1920 in science
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- December 13 – The red giant star Betelgeuse is the first to have its diameter determined by an optical astronomical interferometer, the Michelson stellar interferometer on Mount Wilson Observatory's reflector telescope. HI
- Andrew Douglass proposes dendrochronology dating.
- Approximate date – The HIV pandemic almost certainly originates in Léopoldville, modern-day Kinshasa, the capital of the Belgian Congo.
History of science and technology
- Newcomen Society founded in the United Kingdom for the study of the history of engineering and technology.
- Frederick Banting and Charles Best co-discover insulin.
- Hans Gerhard Creutzfeldt first describes some of the symptoms of what will become known as Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease.
- Hydrocodone, a narcotic analgesic closely related to codeine, is first synthesized in Germany by Carl Mannich and Helene Löwenheim.
- Black Cross Nurses founded in the United States.
- Milutin Milanković proposes that long term climatic cycles may be due to changes in the eccentricity of the Earth's orbit and changes in the Earth's obliquity ("Milankovitch cycles").
- Megh Nad Saha states his ionization equation.
- Albert Einstein delivers his Leiden Lecture.
- Publication of Arthur Eddington's observation of the "bending of light" during the total solar eclipse of May 29, 1919, confirming Einstein's theory of general relativity.
- Ernest Rutherford predicts the existence of the neutron.
- James Jeans discovers that the dynamical constants of motion determine the distribution function for a system of particles.
- Publication of Alan A. Griffith's analysis of the process of brittle fracture.
- July 25 – The first transatlantic two-way radio broadcast is made.
- September 29 – First domestic radio sets come to stores in the United States – a Westinghouse radio costs $10.
- October – Young Russian physicist Lev Sergeyevich Termen first develops the electronic musical instrument which will become the Theremin.
- Publication in Prague of Karel Čapek's drama R.U.R: Rossum's Universal Robots, introducing the word Robot to the world.
- January 20 – John Maynard Smith, British theoretical evolutionary biologist and geneticist (died 2004).
- February 7 – An Wang, Chinese-born computer engineer (died 1990).
- February 3 – Henry Heimlich, American thoracic surgeon (died 2016).
- March 11 – Nicolaas Bloembergen, Dutch physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (died 2017).
- March 15 – E. Donnall Thomas, American physician, Nobel Prize laureate.
- March 22 – Katsuko Saruhashi Japanese geochemist (died 2007).
- April 6 – Edmond H. Fischer, Swiss American biochemist, Nobel Prize laureate.
- April 9 – Alex Moulton, English mechanical engineer and inventor (died 2012).
- June 17 – François Jacob, French biologist, Nobel Prize laureate (died 2013).
- July 10 – Owen Chamberlain, American physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (died 2006).
- July 11 – David Challinor, American biologist, naturalist and scientific administrator at the Smithsonian Institution (died 2008).
- July 25 – Rosalind Franklin, English crystallographer (died 1958).
- August 15 – Eleonore Trefftz, German molecular and nuclear physicist (died 2017).
- August 22 – Denton Cooley, American cardiac surgeon (died 2016).
- September 29 – Peter D. Mitchell, English chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (died 1992).
- October 29 – Baruj Benacerraf, Venezuelan immunologist, Nobel Prize laureate (died 2011).
- November 13 – Abraham Lilienfeld, American epidemiologist (died 1984).
- December 6 – George Porter, English chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (died 2002).
- January 3 – Zygmunt Janiszewski, Polish mathematician (born 1888).
- January 6 – Hieronymus Georg Zeuthen, Danish mathematician (born 1839).
- March 13 – Charles Lapworth, English geologist (born 1842).
- March 26 – William Chester Minor, American surgeon (born 1834).
- March 31 – Paul Bachmann, German mathematician (born 1837).
- April 3 – Mary Katharine Brandegee, American botanist (born 1844).
- April 8 – John Brashear, American astronomer (born 1840).
- April 9 – Moritz Cantor, German historian of mathematics (born 1829).
- April 26 – Srinivasa Ramanujan, Indian mathematician (born 1887).
- June 20
- August 10 – Ádám Politzer (born 1835), Hungarian otologist.
- August 12 – Hermann Struve, Russian-born astronomer (born 1854).
- August 16 – Norman Lockyer, English astronomer (born 1836).
- August 31 – Wilhelm Wundt, German physiologist and psychologist (born 1832).
- October 17 – Reginald Farrer, English botanist (born 1880).
- November 4 – Ludwig Struve, Russian astronomer (born 1858).
- December 3 – William de Wiveleslie Abney, English astronomer and photographer (born 1843).
- Michelson, Albert Abraham; Pease, Francis G. (1921). "Measurement of the diameter of alpha Orionis with the interferometer". Astrophysical Journal (PDF). 53: 249–59. Bibcode:1921ApJ....53..249M. doi:10.1086/142603.
- Based on its genetic history. "HIV pandemic's origins located". University of Oxford. 2014-10-03. Retrieved 2014-10-05.
- Mannich, C.; Löwenheim, Helene (1920). "Ueber zwei neue Reduktionsprodukte des Kodeins". Archiv der Pharmazie. 258: 295–316. doi:10.1002/ardp.19202580218.
- Théorie mathématique des phénomènes thermiques produits par la radiation solaire (Paris).
- Dyson, F.W.; Eddington, A.S.; Davidson, C.R. (1920). "A Determination of the Deflection of Light by the Sun's Gravitational Field, from Observations Made at the Solar eclipse of May 29, 1919". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 220 (571–581): 291–333. Bibcode:1920RSPTA.220..291D. doi:10.1098/rsta.1920.0009.
- "The Phenomenon of Rupture and Flow in Solids". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. A221: 163–98. February 1920. Bibcode:1921RSPTA.221..163G. doi:10.1098/rsta.1921.0006. JSTOR 91192.
- "What happened on July 25". Dates in History. Retrieved 2012-01-09.
- Glinsky, Albert (2000). Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. p. 26. ISBN 0-252-02582-2. Retrieved 2012-01-09.
- Asimov, Isaac (September 1979). "The Vocabulary of Science Fiction". Asimov's Science Fiction.
- Zunt, Dominik (2004). "Who did actually invent the word "robot" and what does it mean?". Karel Čapek (1890-1938). Archived from the original on 2012-02-04. Retrieved 2011-12-06.