Portal:Technology/Featured biography

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Featured biographies list[edit]

Portal:Technology/Featured biography/1

An original drawing by Zobel of a band-pass filter used for impedance matching

Otto Julius Zobel (1887–1970) was a design engineer who worked for the American Telephone & Telegraph Company (AT&T) in the early part of the 20th century. Zobel's work on filter design was revolutionary and led, in conjunction with the work of John R. Carson, to significant commercial advances for AT&T in the field of frequency division multiplex (FDM) telephone transmissions. Although much of Zobel's work has been superseded by more modern filter designs, it remains the basis of filter theory and his papers are still referenced today. Zobel invented the m-derived filter and the constant-resistance filter, which remains in use. Zobel and Carson helped to establish the nature of noise in electric circuits, concluding that—contrary to mainstream belief—it is not even theoretically possible to filter out noise entirely and that noise will always be a limiting factor in what it is possible to transmit. Thus, they anticipated the later work of Claude Shannon, who showed how the theoretical information rate of a channel is related to the noise of the channel.

...Archive/Nominations



Portal:Technology/Featured biography/2

Matthew Boulton

Matthew Boulton (1728–1809) was an English manufacturer and the partner of engineer James Watt. In the final quarter of the 18th century, the partnership installed hundreds of Boulton & Watt steam engines, which were a great advance on the state of the art, making possible the mechanisation of factories and mills. He became associated partner with James Watt when Watt's business partner, John Roebuck, was unable to pay a debt to Boulton, who accepted Roebuck's share of Watt's patent as settlement. He then successfully lobbied Parliament to extend Watt's patent for an additional seventeen years, enabling the firm to market Watt's steam engine. Boulton applied modern techniques to the minting of coins, striking millions of pieces for Britain and other countries, and supplying the Royal Mint with up-to-date equipment. Boulton was a key member of the Lunar Society, a group of Birmingham-area men prominent in the arts, sciences, and theology. Members included Boulton, Watt, Erasmus Darwin, Josiah Wedgwood, and Joseph Priestley. Members of the Society have been given credit for developing concepts and techniques in science, agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and transportation that laid the groundwork for the Industrial Revolution and for later discoveries, including the theory of evolution.

...Archive/Nominations



Portal:Technology/Featured biography/3

Ernest Emerso

Ernest Emerson is a custom knifemaker, martial artist, and edged-weapons authority who founded Emerson Knives, Inc in 1996. Once known for making "art knives", he later became better known as one of the knifemakers who started the Tactical Knife trend in the early 1990s with his award winning cutlery. Emerson's knives have been displayed as museum pieces, carried by Navy SEALs, used by NASA in outer space, and have been featured in books and films, making them valuable and popular with collectors. Emerson's knifemaking career was born from his experience as an engineer and machinist in the aerospace industry coupled with his lifelong study of martial arts. Drawing on his experience as a craftsman and engineer, Emerson has also begun making custom handmade electric guitars. Emerson's own personally developed fighting technique, Emerson Combat Systems, has been taught to police officers, elite military units, and civilians worldwide; making Emerson a highly sought after combatives instructor, author, and noted authority on edged-weapons in combat.

...Archive/Nominations



Portal:Technology/Featured biography/4

Joseph Francis Shea

Joseph Francis Shea (1926–1999) was an aerospace engineer and NASA manager. Born in the Bronx, New York, he was educated at the University of Michigan, receiving a Ph.D. in Engineering Mechanics in 1955. After working for Bell Labs on the radio inertial guidance system of the Titan I intercontinental ballistic missile, he was hired by NASA in 1961. As Deputy Director of NASA's Office of Manned Space Flight, and later as head of the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office, Shea played a key role in shaping the course of the Apollo program, helping to lead NASA to the decision in favor of lunar orbit rendezvous and supporting "all up" testing of the Saturn V rocket. While sometimes causing controversy within the agency, Shea was remembered by his former colleague George Mueller as "one of the greatest systems engineers of our time". Deeply involved in the investigation of the Apollo 1 fire, Shea suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of the stress that he suffered. He was removed from his position and left NASA shortly afterwards. From 1968 until 1990 he worked as a senior manager at Raytheon in Lexington, Massachusetts, and thereafter became an adjunct professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. While Shea served as a consultant for NASA on the redesign of the International Space Station in 1993, he was forced to resign from the position due to health issues.

...Archive/Nominations



Portal:Technology/Featured biography/5

John Douglas

John Douglas (1830–1911) was an English architect who designed about 500 buildings in Cheshire, North Wales and northwest England, in particular in the estate of Eaton Hall. Douglas' output included the creation, restoration and renovation of churches, church furnishings, houses and other buildings. His architectural styles were eclectic and many of his works incorporate elements of the English Gothic style. He was also influenced by architectural styles from the mainland of Europe and included elements of French, German and Netherlandish architecture into his works. He is remembered for his use of half-timbering, tile-hanging, pargeting, decorative brick in diapering and the design of tall chimney stacks. Of particular importance is Douglas' use of joinery and highly detailed wood carving. Throughout his career he attracted commissions from wealthy landowners and industrialists. Most of his works have survived. The city of Chester contains a number of his structures, the most admired of which are his half-timbered black-and-white buildings and Eastgate Clock. The highest concentration of his work is found in the Eaton Hall estate and the surrounding villages of Eccleston, Aldford and Pulford.

...Archive/Nominations



Portal:Technology/Featured biography/6

Charles Holden

Charles Holden (1875–1960) was an English architect best known for designing many London Underground stations during the 1920s and 1930s, for Bristol Central Library, the Underground Electric Railways Company of London's headquarters at 55 Broadway and for the University of London's Senate House. He also created many war cemeteries in Belgium and northern France for the Imperial War Graves Commission. Although not without its critics, his architecture is widely appreciated. He was awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects' Royal Gold Medal for architecture in 1936 and was appointed a Royal Designer for Industry in 1943. His station designs for London Underground became the corporation's standard design influencing designs by all architects working for the organisation in the 1930s. Many of his buildings have been granted listed building status, protecting them from unapproved alteration. Modestly believing that architecture was a collaborative effort, he twice declined the offer of a knighthood.

...Archive/Nominations



Portal:Technology/Featured biography/7

Benjamin Mountfort

Benjamin Mountfort was an English emigrant to New Zealand, where he became one of that country's most prominent 19th-century architects. He was instrumental in shaping the city of Christchurch. He was appointed the first official Provincial Architect of the developing province of Canterbury. Heavily influenced by the Anglo-Catholic philosophy behind early Victorian architecture he is credited with importing the Gothic revival style to New Zealand. His Gothic designs constructed in both wood and stone in the province are considered to be unique to New Zealand. Today he is considered the founding architect of the province of Canterbury, and he ranks today with his contemporary R A Lawson as one of New Zealand's greatest 19th century architects.

In the 1860s, New Zealand was a developing country, where materials and resources freely available in Europe were absent in New Zealand. When available they were often of inferior quality. His monumental Gothic stone civic buildings in Christchurch, which would not be out of place in Oxford or Cambridge, are an amazing achievement over adversity of materials.

...Archive/Nominations



Portal:Technology/Featured biography/8

I. M. Pei

I. M. Pei (born 1917) is a Chinese American architect, often called a master of modern architecture. Born in Guangzhou, in 1935 he moved to the United States. While enrolled at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he became unhappy with the school's focus on Beaux-Arts architecture, and spent his free time researching the emerging architects, especially Le Corbusier. After graduating, he joined the Harvard Graduate School of Design and formed a friendship with the Bauhaus architects Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. Pei spent ten years working with New York real estate magnate William Zeckendorf before establishing his own independent design firm that eventually became Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. Among the early projects on which Pei took the lead were the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, DC, and the Green Building at MIT. His first major recognition came with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado; his new stature led to his selection as chief architect for the John F. Kennedy Library in Massachusetts. He went on to design Dallas City Hall and the East Building of the National Gallery of Art. In the early 1980s, Pei was the focus of controversy when he designed a glass-and-steel pyramid for the Louvre museum in Paris. Pei has won a wide variety of prizes and awards in the field of architecture, including the 1983 Pritzker Prize, sometimes called the Nobel Prize of architecture.

...Archive/Nominations



Portal:Technology/Featured biography/9

Edmund Sharpe

Edmund Sharpe (1809–77) was an English architect, architectural historian, railway engineer, and sanitary reformer. Sharpe's main focus was on churches, and he was a pioneer in the use of terracotta as a structural material in church building, designing what were known as "pot" churches. He also designed secular buildings, including domestic properties and schools, and worked on the development of railways in Northwest England, designing bridges and planning new lines. In 1851 he resigned from his architectural practice, and in 1856 he moved from Lancaster, spending the remainder of his career mainly as a railway engineer. Sharpe was involved in Lancaster's civic affairs. He was an elected town councillor and served as mayor in 1848–49. Concerned about the town's poor water supply and sanitation, he championed the construction of new sewers and a waterworks. Sharpe achieved national recognition as an architectural historian. He published books of detailed architectural drawings, wrote a number of articles on architecture, devised a scheme for the classification of English Gothic architectural styles, and in 1875 was awarded the Royal Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

...Archive/Nominations



Portal:Technology/Featured biography/10

McClintock's microscope and ears of corn on exhibition at the National Museum of Natural History

Barbara McClintock was a pioneering American scientist and one of the world's most distinguished cytogeneticists. McClintock received her PhD in botany from Cornell University in 1927, where she was a leader in the development of maize cytogenetics; the field remained the focus of her research for the rest of her career. Her work was groundbreaking: she developed the technique to visualize maize chromosomes and used microscopic analysis to demonstrate many fundamental genetic concepts, including genetic recombination by crossing-over during meiosis—a mechanism by which chromosomes exchange information. She produced the first genetic map for maize, linking regions of the chromosome with physical traits, and she demonstrated the role of the telomere and centromere, regions of the chromosome that are important in the conservation of genetic information. During the 1940s and 1950s, McClintock discovered transposition and using this system showed how genes are responsible for turning on or off physical characteristics. Awards and recognition of her contributions to the field followed, including the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded to her in 1983 for the discovery of genetic transposition; she was the first and only woman to receive an unshared Nobel Prize in that category.

...Archive/Nominations



Portal:Technology/Featured biography/11

Ben Gascoigne

Ben Gascoigne (1915–2010) was an optical astronomer and expert in photometry. Born in New Zealand, Gascoigne moved to Australia to work at the Commonwealth Solar Observatory at Mount Stromlo in Canberra. He became skillful in the design and manufacture of optical devices such as telescope elements. He and astronomer Gerald Kron used modernised telescopes at Mount Stromlo to determine that the distance between the Milky Way and the Magellanic Cloud dwarf galaxies had been underestimated by a factor of two. Because this measurement was used to calibrate other distances in astronomy, the result effectively doubled the estimated size of the universe. They also found that star formation in the Magellanic Clouds had occurred more recently than in the Milky Way; this overturned the prevailing view that both had evolved in parallel. Gascoigne was involved in the conception and commissioning of the Anglo-Australian Telescope, Australia's largest optical telescope. He was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for his contributions to astronomy and to the Anglo-Australian Telescope. After he retired, Gascoigne acted as curator and photographer for his wife, artist Rosalie Gascoigne, using his technical skills to make her artworks resilient for public display.

...Archive/Nominations



Portal:Technology/Featured biography/12

Johannes Kepler

Johannes Kepler was a German Lutheran mathematician, astronomer and astrologer, and a key figure in the 17th century astronomical revolution. He is best known for his eponymous laws of planetary motion, codified by later astronomers based on his works Astronomia nova, Harmonices Mundi, and Epitome of Copernican Astronomy. Before Kepler, planets' paths were computed by combinations of the circular motions of the celestial orbs. After Kepler, astronomers shifted their attention from orbs to orbits—paths that could be represented mathematically as an ellipse. Kepler's laws also provided one of the foundations for Isaac Newton's theory of universal gravitation. During his career Kepler was a mathematics teacher at a Graz seminary school, an assistant to Tycho Brahe, the court mathematician to Emperor Rudolf II, a mathematics teacher in Linz, Austria, and an adviser to General Wallenstein. He also did fundamental work in the field of optics and helped to legitimize the telescopic discoveries of his contemporary Galileo Galilei.

...Archive/Nominations



Portal:Technology/Featured biography/13

Oak Ridge workers operating mass spectrometers. Koval's job as a health officer meant he had his own car and access to many sensitive areas of the facility.

George Koval (1913–2006) was a Soviet intelligence officer. According to Russian sources, Koval's infiltration of the Manhattan Project as a Soviet Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) agent "drastically reduced the amount of time it took for Russia to develop nuclear weapons". Koval was born to Jewish immigrants in Sioux City, Iowa. Shortly after reaching adulthood he traveled with his parents to the Soviet Union to settle in the Jewish Autonomous Region near the Chinese border. Koval was recruited by the GRU, trained, and assigned the code name DELMAR. He returned to the United States in 1940 and was drafted into the US Army in early 1943. Koval worked at atomic research laboratories and, according to the Russian government, relayed back to the Soviet Union information about the production processes and volumes of the polonium, plutonium, and uranium used in American atomic weaponry, in addition to descriptions of the weapon production sites. After the war, Koval left on a European vacation but never returned to the United States. In 2007 Russian President Vladimir Putin posthumously awarded Koval the Hero of the Russian Federation decoration for "his courage and heroism while carrying out special missions".

...Archive/Nominations



Portal:Technology/Featured biography/14

Gerard K. O'Neill

Gerard K. O'Neill (1927–1992) was an American physicist and space activist. As a faculty member of Princeton University, he invented a device called the particle storage ring for high energy physics experiments. Later, he invented a magnetic launcher called the mass driver. In the 1970's he developed a plan to build human settlements in outer space, including a space habitat design known as the O'Neill cylinder. He founded the Space Studies Institute, an organization devoted to funding research into space manufacturing and colonization. In 1965 at Stanford University, he performed the first colliding beam physics experiment. While teaching physics at Princeton, O'Neill became interested in the possibility that humans could live in outer space. He researched and proposed a futuristic idea for human settlement in space, the O'Neill cylinder in "The Colonization of Space", his first paper on the subject. He held a conference on space manufacturing at Princeton in 1975. Many who became post-Apollo-era space activists attended. O'Neill built his first mass driver prototype with professor Henry Kolm in 1976. He considered mass drivers critical for extracting the mineral resources of the Moon and asteroids.

...Archive/Nominations



Portal:Technology/Featured biography/15

Robert Oppenheimer

J. Robert Oppenheimer was an American physicist and the scientific director of the Manhattan Project, the World War II effort to develop the first nuclear weapons, at the secret Los Alamos laboratory in New Mexico. Known colloquially as "the father of the atomic bomb", Oppenheimer lamented the weapon's killing power after it was used to destroy the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After the war, he was a chief advisor to the newly-created Atomic Energy Commission and used that position to lobby for international control of atomic energy and to avert the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. After invoking the ire of many politicians and scientists with his outspoken political opinions during the Red Scare, he had his security clearance revoked in a much-publicized and politicized hearing in 1954. Though stripped of his political influence, Oppenheimer continued to lecture, write, and work in physics. A decade later, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded him the Enrico Fermi Award as a gesture of rehabilitation.

...Archive/Nominations



Portal:Technology/Featured biography/16

Louis Slotin

Louis Slotin (1910–1946) was a Canadian physicist and chemist who took part in the Manhattan Project, the secret U.S. program during World War II that developed the atomic bomb. As part of the Manhattan Project, Slotin performed experiments with uranium and plutonium cores to determine their critical mass values. During World War II, Slotin continued his research at Los Alamos National Laboratory. On 21 May 1946, Slotin accidentally began a fission reaction, which released a burst of hard radiation. He was rushed to a hospital, and died of radiation sickness nine days later on 30 May, the second victim of a criticality accident in history. Slotin was hailed as a hero by the United States government for reacting quickly enough to prevent the deaths of his colleagues due to the accident he caused. The accident and its aftermath have been dramatized in fictional accounts.

...Archive/Nominations



Portal:Technology/Featured biography/17

Edward Teller

Edward Teller was a Hungarian-born American nuclear physicist of Jewish descent. He was known colloquially as "the father of the hydrogen bomb". Teller was an immigrant to the United States during the 1930s, and was an early member of the Manhattan Project to develop the first atomic bombs. During this time he made a serious push for the first time to develop fusion-based weapons as well, but they were deferred until after the war. After his controversial testimony in the security clearance hearing of his former Los Alamos colleague J. Robert Oppenheimer, Teller became ostracized by much of the scientific community. He continued to find support from the U.S. government and military research establishment. He was a co-founder of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and was both director and associate director for many years. In his later years he became especially known for his advocacy of controversial technological solutions to both military and civilian problems, including a plan to excavate an artificial harbor in Alaska using thermonuclear explosives. Over the course of his long life, Teller was known both for his scientific ability and his difficult interpersonal relations, and is considered one of the key influences of the character Dr. Strangelove in the 1964 movie of the same name.

...Archive/Nominations



Portal:Technology/Featured biography/18

Zhang Heng

Zhang Heng was an astronomer, mathematician, inventor, geographer, cartographer, artist, poet, statesman, and literary scholar from Nanyang, Henan, and lived during the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25–220) of China. After beginning his career as a minor civil servant, he eventually became Chief Astronomer, Prefect of the Majors for Official Carriages, and then Palace Attendant at the imperial court. His uncompromising stances on certain historical and calendrical issues led to Zhang being considered a controversial figure, which prevented him from becoming an official court historian. Zhang applied his extensive knowledge of mechanics and gears in several of his inventions. He invented the world's first water-powered armillary sphere, to represent astronomical observation; improved the inflow water clock by adding another tank; and invented the world's first seismometer, which discerned the cardinal direction of an earthquake 500 km (310 mi) away. Furthermore, he improved previous Chinese calculations of the formula for pi. His fu (rhapsody) and shi poetry were renowned and commented on by later Chinese writers. Zhang received many posthumous honors for his scholarship and ingenuity, and is considered a polymath by some scholars.

...Archive/Nominations



Portal:Technology/Featured biography/19

Sophie Blanchard

Sophie Blanchard was a French aeronaut. The widow of ballooning pioneer Jean-Pierre Blanchard, she was the first woman to work as a professional balloonist. Though nervous on the ground, she was a fearless aeronaut and after her husband's death she continued ballooning, making more than 60 ascents. Known throughout Europe for her ballooning exploits, she entertained Napoleon Bonaparte, who promoted her to the role of "Aeronaut of the Official Festivals", replacing André-Jacques Garnerin. On the restoration of the monarchy in 1814 she performed for Louis XVIII, who named her "Official Aeronaut of the Restoration". Ballooning was a risky business for the pioneers. Blanchard lost consciousness on a couple of occasions, endured freezing temperatures and almost drowned when her balloon crashed in a marsh. In 1819 she became the first woman to be killed in an aviation accident when, during an exhibition in the Tivoli Gardens in Paris, she launched fireworks that ignited the gas in her balloon. Her craft crashed on the roof of a house and she fell to her death.

...Archive/Nominations



Portal:Technology/Featured biography/20

Albert Stanley, 1st Baron Ashfield

Albert Stanley, 1st Baron Ashfield (1874–1948) was managing director, then chairman of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London (UERL) from 1910 to 1933 and chairman of the London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB) from 1933 to 1947. At a young age, he held senior positions in the developing tramway systems of Detroit and New Jersey. In 1907, his management skills led to his recruitment by the UERL, which was struggling through a financial crisis. He quickly integrated the company's management and used advertising and public relations to improve profits. As managing director of the UERL from 1910, he led the take-over of competing underground railway companies and bus and tram operations to form an integrated transport operation known as the Combine. He was Member of Parliament for Ashton-under-Lyne from December 1916 to January 1920 and was President of the Board of Trade between December 1916 and May 1919. He returned to the UERL and then chaired it and its successor the LPTB during the organisation's greatest period of expansion between the two World Wars, making it a world-respected organisation considered an exemplar of the best form of public administration.

...Archive/Nominations



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