1886 in science
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- Dorothea Klumpke takes up a post at the Paris Observatory, becoming Director of the Bureau of Measurements.
- June 26 – Henri Moissan reports the successful isolation of elemental fluorine by electrolysis of a solution of potassium hydrogen difluoride in liquid hydrogen fluoride.
- December 17 – English adventurer Thomas Stevens concludes the first circumnavigation by bicycle in Yokohama, having set out on his penny-farthing from San Francisco in 1884.
History of science
- English mathematician Rev. William Allen Whitworth is the first to use ordered Bell numbers to count the number of weak orderings of a set.
- March 11 – The first Indian woman doctor qualifies in Western medicine, Anandi Gopal Joshi (d. 1887) at the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania (U.S.) She is followed by Kadambini Ganguly at the Calcutta Medical College.
- The classic descriptions of Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease are published by Jean-Martin Charcot and his pupil Pierre Marie in Paris and by Howard H. Tooth in London.
- Dr Richard von Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis: eine Klinisch-Forensische Studie ("Sexual Psychopathy: a Clinical-Forensic Study") is published in Stuttgart.
- Dr Thomas Allinson's popular book A System of Hygienic Medicine is published in England, promoting health through natural diet and exercise rather than orthodox medicine.
- Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women is founded by Dr Sophia Jex-Blake.
- July 9 – Charles Hall files a United States patent for the Hall–Héroult process for converting alumina into aluminum by electrolysis.
- November 11 – Heinrich Hertz verifies at the University of Karlsruhe the existence of electromagnetic waves.
- July 3 – Ottmar Mergenthaler's Linotype machine is introduced at the New-York Tribune.
- September 21 – William Stanley, Jr. patents the induction coil in the United States, the first practical alternating current transformer device.
- October 31 – Opening of Dom Luís Bridge, Porto, a two-hinged double-deck arch bridge across the Douro River in Portugal designed by Téophile Seyrig. Its main span of 172 metres (564 ft) will remain the world's longest in iron.
- Gottlieb Daimler produces the first motorboat, Neckar, in Germany.
- Auguste Mustel invents the celesta.
- Herbert Akroyd Stuart produces his first prototype heavy oil engines, in England.
- Schuyler Wheeler produces the first electric fan, in the United States.
- January 28 – Hidetsugu Yagi, Japanese electrical engineer (died 1976)
- March 7 – G. I. Taylor, English physicist (died 1975)
- March 8 – Edward Calvin Kendall, American biochemist, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (died 1972)
- April 5 – Frederick Lindemann, German-born British physicist (died 1957)
- May 22 – Hermann Stieve, German anatomist and histologist (died 1952)
- June 18 – Tsuruko Haraguchi, born Tsuru Arai, Japanese psychologist (died 1915)
- July 6 – Ronald Hatton, English pomologist (died 1965)
- July 30 – Muthulakshmi Reddi, Indian physician and social reformer (died 1968)
- September 26 – Archibald Hill, English physiologist, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (died 1977)
- November 20 – Karl von Frisch, Austrian ethologist, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (died 1982)
- December 9 – Clarence Birdseye, American founder of the modern frozen food industry (died 1956)
- February 25 – Lady Katherine Sophia Kane, Irish botanist (born 1811)
- March 15 – Anastasie Fătu, Moldavian and Romanian physician and naturalist (born 1816)
- July 1 – Otto Wilhelm Hermann von Abich, German mineralogist and geologist (born 1806)
- August 17 – Aleksandr Butlerov, Russian chemist (born 1828)
- November 14 – Alexandre-Emile Béguyer de Chancourtois, French mineralogist and geologist (born 1820).
- September 18 – Sampson Gamgee, English surgeon (born 1828).
- December 26 – Theodor von Oppolzer, Austrian astronomer (born 1841)
- Moissan, H. (1886). "Action d'un courant électrique sur l'acide fluorhydrique anhydre". Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l'Académie des sciences. 102: 1543–1544.
- Moissan, H. (1886). "Sur la décomposition de l'acide fluorhydrique par un courant électrique". Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l'Académie des sciences. 103: 202.
- Choice and Chance: An Elementary Treatise on Permutations, Combinations, and Probability. 1886 edn.
- "Sur une forme particulière d'atrophie musculaire progressive, souvent familiale débutant par les pieds et les jambes et atteignant plus tard les mains". Revue médicale. 6: 97–138. 1886.
- The Peroneal Type of Progressive Muscular Atrophy. Lewis. 1886.
- Enersen, Ole Daniel. "Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease". Whonamedit?. Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-12.
- Pepper, Sarah (October 1992). "Allinson's Staff of Life – Health Without Medicine in the 1890s". History Today. 42 (10): 30–35. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
- Patent DRP 39-367.
- "The Akroyd Oil Engine". Ray Hooley's – Ruston-Hornsby – Engine Pages. Archived from the original on 24 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-11.
- "Schuyler Wheeler". IEEE Global History Network. IEEE. Retrieved 2012-01-25.