 1945 Fleming, Chain and Florey were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine. Post-1945 was the era of the antibiotics.

Atomic power
Atomic power unleashed it full might on August 6th 1945 when the "Enola Gay" flew to its target Hiroshima. On board was one bomb - "Little Boy". It had enormous explosive power, more than anybody on board the ‘plane could ever have imagined. Hiroshima was flattened. On the 9th August, the same destruction happened to Nagasaki. This time, the bomb was known as "Fat Man". Why did both bombs have such colossal explosive power? Atomic fission had the ability to unleash vast amounts of energy. The first man to realise this was Leo Szilard - a Hungarian physicist. Szilard believed that if you could control atomic fission, you could boil water to create steam to drive the generators in power stations. If you deliberately set out not to control atomic fission, you could create a vast explosive force which, Szilard believed, could destroy a city. In later years, Szilard said that "there was very little doubt in my mind that the world was headed for grief." On December 2nd,1942, an experiment by a brilliant physicist Enrico Fermi in a laboratory, proved that it was possible to unlock atomic energy in a controlled way. Fermi had created the first ever self-sustaining chain reaction. Szilard, who had worked with Fermi on CP-1, remarked that "this will go down as a black day in the history of Mankind." Controlled, this reaction potentially had untold benefits for Mankind. Uncontrolled, it could unleash awesome power.

Computers
Computers play a very important part in our lives now and as with so many recent inventions, no one person can claim to have sole responsibility for their invention. However, one man is credited with having the vision to see that one day a general-purpose computing machine would exist. This man was Charles Babbage and he first floated his idea in 1834 !! Five years after he died in 1871, Lord Kelvin, a Scottish physicist, also raised the idea of building a machine that could cope with general problems. But many years were to pass before a machine was produced which was capable of doing what Babbage and Kelvin wanted. Some historians believe that the first true computer was developed by a team at Manchester University lead by Dr Freddie Williams. Their invention was commercially produced by the firm Ferranti and was known as Ferranti Mark 1. This was in 1951. America also produced its first commercial computer in 1951 called UNIVAC; its first important use was to predict the outcome of the US Presidential election race in 1952.

The Internet
The first network of computers involved just 4 machines collectively called Arpanet. This took place in 1969 and was funded by America’s Defence Department’s Research Projects Agency. Between 1975 and 1985, a number of other computer networks developed...
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