1879 in science
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- British children's writer and amateur astronomer Agnes Giberne publishes the popular illustrated book Sun, Moon and Stars: Astronomy for Beginners which sells 24,000 copies on both sides of the Atlantic in twenty years.
- April 26 – The National Park, later renamed the Royal National Park, is declared in New South Wales, Australia, the world's second oldest purposed national park (after Yellowstone in the United States), and the first to use the term "national park".
- Jean Henri Fabre publishes the first of his Souvenirs entomologiques.
- Heinrich Anton de Bary coins the term symbiosis in his monograph Die Erscheinung der Symbiose (Strasbourg).
- January 2 – Publication of first issue of Journal of the American Chemical Society.
- Per Teodor Cleve discovers the elements holmium and thulium.
- Lars Fredrik Nilson discovers the element scandium.
- Vasily Dokuchaev introduces the concept of pedology, laying the foundations for the modern study of soil science.
- Ferdinand André Fouqué publishes Santorin et ses éruptions, a significant text in volcanology.
History of science
- Charles L. Dodgson publishes Euclid and his Modern Rivals in London.
- Gottlob Frege publishes Begriffsschrift, eine der arithmetischen nachgebildete Formelsprache des reinen Denkens ("Concept-Script: A Formal Language for Pure Thought Modeled on that of Arithmetic") in Halle, a significant text in the development of mathematical logic.
- British psychiatrist James Crichton-Browne publishes "On the weight of the brain and its component parts in the insane", a key paper in the neuropathology of insanity.
- Viennese physician Felix von Winiwarter provides an early description of Thromboangiitis obliterans.
- Edwin Hall discovers the Hall Effect.
- Joseph Stefan originates the Stefan–Boltzmann law, stating that the total radiation from a black body is proportional to the fourth power of its thermodynamic temperature.
- Wilhelm Wundt creates the first laboratory of experimental psychology, at the University of Leipzig.
- May 31 – Werner von Siemens demonstrates the first electric locomotive using an external power source at Berlin.
- June 6 – William Denny and Brothers launch the world's first ocean-going ship to be built of mild steel, the SS Rotomahana, on the River Clyde in Scotland.
- October 22 – Thomas Edison successfully tests a carbon filament thread in an incandescent light bulb.
- A heavy oil engine is built by Jacob Morrison of Norton, County Durham, England.
- January 1 – Ernest Jones (died 1958), Welsh psychoanalyst.
- February 1 – Henri Chrétien (died 1956), French astronomer and optical inventor.
- February 22 – J. N. Brønsted (died 1947), Danish physical chemist.
- March 8 – Otto Hahn (died 1968), German physicist and winner of the 1944 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
- March 14 – Albert Einstein (died 1955), German-born physicist and winner of the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics.
- May 28 – Milutin Milanković (died 1958), Serbian geophysicist.
- June 3 – Raymond Pearl (died 1940), American biologist.
- August 29 – May Smith (died 1968), English experimental psychologist.
- October 9 – Max von Laue (died 1960), German physicist and winner of the 1914 Nobel Prize in Physics.
- January 24 – Heinrich Geißler (born 1814), German scientific instrument maker.
- March 3 – William Kingdon Clifford (born 1845), English geometer.
- April 4 – Heinrich Wilhelm Dove (born 1803), Prussian physicist and climatologist.
- April 16 – Peter Kosler (born 1824), Carniolan geographer and cartographer.
- April 23 – Elisabetta Fiorini Mazzanti (born 1799), Italian botanist.
- May 4 – William Froude (born 1810), English hydrodynamicist.
- November 5 – James Clerk Maxwell (born 1831), Scottish-born mathematician and physicist.
- Chapman, Allan (1999). The Victorian Amateur Astronomer: Independent Astronomical Research in Britain 1820-1920. Chichester: John Wiley. ISBN 0-471-96257-0.
- Bates, Marston (1950). The Nature of Natural History. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 125.
- Dokuchaev, V.V. (1879). Short Historical Description and Critical Analysis of the More Important Soil Classifications. Trav. Soc. Nat. St. Petersburg 10: 64-67 (In Russian); Tchernozeme (terre noire) de la Russie d‘Europe. St. Petersburg: Société Impériale Libre Économique.
- Wilson, Robin (2008). Lewis Carroll in Numberland. London: Allen Lane. pp. 91–95. ISBN 978-0-7139-9757-6.
- Brain 1: 514-18; 2: 42-67
- Compston, Alastair (2007). "On the weight of the brain and its component parts in the insane. By J. Crichton-Browne, MD, FRSE, Lord Chancellor's Visitor. Brain 1879: 1; 514–518 and 1879: 2; 42–67". Brain. 130 (3): 599–601. doi:10.1093/brain/awm020.
- von Winiwarter, F. (1879). "Ueber eine eigenthumliche Form von Endarteriitis und Endophlebitis mit Gangran des Fusses". Archiv für Klinische Chirurgie. 23: 202–26.
- Yentis, S. M.; Vlassakov, K. V. (1999). "Vassily von Anrep, forgotten pioneer of regional anesthesia". Anesthesiology. 90 (3): 890–5. doi:10.1097/00000542-199903000-00033. PMID 10078692.
- "Über die Beziehung zwischen der Wärmestrahlung und der Temperatur" in Bulletin of the Vienna Academy of Sciences.
- "SS Rotomahana". Clydebuilt. Retrieved 2014-04-14.
- "Who Built the First Oil Engine?". Stationary Engine. 190: 5. December 1989. Acquired for collection of The Henry Ford.