Monday, November 29, 2010

Christian Andreas Doppler

Christian Andreas Doppler was born on November, 29, 1803 in Salzburg, Austria. He was the son of a successful stonemason, but as he grew he was unable to work in his father's business due to his frailty and generally poor health. Doppler attended primary school in Salzburg and Secondary school in Linz. Unsure about the academic potential of their son, his parents consulted a mathematics professor who suggested that he study higher mathematics at the Vienna Polytechnic Institute. Doppler began his studies there in 1822. He excelled at mathematics and graduated in 1825. After graduation he returned to Salzburg, where he attended philosophy lectures at the Salzburg Lyceum and afterward studied higher mathematics, mechanics and astronomy at the University of Vienna.

At the end of his studies he was appointed assistant to mathematics professor A. Burg at Vienna University. He remained in this position for four years publishing papers on mathematics. At the age of 30 he began competing to find a permanent position. At that time open competitions were held to fill open professorships. Doppler competed for many positions and while he was waiting he supported himself by working as a bookkeeper for a cotton spinning factory. Despairing of not getting a position, Doppler sold his things in order to finance a trip to America, but before his final decision was made he was offered a position at the Technical Secondary School in Prague. Doppler was ambitious and wanted to do more than teach elementary mathematics. He applied to become a professor at the Polytechnic in Prague without success, until 1841 when he was appointed to the post.

Doppler's tenure at the Polytechnic was rocky and his students complained that his examinations were to difficult. He was reprimanded and forced to reexamine his students. In 1844 he was forced to give up teaching due to his poor health. He returned in 1846. Leaving his troubles in Prague behind he took a position as professor of mathematics, physics and mechanics at the Academy of Forests and Mines in Banska Stiavnica. As a result of the stormy revolutionary year 1848 Doppler sought refuge and went to Vienna, where he was appointed as the first director of the Institute of Physics at Vienna University.

Not all of Doppler's contemporaries considered him a brilliant mathematician, but he had an original way of looking at things that not all appreciated. For years Doppler attempted to become a member of the Bohemian Society, and despite good recommendations it was not until 1843 that he was elected in. In 1842 he presented a paper on the color of binary stars and how it is affected by their motion, to or away from the observer. Although the color changes of binary stars are not great enough to be significant, light is a wave and if a star emitting light is traveling toward the observer it will shorten the wavelength of light it is emitting moving it toward the red end of the visual spectrum. If the star is moving away from the observer the wavelengths grow longer, shifting the wavelength to the blue/violet end of the visible spectrum. These effects are called red shift and blue shift. This effect is most easily demonstrated with sound waves. A siren approaching the observer has a higher pitch than it would have if it were stationary with respect to the observer. As the siren passes the observer the pitch drops lower than it would have if it were stationary with respect to the observer. In 1845 Doppler performed an experiment with trumpeters on a railway car playing a single sustained note. As the railway approached and passed musicians recorded what notes they heard, demonstrating that the horn's pitch lowered as they passed the observer. This effect is called the Doppler effect.

Doppler died on March 17, 1853 in Venice, then a part of the Austrian Empire.

O'Connor, JJ and Robertson, EF; "Christian Andreas Doppler"; MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive; University of St. Andrews

Maizlin, Z.V.; The Wonders of Radiology; Create Space; 2010

Christian Doppler Wikipedia Entry

Monday, November 22, 2010

Vladimir Nikolaevich Ipatieff

Vladimir Nikolaevich Ipatieff was born on November 21, 1867 in Moscow, Russia. Ipatieff spent his early years studying for a military career. At age 11, after two years of regular gymnasium, he enrolled at the Third Moscow Military Gymnasium. Although he excelled in math generally his grades were poor until he reached the sixth class at age fourteen. After graduation, at sixteen he went to the Alexander Military School in Moscow when he failed to be admitted to the Mikhail Artillery School in St. Petersberg. He worked hard to achieve grades that led his class and in 1886 he transferred to the Mikhail Artillery School. He graduated in 1887 and was commissioned a lieutenant, using a portion of the money given to him by the government and his father to set up a chemistry laboratory in his home.

He began teaching chemistry at the artillery academy and working toward a doctorate, which he obtained from St. Petersberg University in 1906. He began teaching at the university in 1906 as a lecturer and remained until 1916. During World War I he served as the director of the Commission for Preparation of Explosives and Chair of the Chemical Committee. Because he was uninterested in politics he was asked, after the revolution, to remain in charge and help convert the wartime chemical industry to a peacetime industry. In 1930, at the age of 64, taking his wife with him, he left the Soviet Union to go to a meeting in Berlin. He never returned. Initially he split his time between the United States and Berlin, but eventually settled in the United States.

Ipatieff's research interests were studying the effects of high pressures and catalysts on hydrocarbons. In 1927 he founded the High Pressure Institute, where he and his students studied the effect of inorganic molecules (catalysts) on organic compounds at high pressures and temperatures. To perform these studies Ipatieff developed a bomb shaped steel case that could withstand high pressures, called an Ipatieff bomb. Catalysts are compounds that when added to a chemical reaction lower the activation energy necessary for the reaction to happen, thus speed the reaction. Inorganic (non-carbon containing) compounds are often used as catalysts in organic (carbon containing) chemistry. One example of a catalytic reaction discovered by Ipatieff is the preparation of high-octane fuels by the catalytic conversion of paraffin. The high octane fuels that were produced were used by the British Air Force during World War II, and allowed British airplanes to go faster than German planes.

After moving to the United States Ipatieff obtained a lecturer position at Northwestern University and worked for the Universal Oil Products Company. Initially the Soviet Union tried to encourage Ipatieff to return, but he had no desire to return. Eventually he was denounced by the Soviet Union (and even by his own son, who was a chemistry teacher) and had his citizenship revoked. He was also expelled from the Russian Academy of Science. He became a U. S. citizen in 1937 and was elected the National Academy of Science in 1939. Throughout his time in the U.S. he remained active in his research, publishing almost 160 papers between 1933 and 1954, and with his name on more than 200 patents.

Ipatieff died on November 29, 1952.


McDermott, Wm. F.; "Faster than Bullets"; The Rotarian (1951) Vol. 58 No. 1:29-31, 56

Schmerling, Lewis; "Vladimir Nikolaevich Ipatieff: 1867-1952"; in Biographical Memiors Vol. 57; National Academy Press; 1975

Sunday, November 14, 2010

William Hewson

William Hewson was born on November. 14, 1739 in Hexham, Northumberland, England. The son of a respected local surgeon also named William Hewson. As was the custom in those days he did not attend medical school, so after attending Hexham Grammar School, he was apprenticed to his father, and was also a pupil of Richard Lambert of Newcastle. In 1759 he went to London, where he lodged with John Hunter. While attending lectures on anatomy given by Hunter's older brother William, he studied at Guy's and St. Thomas hospitals. When in 1760 William Hunter went abroad with the army, Hewson continued the lectures for the other pupils.

Recognizing his extraordinary ability, when William Hunter returned he offered to take Hewson on as a partner teaching anatomy, if Hewson would go to Edinborough and study for a year, which Hewson did. He returned to London in the winter of 1762 and began lectureing with Hunter which provided him a steady income. The Hunter brothers both studied and taught anatomy, but in addition to studying human anatomy they also studied the anatomy of fishes, birds and animals, as did Hewson when he came under their influence. Hewson became interested in blood, lymph and lymphatic organs such as the thymus which which he was one of the first to study microscopically. In 1770 Hewson married Mary Stevenson, with whose mother Benjamin Franklin lodged with when he came to London in 1757. Franklin stayed in London until 1775 and became good friends with Mary, whom he called "Polly". Hewson dedicated one of the books that he wrote to Benjamin Franklin.

Hewson was the first to show that the lymphatic system was not part of the circulation and that nodes are stopping points along the lymphatic vessels. He also demonstrated that all parts of the body drain into the lymphatic system and not just the small intestine, by using a dye which he showed ran throughout the body of an animal test subject. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system through which fluid and white blood cells are transported to the heart, and because all parts of the body drain into the lymphatic system it serves as as place where foreign particles can be detected by white blood cells.

Hewson also investigated blood coagulation. He was the first to identify that fibrinogen, the protein that causes blood to coagulate, is found in the plasma. Before it was believed that the protein was a constituent of red blood cells. He believed that it was contact with air that caused blood to coagulate, but this was later disproved by John Hunter who showed that blood could coagulate in a vacuum. It was due to the observations of Hewson that later scientists were able to discover all of the factors of the coagulation cascade, a series of proteins that activate fibrinogen and cause blood to coagulate.

In late April of 1774 Hewson accidentally wounded himself while dissecting a corpse. Septicemia followed and he died on May, 1, 1774 at the age of 34, and was buried at St. Martins in the Fields.


Dameshek, William; "Editorial: William Hewson, Thymicologist; Father of Hematology"; Blood(1963)21:513-516

Doyle, Derek;"William Hewson(1739-1774): The Father of Haematology"; British Journal of Heamatology(2006)133:375-381

Stephen, Leslie and Lee, Sidney;"Hewson, William" in The Dictionary of National Biography Vol. 26; Smith, Elder and Co.; 1891

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Konrad Zacarias Lorenz

Konrad Zacarias Lorenz was born on November 7, 1903 in Altenberg, Vienna, the son of an orthopedic surgeon. His parents had a large house and garden which allowed him to keep many animals. In an autobiography he says, "they were supremely tolerant of my inordinate love for animals." His study of animals started at a young age and he became an expert on the behaviour of ducks. His first exposure to evolution came from his reading, but in school, even though he studied under a Benedictine Monk he learned about Darwin's theory of evolution, free thought being a characteristic of Austria. His interest in the study of evolution led him to study paleontology as a means of understanding evolution.

After high school, following his father's wishes he took pre-medical school classes at Columbia University. He stayed at Columbia for a year before returning to Vienna where he continued his medical studies at the University of Vienna, finishing his MD in 1928. In medical school his anatomy professor was Ferdinand Hoschsetter, and under his teaching Lorenz began to study comparative anatomy, which he soon realized was a better way to study evolution than paleontology. After graduation, instead of practicing medicine Lorenz continued his studies in comparative anatomy, supporting himself by taking a position at the university as an assistant in the Institute of Anatomy, which he retained until 1935. In 1933 he finished his Ph.D. in comparative anatomy. Throughout he kept studying the birds on his parents estate.

In 1936 Lorenz met Nikolaas Tinbergen at a conference in Leiden, Holland. Lorenz found that their studies had much in common and he invited Tinbergen to come to work with him at his parents estate. With Tinbergen, he conducted experiments using the birds on his parent's estate. In these studies they compared the behavior of the wild, domestic and hybrid geese. They showed that domesticated geese had an increased drive for feeding and copulation, but showed a decrease in socialization. Soon after came the Anchluss, the German annexation of Austria, and Lorenz wrote about the differences of domesticated species using terms of Nazi ideology. These allowed Lorenz to be appointed the chair in psychology at Koningsberg. Lorenz later recanted these writings. During the World War II Lorenz served as a physician on the German side, until he was captured by the Russians, after which he was a prisoner of war, serving the medical needs of the Russian army.

After being released by the Russians, Lorenz returned to Altenberg. Unable to obtain an academic position, with the aid of donations and his students he continued his animal research there concentrating again on water fowl and fish. He made a study of the bonding of water fowl and aggressiveness of fish. Even after years of watching animals he found there were new insights and published more papers describing these behaviours. In 1950 the Max Planck Society established the Lorenz Institute for Behavioural Physiology in Buldern, Germany.

In 1973 Lorenz, Tinbergen, and Karl Von Frisch won the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine for "their discoveries concerning organization and elucidation of individual and social behavior patterns". They were awarded the prize for developing the science of ethology. Ethology is the study of animal behavior with regard to evolution. Where a psycologist will study the behavoir of an animal in a laboratory, out of the animals native environment, an ethologist studies behavior in the environment. Studying how evolution has affected an animal's behavior.

Lorenz died on February 27, 1989.


Fuller, Ray; Seven Pioneers of Psychology: Behaviour and Mind
; Psychology Press; 1995

Lorenz, Konrad, Nobel Autobiography

Lorenz, Konrad Wikipedia Entry