Biography of James Watson & Francis Crick


James Watson & Francis Crick on Feb. 28, 1953, Francis Crick walked into the Eagle pub in Cambridge, England, and, as James Watson later recalled,announced that “we had found the secret of life.” Actually, they had. That morning, Watson and Crick had figured out the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA. And that structure – a “double helix” that can “unzip” to make copies of itself – confirmed suspicions that DNA carries life’s hereditary information. Not until decades later, in the age of genetic engineering, would the Promethean power unleashed that day become vivid. But from the beginning, the Watson and Crick story had traces of hubris. As told in Watson’s classic memoir, “The Double Helix,” it was a tale of boundless ambition, impatience with authority and disdain, if not contempt, for received opinion. (“A goodly number of scientists,” Watson explained, “are not only narrow-minded and dull but also just stupid.”) Yet the Watson and Crick story is also one of sublime harmony, an example, as a colleague put it, of “that marvelous resonance between two minds – that high state in which 1 plus 1 does not equal 2 but more like 10.”

The men were in some ways an odd pair. The British Crick, at 35, still had no Ph.D. The American Watson, 12 years Crick’s junior, had graduated from the University of Chicago at 19 and nabbed his doctorate at 22. But they shared a certain wanderlust, an indifference to boundaries. Crick had migrated from physics into chemistry and biology, fascinated by the line “between the living and the nonliving.” Watson had studied ornithology, then forsook birds for viruses, and then, doing postdoctoral work in Europe, took another sharp career turn.

At a conference in Naples, Watson saw a vague, ghostly image of a DNA molecule rendered by X-ray crystallography. DNA, he had heard, might be the stuff genes are made of. “A potential key to the secret of life was impossible to push out of my mind,” he later wrote. “It was certainly better to imagine myself becoming famous than maturing into a stifled academic who had never risked a thought.”

This theme of Watson’s book – the hot pursuit of glory, the race against the chemist Linus Pauling for the Nobel Prize that DNA would surely bring–got bad reviews from the (relatively) genteel Crick. He didn’t recall anyone mentioning a Nobel Prize. “My impression was that we were just, you know, mad keen to solve the problem,” he later said. But whatever their aims, Watson and Crick shared an attraction to DNA, and when they wound up in the same University of Cambridge lab, they bonded.

Fatefully, such amity did not prevail at a laboratory over at King’s College, London, where a woman named Rosalind Franklin was creating the world’s best X-ray diffraction pictures of DNA. Maurice Wilkins, a colleague who was also working on DNA, disliked the precociously feminist Franklin, and the feeling was mutual. By Watson’s account, this estrangement led Wilkins to show Watson one of Franklin’s best pictures yet, which hadn’t been published. “The instant I saw the picture my mouth fell open,” Watson recalled. The sneak preview “gave several of the vital helical parameters.”

Franklin died of cancer in 1958, at 37. In 1962 the Nobel Prize, which isn’t given posthumously, went to Watson, Crick and Wilkins. In Crick’s view, if Franklin had lived, “it would have been impossible to give the prize to Maurice and not to her” because “she did the key experimental work.” And her role didn’t end there. Her critique of an early Watson and Crick theory had sent them back to the drawing board, and her notebooks show her working toward the solution until they found it; she had narrowed the structure down to some sort of double helix. But she never employed a key tool – the big 3-D molecular models that Watson and Crick werefiddling with at Cambridge.

It was Watson who fit the final piece into place. He was in the lab, pondering cardboard replicas of the four bases that, we now know, constitute DNA’s alphabet: adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine, or A, T, G and C. He realized that “an adenine-thymine pair held together by two hydrogen bonds was identical in shape to a guanine-cytosine pair.” These pairs of bases could thus serve as the rungs on the twisting ladder of DNA.

Here – in the “complementarity” between A and T, between C and G – lay the key to replication. In the double helix, a single strand of genetic alphabet – say, CAT–is paired, rung by rung, with its complementary strand, GTA. When the helix unzips, the complementary strand becomes a template; its G, T and A bases naturally attract bases that amount to a carbon copy of the original strand, CAT. A new double helix has been built.

Watson’s famous “Aha!” was but the last in a long chain. It was Crick who had fastened onto a chemist friend’s theoretical hunch of a natural attraction between A and T, C and G. He had then championed the complementarity scenario – sometimes against Watson’s resistance – as a possible explanation of “Chargaff’s rules,” the fact that DNA contains like amounts of adenine and thymine and of guanine and cytosine. But it was Watson who had first learned of these rules.

As Horace Freeland Judson observed in “The Eighth Day of Creation,” this sort of synergy is, above all, what Rosalind Franklin lacked. Working in a largely male field in an age when women weren’t allowed in the faculty coffee room, she had no one to bond with – no supportive critic whose knowledge matched her gaps, whose gaps her knowledge matched.

Writing up their findings for the journal Nature, the famously brash Watson and Crick donned a British reserve. They capped a dry account of DNA’s structure with one of the most famous understatements in the history of science: “It has not escaped our notice that the specific pairing we have postulated immediately suggests a possible copying mechanism for thegenetic material.” They faced the question of byline: Watson and Crick, or Crick and Watson? They flipped a coin.

The double helix – both the book and the molecule – did nothing to slow this century’s erosion of innocence. Watson’s account, depicting researchers as competitive and spiteful – as human – helped de-deify scientists and bring cynicism to science writing. And DNA, once unveiled, left little room for the ethereal, vitalistic accounts of life that so manypeople had found comforting. Indeed, Crick, a confirmed agnostic, rather liked deflating vitalism – a mission he pursued with zeal, spearheading decades of work on how exactly DNA builds things before he moved on to do brain research at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif.

Watson drifted from pure science into administration. As director of the molecular-biology lab at Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., he turned it into a scientific powerhouse. He also served as head of the Human Genome Project, absorbing some fallout from the high-energy ethical debates whose fuse he and Crick had lighted nearly four decades earlier.

As the practical and philosophical issues opened by the double helix continue to unfold, policy, philosophy and even religion will evolve in response. But one truth seems likely to endure, universal and immutable. It emerges with equal clarity whether you examine the DNA molecule or the way it was revealed. The secret of life is complementarity.

Biography of James J. Wood


James J. Wood was an electrical engineer, however, his career extends wider than the electrical industry, through such technologies and events as lockmaking, the development of the submarine, the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, and the design of the modern refrigerator. James J. Wood was born in Kinsale, Ireland, in 1856.

As a boy his family left Ireland and settled in Connecticut. Wood came to New York City in 1864. At the age of 11 he began his working career with a lock company at Branford, Connecticut. In 1874 he entered the employ of the Brady Manufacturing Company of Brooklyn, rising swiftly to the posts of superintendent and chief engineer.

John Holland’s submarine

An accomplished electrical engineer, he patented his first invention in 1880, the Arc Light Dynamo. In 1885, he installed the first floodlight system at the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. He designed the electric’s of the internal combustion engine for John Holland’s submarine, and the machine that constructed the cables for the Brooklyn Bridge. Some of his innovations can be found in the A/C generator, electric motors, and transformer.

Concurrently, James J. Wood found time to gain an education, eventually graduating from the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute as a mechanical engineer. He also found himself drawn into electrical design in 1879, with the aim of increasing the output while decreasing the size of arc-light generators. At this he succeeded brilliantly – the machine he designed in 1880 remained a highly successful product for 35 years.

In 1890, the general manager of the Fort Wayne Electric Corporation, R.T. McDonald, purchased Wood’s electrical company, and brought him to work at Fort Wayne. After McDonald’s death in 1898, the company became part of the General Electric Company. Wood became factory manager of the Fort Wayne Works.

James J. Wood continued active at invention and design. His total of 240 patents places him behind only Edison, Elihu Thomson, and E.F.W. Alexanderson on the list of the company’s most prolific inventors. He was also one of the first to recognize the business potential of the household refrigerator. Partly through his influence, Fort Wayne played a major role in the creation of GE’s refrigerator business – a development whose success he was able to see before his death in 1928. In 1902 James J. Wood received a patent for an electric fan.

Edison epitomizes the pioneering era of electricity; Steinmetz epitomizes the era when it became a science and an industry. James J. Wood represents a link between the two epochs. As an electrical pioneer he contributed to the development of electric motors and generators. As a leader of the General Electric Company, he played a major role in the success of the GE works in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Wood’s career extends wider than the electrical industry, through such technologies and events as lockmaking, the development of the submarine, the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, and the design of the modern refrigerator. To these fields he brought his remarkable skills at envisioning new inventions, designing them, building models by hand at the bench, and managing their manufacture and introduction.

Biography of James J. Drumm


Dr. James J. Drumm has invented “the Drumm Traction Battery” (zinc-nikelalkaline battery) that was successfully employed to power a suburb train in Ireland (1932-1942). Dr. James J. Drumm, inventor of the “Drumm” Traction Battery was born in 1897 at Dundrum, Co. Down. He received his primary education at the National School where his mother taught, and his secondary education at St. Macartan’s College, Monaghan, where he won a County Council Scholarship.

In 1914 he entered the Chemistry School of University College, Dublin under the late Professor Hugh Ryan, and graduated with an Honours B.Sc. Degree in 1917. In the following year he obtained the M.Sc. degree by research.

He then spent three years with the “Continuous Reaction Company” in England and returned to Dublin in 1922 to work as a research and production chemist with “Fine Chemicals Ltd.” at 40 Mary Street, originally the premises of the Apothecary’s Hall. Later he worked with James Crean & Co., soap manufacturers, for whom he produced a very fine toilet soap which was marketed under the trade name “Dromona”. He also acted as consultant chemist for various firms and was engaged in some academic research funded by an 1851 Scholarship.

In conjunction with the late Professor James Bayley-Butler of U.C.D., Drumm carried out work on the canning of peas with the idea of preserving their green colour. Up to that time canned peas lost their fresh colour and looked rather uninviting. Drumm’s work laid the foundation of modern methods of processing. Drumm’s best known researches were concerned with the electric storage battery which bears his name. The origin of his interest in batteries is little known and came about in the following way.

In 1925 after attending a lecture about hydrogen ions where the quinhydrone electrode was discussed, Drumm suggested that the quinhydrone electrode could be used in a cell to produce current. Drumm experimented with various substituted quinhydrones and found that, though the cell could be charged and discharged rapidly, however the battery life was short because of the intractable tars produced by the oxidation of the quinhydrone. Drumm then abandoned this type of cell and turned his attention to the alkaline cell. He was working in the Experimental Physics Laboratory under the late Professor John J. Nolan, Head of the Department and also adviser to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce with regard to Drumm’s researches.

The government at that time had invested heavily in the Shannon Hydroelectric Scheme developed by the late Dr. Thomas J. McLaughlin. It was capable of supplying abundant electrical power and to offset the taunt of “white elephant” from the opposition party, the government was anxious to get customers for the surplus supply. Industries capable of utilising electricity were not numerous and so electrification of the railways seemed to offer a solution to the problem. However, the relatively small bulk of traffic and the scattered population would have made it impossible to justify the initial cost of a “live third rail” or an overhead cable system. Consequently a suitable battery system would be ideal.

Incidentally, nearly a hundred years previously the Rev. Dr. Nicholas Callan – inventor of the induction coil and of the Maynooth Battery – worked on the idea of a battery-powered engine to haul a train from Dublin to Dun Laoghaire but found that the economics of a laboratory-scale experiment did not always apply to the large industrial scale. Callan was dealing with primary batteries, the only available source of electricity at that time since the dynamo had not been invented, although Callan himself had discovered the principle of the self-induced dynamo but did not follow it up.

At the time Drumm was working the only available storage batteries were the lead/lead dioxide/sulphuric acid accumulator and the Edison nickel/ironalkaline battery. The former had several disadvantages:

1. The positive plate disintegrates especially when subjected to vibration.
2. The weight of the battery in relation to its output is high and would add unduly to the haulage load.
3. It has a low rate of charge and discharge.
4. The life of the cell is only about four years.
5. All these factors heavily impair the usefulness of the lead accumulatorfor traction purposes.

Its only advantage is its high E.M.F. of 2 volts. A commercially successfulstorage battery must have a long life, must be mechanically robust and must have a low upkeep cost. In addition, a battery for traction purposes must have low weight in relation to its output, for obviously the battery forms part of the haulage load. It is also of prime importance that the battery should be capable of giving rapid acceleration. This involves rapid discharge.

Now a battery capable of rapid discharge can also be rapidly charged, for the changes involved in discharge are roughly the reverse of those involved in charging. To construct such a commercially viable cell was the problem which Drumm undertook and solved so brilliantly. From 1926 to 1931 he worked unremittingly at his research which eventually produced the Drumm Traction Battery and in that year -1931- he was awarded the Degree of D.Sc. by the National University of Ireland for his researches.

Familiar with all the snags of the quinhydrone cell and the leadaccumulator, Drumm now turned his attention to the construction of a new alkaline cell. At that time possibly the most commonly used alkaline cell was that devised by Edison. It was a nickel-iron cell with potassium hydroxide solution as electrolyte. the reactions in the cell may be written:

2Ni(OH)2(s) + Fe(OH)2(s) >-> 2Ni(OH)3(s) + Fe(s)
>- discharge

The E.M.F. of this cell is 1.34 volts. The iron anode tends to become passive and also the rates of charge and discharge are rather low. Drumm got the idea of using a zinc negative electrode and after much experimenting used an electrolyte containing zinc oxide dissolved inpotassium hydroxide solution, in effect, potassium zincate solution.

The Drumm Cell, which has been the subject of patent rights in all the principal countries of the world, is an alkaline cell and the only metals which enter into its construction are stainless steel and pure nickel. Its mechanical strength is therefore quite satisfactory. The positive-plate system consists of the hydroxides of nickel mixed with nickel flakes. Thiselectrode was first developed by Edison. The negative plate is a grid of nickel gauze and the electrolyte is a solution of zinc oxide in potassium hydroxide (potassium zincate). During charge zinc is plated on to the nickel grid, and during discharge this zinc dissolves readily in thepotassium hydroxide. The reactions in the Drumm cell may thus be written:

2Ni(OH)2(s) + Zn(OH)2(s) < -> 2Ni(OH)3(s) + Zn(s)
< -discharge

Effectively then, the negative system is Zinc/Zinc hydroxide. The above reaction permits rapid charging and discharging rates – a great advantage over the Edison nickel-iron cell in which the ferric hydroxide in insoluble inpotassium hydroxide. The E.M.F. of the Drumm cell is 1.85 volts and even at high discharge rates is some 40% higher than that of other alkaline cells of the Edison Ni/Fe type. Chiefly in consequence of its high voltage and low internal resistance this battery could be charged and discharged many times a day. Unlike the lead accumulator the amp-hour capacity of the Drumm cell is independent of the rate of discharge. Thus, this cell will furnish 600 amps continuously for 1 hour, or 900 amps for 40 minutes or 200 amps for 3 hours.

The standard rate of charging for a single traction cell of weight 112 lb and allowing for all losses in efficiency, corresponds to an input of 0.134 effective watt-hour/lb/minute which is about four times the normal rate for alkaline cells. In practice the same cell is normally discharged at 400 amps and at an average voltage of 1.65 volts which is equivalent to about 0.1 watt-hour/lb/minute.

This figure is twice the highest discharge rate of other alkaline cells. But over and above this the current can, when required, be raised to 1000 amps for limited periods, corresponding to an energy delivery of about 0.22 watt-hour/lb/minute – a very high rate indeed. The Drumm cell deals with these loads quite comfortably and with no sign of deterioration. Another feature of the Drumm battery is that it cannot be damaged in any way by frequent over-charging or over-discharging.

Neither can prolonged reversals of current through the battery when discharging, cause any harm. The maximum allowable cell-temperature for this battery is 45 oC. The working life of the Drumm battery has been assessed as not less than ten years. Tests carried out on the nickel grid show that it can withstand hundreds of thousands of cathodic and anodic polarisations. The electrolyte is comparatively cheap and can be changed or renewed at very small cost.

Drumm battery powered train at Lucan Station, Co. Dublin

The power of furnishing energy at these unprecedented rates makes it possible for a traction battery of Drumm cells to overcome the grave disadvantage inherent in the majority of such batteries, i.e. the impossibility of furnishing rapid accelerations.

In February 1932 the Drumm battery train was charged at Inchicore and went on a test run to Portarlington and back – a total distance of 80 miles – on the single charge. This was repeated several times and a few days later the train went into regular service on the Dublin-Bray line and was operated for 180 to 230 miles per day. The battery was charged at Amiens Street Station (Connolly Station) and at Bray. The distance is about 14 miles.

Drumm battery powered train

The original Drumm train was constructed in the Great Southern Railways workshops at Inchicore. The weight of the train with passengers was about 85 tons. There was seating accommodation for 140 passengers. The train could accelerate from standstill at about 1 m.p.h. per second and attain speeds of 40 to 50 m.p.h. with ease. The train was fitted with a successful system of regenerative braking, whereby an important fraction of the energy surge made available on a down-gradient or on de-accelerating at a station was returned to the battery.

The Drumm Battery train operated successfully on the Dublin to Bray section of the line with occasional runs to Greystones some five miles farther on, from 1932 to 1948. As passsenger numbers increased two pairs of power units were joined under the control of one driver and later a specially wired coach was put between the two trains bringing its capacity up to 400 passengers. By 1939, four Drumm trains had been built but it became impossible to secure orders and raw material once the World War 11, 1939-1945, broke out. The Drumm Battery Company folded in 1940.

The outbreak of the war made the Drumm trains invaluable as coal for steam engines was in short supply and inferior. With the war over, it was decided in 1949 to scrap the Drumm trains at a time when the promise of diesel locomotives pointed to the end of the steam era. The Drumm trains, minus their batteries were sometimes used as ordinary coaches.

Professor A.J. Allmand F.R.S., in a report stated “It is clear that Dr. Drumm has produced a cell of somewhat remarkable properties, and that, although primarily designed for transport purposes, these properties may lead to its utilisation in other fields”. (Nature, 12th March, 1932). Drumm’s work on the traction battery – apart from his other contributions to industrial development – entitles him to a high place in the Honours List of Irish Scientists.

A postal stamp memorizing the Drumm battery train, Great Southern Railways, Ireland.

Biography of Jacques-Arsene d’Arsonval


French physicist and physician, D’ Arsonval was a pioneer in electrotherapy, he studied the medical application of high-frequency currents. Among his inventions were dielectric heating and various measuring devices, including the thermocouple ammeter and moving-coil galvanometer.

These measuring tools helped establish the science of electrical engineering. d’Arsonval’s galvanometer, which he invented in 1882 for measuring weak electric currents, became the basis for almost all panel-type pointer meters. He was also involved in the industrial application of electricity.

Jaques-Arsene d’Arsonval was born on June 8, 1851 at the Pigsty, canton Saint-Germain-les-Belles, in his family house of “Borie” known from 14th century. His family had very old and noble roots. Nine children were born in the family, but only two of them including Arsene survived. Arsene d’Arsonval has studied in the Imperial College of Limoges (now LycEe Gay-Lussac).

After the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 he went to Paris where he met the famous physiologist Claude Bernard (1813-1878) and was drawn to Bernard’s lectures at Sainte-Barbe college in Paris (the College bears d’Arsonval’s name since 1959). d’Arsonval was Bernard’s prEparateur from 1873 to 1878. After Bernard’s death he assisted Charles-Edouard Brown-SEquard (1817-1894), giving the latter’s winter courses, and eventually replaced him at the College de France when Brown-SEquard died in 1894. The picture shows him as a student in 1873.

Influenced by Bernard, d’Arsonval gave up his medical career for a life of physiological research. As Bernard’s assistant, d’Arsonval’s first projects were on animal heat and body temperature. He assisted Brown-SEquard the famous experiment on endocrine extract.

Their investigations of the therapeutic properties of animal extracts revealed clues to the later controversial hormone theory of wound healing. They found that testicular extracts from guinea pigs had definite antiseptic properties. D’Arsonval’s most outstanding scientific contributions, however, involved the biological and technological applications of electricity. Much of this work concerned muscle contractions.

In 1871, 20 years old, d’ Arsonval married a young widow, mother of a 3 years old girl. His wife died in 1896. He was married again, but he didn’t have children from the both wifes.

On November 14, 1881, Paul Bert (1830-1886) was appointed minister of public education in Leon Gambetta’s (1838-1882) government. Although Gambetta’s ministry only lasted until January 26, 1882, Bert, physiologist, politician and diplomat, considered the founder of modern aerospace medicine, enabled College de France to establish a laboratory for biophysics at rue St.-Jacques (the laboratory building is shown in the picture). D’Arsonval directed the laboratory from 1882 until 1910, when he moved to the new laboratory at Nogent-sur-Marne, erected with funds raised by public subscription. He directed this laboratory until his retirement in 1931.

Biomedical engineering – the application of engineering science and techniques to the problems of biology and medicine – did not emerge as a field until after World War II. However, Arsene d’Arsonval made important contributions to this area much earlier. Trained as a physician, d’Arsonval studied electrophysiology, animal heat and electrotherapy.

Two key investigators of electrophysiology during the nineteenth century were Jacques Arsene d’Arsonval and Nikola Tesla. d’Arsonval independently reported similar observations on the physiological effects of high frequency currents before the Society of Biology in Paris. In early 1892, Tesla met d’Arsonval on a lecture tour of France where Tesla was pleasantly surprised to find that d’Arsonval used his oscillators to investigate the physiological effects of high frequency currents.

D’Arsonval studied a wide variety of the physiological effects of alternating currents, time varying electric and magnetic fields, induced currents via capacitive or inductive coupling, and high frequency. He also studied the effects of muscle stimulation, pulse changes, perspiration, and nervous stimulation. In 1892 he introduced the use of high-frequency currents to treat diseases of the skin and mucous membranes. The current is now known as the D’Arsonval current.

The medical terms “darsonvalisation” and “diathermy” used in physiotherapy originated from his research. The picture shows a d’Arsonval’s electrical device used for medical applications. In the old dictionaries, you find the word “darsonvalisation” as a synonym for electromedicine. History has not been kind to Tesla in the sense that the credit for all of the pioneering work in the field of electrotherapy has gone almost exclusively to d’Arsonval.

Diathermy therapy

In diathermy, high-frequency electrical currents are used to heat deep muscular tissues. The heat increases blood flow, speeding up recovery. Doctors also use diathermy in surgical procedures by sealing blood vessels with electrically heated probes. The term diathermy is derived from the Greek words therma, meaning heat, and dia, meaning through. Diathermy literally means heating through. The therapeutic effects of heat have long been recognized. More than 2,000 years ago, the Romans took advantage of heat therapies by building hot-spring bathhouses. Since then, various methods of using heat have evolved.

In the early 1890s, French physiologist ArsEne d’Arsonval began studying the medical application of high-frequency currents. The term diathermy was coined by German physician Carl Franz Nagelschmidt, who designed a prototype apparatus in 1906. Around 1925, United States doctor J. W. Schereschewsky began studying the physiological effects of high-frequency electrical currents on animals. It was several years, however, before the fundamentals of the therapy were understood and put into practice.

The original high-voltage transformer generating high frequency current was manufactured in 1895 by the E. Ducrett & L. Lejeune company from Paris based on Tesla’s description (Tesla’s lecture, Paris, 1892). It was used for therapeutical purposes by Dr. d’Arsonval, after whom the way of applying alternating current in medicine was named “darsonvalisation”. In 1892 d’Arsonval demonstrated how a human being could conduct an alternating current strong enough to light an electric lamp.

D’Arsonval’s great solenoid, 1893

Visible effects of larger magnetic fields were first recorded by d’Arsonval in 1896. Anyone who puts his head into a high magnetic field of 18,000 gauss (1.8 tesla) and moves his head around is likely to see flashes of light on the retina. But these visual sensations (magnetophosphenes) are caused by induced electric currents in the retina. People also have observed magnetophosphenes in alternating magnetic fields with frequencies close to power-line frequencies of 60 Hz. The effect occurs either by moving through a magnetic field or by changing a magnetic field. But the magnetic-field intensity must be above 70 gauss.

D’Arsonval’s studied muscle contractions in frogs using a telephone, which operates on an extremely feeble currents similar to animal electricity. Upon these studies he invented in 1882 with Etienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904) and Deprez of what is now known as the d’Arsonval galvanometer. In 1880, Jacques-Arsene d’Arsonval made a dramatic improvement by attaching a small coil to the meter needle and locating both inside the field of a permanent magnet.

This d’Arsonval movement and other rapid changes in electrical technology soon made the tangent galvanometer obsolete. This instrument uses a coil of fine wire suspended between the poles of a permanent magnet. Current is applied through a small wire attached to the top of the coil and exits through a springlike wire attached to the bottom.

With no current applied, the springlike wire keeps the coil in the zero position. When the current is introduced, it establishes a magnetic field in the coil. This field interacts with the magnetic field of the permanent magnet, causing the coil to turn. In some D’Arsonval galvanometers, a fine needle is attached to the moving coil to serve as the indicator. In others, a small mirror is attached to the coil, and a beam of light is reflected off the mirror and onto a scale a distance away.

The galvanometer proposed by d’Arsonval in collaboration with Deprez is also defined as a mobile bobbin galvanometer and differs from those with a mobile magnet in that it is based on the interaction between a fixed magnet and a mobile circuit followed by the current being measured. Among the advantages of this type of galvanometer is a higher sensitivity based on the strong magnetic field inside the bobbin. From this galvanometer are derived all mobile bobbin instruments, both portable and non-portable.

Between the N and S poles of a permanent horseshoe iron magnet, shaped around a cylindrical cavity, is put a nucleus, F, of soft iron which is also cylindrical. Between the poles and the nucleus is a very strong magnetic field, directed radially.

A bobbin, B, which encloses the nucleus, can rotate around the axis of the cavity. If one brings the current to be measured through the bobbin using a coil spring, the bobbin rotates until the effect exerted upon it by the magnetic field is equalized by the torsion of the coil spring. Meanwhile, an indicator, I, connected to the bobbin, moves on a graduated scale, S. Since the direction of rotation is reversed if the direction of the current is reversed, mobile bobbin instruments of this type can be used only to measure continuous currents. In instruments with higher sensitivity, the opposing action of the bobbin is generated not by the torsion of a coil spring, but by the torsion of the wire by which the bobbin is suspended.

In 1879, in partnership with Paul Bert, d’Arsonval improved the telephone. The pictures show telephone units developed by d’Arsonval.

In 1881, d’Arsonval was one of the principal organizers of the international congress of the electricians which unified the system of the units.

d’Arsonval was a high-ranking mainstream scientist, a prolific inventor in lots of different fields. For example, in 1881, Arsene d’Arsonval first suggested harnessing the temperature difference in the tropical seas for the generation of electricity. His idea was given a first test by Georges Claude in Cuba in the 1920′s, and this technology is now ready for producing electricity from sea solar power.

In 1902 d’Arsonval worked with George Claude on the liquefaction of gases and they have started the liquid air industry in Champigny. His contribution to medicine, now overshadowed by the antibiotic era, created a minor revolution in clinical therapeutics. D’Arsonval literally founded the paramedical field of physiotherapy. In 1918 he was elected president of the Institute for Actinology.

D’Arsonval was an active member of societies for electrotherapy, physics, electronics, engineering, electroceramics, and soldering, in addition to being a member of the Society of Biologists, the Academy of Medicine (1888), and the Academy of Sciences (1894). He was created knight of the Legion of Honour in 1884, and received the Grand Cross in 1931.

D’Arsonval was a brilliant man, perhaps a genius – lots of streets and colleges are named after him in France, in 1933 the Ministry of Education held an official jubilee for d’Arsonval at the Sorbonne, but he’s completely forgotten nervertheless!

Biography of Jabir Ibn Haiyan


Jabir Ibn Haiyan, the chemist Geber of the Middle Ages, is generally known as the father of chemistry. Abu Musa Jabir Ibn Hayyan, sometimes called al-Harrani and al-Sufi, was the son of the druggist (Attar). The precise date of his birth is the subject of some discussion, but it is established that he practiced medicine and alchemy in Kufa around 776 C.E. He is reported to have studied under Imam Ja’far Sadiq and the Ummayed prince Khalid Ibn Yazid. In his early days, he practiced medicine and was under the patronage of the Barmaki Vizir during the Abbssid Caliphate of Haroon al-Rashid. He shared some of the effects of the downfall of the Barmakis and was placed under house arrest in Kufa, where he died in 803 C.E.

Jabir’s major contribution was in the field of chemistry. He introduced experimental investigation into alchemy, which rapidly changed its character into modern chemistry. On the ruins of his well-known laboratory remained after centuries, but his fame rests on over 100 monumental treatises, of which 22 relate to chemistry and alchemy. His contribution of fundamental importance to chemistry includes perfection of scientific techniques such as crystallization, distillation, calcinations, sublimation and evaporation and development of several instruments for the same. The fact of early development of chemistry as a distinct branch of science by the Arabs, instead of the earlier vague ideas, is well-established and the very name chemistry is derived from the Arabic word al-Kimya, which was studied and developed extensively by the Muslimscientists.

Perhaps Jabir’s major practical achievement was the discovery of mineral and others acids, which he prepared for the first time in his alembic (Anbique). Apart from several contributions of basic nature to alchemy, involving largely the preparation of new compounds and development of chemical methods, he also developed a number of applied chemical processes, thus becoming a pioneer in the field of applied science. Hisachievements in this field include preparation of various metals, development of steel, dyeing of cloth and tanning of leather, varnishing of water-proof cloth, use of manganese dioxide in glass-making, prevention of rusting, lettering in gold, identification of paints, greases, etc. During the course of these practical endeavors, he also developed aqua regia to dissolve gold. The alembic is his great invention, which made easy and systematic the process of distillation. Jabir laid great stress on experimentation and accuracy in his work.

Based on their properties, he has described three distinct types of substances. First, spirits i.e. those which vaporize on heating, like camphor, arsenic and ammonium chloride; secondly, metals, for example, gold, silver, lead, copper, iron, and thirdly, the category of compounds which can be converted into powders. He thus paved the way for such later classification as metals, non-metals and volatile substances.

Biography of Isaak Adams, Jr.


Isaak Adams, Jr., pioneer discoverer and promoter of electrochemical nickel-plating process, who largely introduced it in industry. Isaak Adams, Jr. was born in South Boston, February 20, 1836. He was a direct descendant of Joseph Adams, born in Braintree, Mass. in 1654, the grandfather of President John Adams. His father, the Honorable Isaac Adams, Sr., is noted as the inventor of the Adams power press for printing, 1828-34, which in time made the father a millionaire.

Isaac Adams, Jr.’s mother died when he was only a few years old. He was educated at Sandwich Academy (1846-48). Chauncey Hall School (1848-54), Bowdoin College (1854-58), Harvard Medical School (M.D., 1862), and Ecole de MEdicine in Paris (1862-64). In late 1864 he established himself as a physician in Boston, but attracted to industrial chemistry, he served also as an analytical and consulting chemist for the next few years to his Uncle Seth’s Adams Sugar Refinery, to a glass manufacturing business, and to other businesses.

In his testimony in a nickel-plating patent suit against Edward Weston in 1874 Adams stated that he had been succesful in producing a nickel electrotype while studying under Josiah Parsons Cooke at Harvard from 1858 to 1860. He was unable to repeat this feat in the winter 1865-66 while engaged in nickel plating over 100 gross of gas burner tips.

Faced with this inconsistency in 1866, he investigated the effect of such impurities as zinc, arsenic, copper and iron on the electrodeposition of nickel. He found that nickel deposited best in neutral or slightly acid solutions, in the range between neutral litmus and congo red paper. Adams also found that cast nickel anodes could be produced which dissolved satisfactorily to maintain the solutions during plating.

Armed with this knowledge, Adams decided in 1868 to devote himself wholly to the commercial introduction of nickel-plating even over his father’s objections. He obtained a number of patents in 1869 and early in the year took over the nickel plating business of Wm. H. Remington and Co. of Boston. When the company failed, he formed from it the Boston Nickel Plating Co., which operated for about 100 years.

A United Nickel Co. was also incorporated in New York June 14, 1869, with Adams as president. This company owned the patents and after they expired, went out of business in 1890, having filed hundreds of patent suits and collected royalties from more than 1000 licensees. In the latter part of 1869 and the first half of 1870, Adams went to Europe and visited England, France, and Germany to introduce commercial nickel plating. He was partcularly succesful in England and France.

Scheme of the electrochemical plating of nickel

A typical electroplating cell consists of anode, cathode, aqueous-metal solution, and a power supply. In the simplified example shown here, the sacrificial anode is made of nickel, the cathode is made of another conductive material, and the aqueous-metal solution consists of nickel (Ni2+), hydrogen (H+), and sulfate ions (SO42-). When the power supply is turned on, the positive ions in the solution are attracted to the negatively biased cathode. The nickel ions that reach the cathode gain electrons and are deposited or plated onto the surface of the cathode forming the electrodeposit.

Simultaneously, nickel is electrochemically etched from the nickel anode, to produce ions for the aqueous solution and electrons for the power supply. Hydrogen ions that also gain electrons from the cathode form bubbles of hydrogen gas. The formation of hydrogen gas is undesirable since it lowers the plating efficiency (i.e., only a fraction of the total current is used to form the electrodeposit) and the bubbles can obstruct the deposition of the intended electrodeposit.

Adams also became an expert glass blower and made a large number of Geissler tubes which he sold between 1865 and 1868. In 1865 he developed a vacuum tube carbon “burner” incandescent electric light, about 14 years prior to the Edison-Swann inventions of 1879. Early in 1867 he went to Europe, partly to consider the commercial possibilities of electric lighting with A. Gaiffe of Paris, an instrument maker who later became his French backer for the sale of nickel plating. At this time electricity was largely of battery origin, and while Adams’ introduction of dynamo electric machines, in 1867 he decided not to enter the electric light business for lack of a cheap source of electric power.

A U.S. breech-loading rifle made in 1865

Adams also made other discoveries of importance from time to time. An historian of Bowdoin College stated that his work on breech-loading rifles was hardly less important than his invention of nickel-plating. He became widely known as an outstanding electrochemical expert and teamed up with Charles F. Chandler of Columbia University in connection with the nickel-plating suits. Some work for Hood Rubber Co. resulted in a patent on the use of copper plate on steel shafts for bonding rubber to the steel for clothes wringer rolls.

Adams married Lucille Emille Lods in 1869 or 1870. She was in some way related to his French backer, A. Gaiffe, and had two daughters by previous marriage. Adams had two sons, Walter Owen (1877-1926) and Rayne (1880-1931), but no further descendants.

Stock certificate of the Adams’ Company

Following the succesful putcome of his nickel-plating patent suits in the period from 1871 to 1886, Adams largely retired from public life. He had a special interest in the variations of the magnetic field of the earth and reported his measurements to the U.S. Geodetic Survey.

He died at Annisquam, Mass., July 24, 1911.

Biography of Ibn Sina


Ibn Sina was born in 980 C.E. in the village of Afshana near Bukhara whichtoday is located in the far south of Russia. His father, Abdullah, anadherent of the Ismaili sect, was from Balkh and his mother from a village near Bukhara. In any age Ibn Sina, known in the West as Avicenna, would have been a giant among giants. He displayed exceptional intellectual prowess as a child and at the age of ten was already proficient in the Qur’an and the Arabic classics. During the next six years he devoted himself to Muslim Jurisprudence, Philosophy and Natural Science and studied Logic, Euclid, and the Almeagest.

He turned his attention to Medicine at the age of 17 years and found it, in his own words, “not difficult”. However he was greatly troubled bymetaphysical problems and in particular the works of Aristotle. By chance, he obtained a manual on this subject by the celebrated philosopher alFarabi which solved his difficulties. By the age of 18 he had built up a reputation as a physician and was summoned to attend the Samani ruler Nuh ibn Mansur (reigned 976997 C.E.), who, in gratitude for Ibn Sina’s services, allowed him to make free use of the royal library, which contained many rare and even unique books. Endowed with great powers of absorbing and retaining knowledge, this Muslim scholar devoured the contents of the library and at the age of 21 was in a position to compose his first book.

At about the same time he lost his father and soon afterwards left Bukhara and wandered westwards. He entered the services of Ali ibn Ma’mun, the ruler of Khiva, for a while, but ultimately fled to avoid being kidnapped by the Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna. After many wanderings he came to Jurjan, near the Caspian Sea, attracted by the fame of its ruler, Qabus, as a patron of learning. Unfortunately Ibn Sina’s arrival almost coincided with the deposition and murder of this ruler. At Jurjan, Ibn Sina lectured on logic and astronomy and wrote the first part of the Qanun, his greatest work.