1938 in science
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- December 22 – Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer discovers a Coelacanth, formerly seen only in fossils millions of years old, in a fisherman's catch in South Africa.
- Bawden and Pirie publish the first crystal of a spherical virus, Tomato bushy stunt virus.
- April 6 – Roy J. Plunkett of DuPont accidentally discovers polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon).
- September 20 – The first patents for nylon (first synthesized in 1935) are granted in the name of Wallace Carothers to DuPont. The first items produced in the new material are toothbrush bristles.
- November 16 – Lysergic acid diethylamide is first synthesized by Albert Hofmann from ergotamine at the Sandoz Laboratories in Basel.
- Melamine thermosetting resin is developed by American Cyanamid.
- Konrad Zuse in Berlin completes his Z1 computer, a floating point binary mechanical calculator with limited programmability, using Boolean logic and reading instructions from perforated 35 mm film.
History of science
- Frank Benford restates the law of distribution of first digits.
- Alan Turing completes his Ph.D. thesis, Systems of Logic Based on Ordinals, at Princeton University; it is presented to the London Mathematical Society on June 16.
- June 4–6 – Sigmund Freud and his immediate family leave Vienna for exile in London.
- March 4 – American biogerontologist Raymond Pearl demonstrates the negative health effects of tobacco smoking.
- Dorothy Hansine Andersen describes the characteristic cystic fibrosis of the pancreas and correlates it with the celiac, respiratory and intestinal diseases prominent in the condition, also first hypothesizing that cystic fibrosis is a recessive disorder.
- Hans Asperger first adopts the term autism in its modern sense in referring to autistic psychopaths in a lecture (in German) on child psychology.
- Ugo Cerletti and Lucio Bini discover electroconvulsive therapy.
- Herbert E. Ives and G. R. Stilwell execute the Ives–Stilwell experiment, showing that ions radiate at frequencies affected by their motion.
- Nuclear magnetic resonance is first described and measured in molecular beams by Isidor Rabi.
- The Vlasov equation is first proposed for description of plasma by Anatoly Vlasov.
- Nobel Prizes
- Copley Medal: Niels Bohr
- Wollaston Medal for geology: Maurice Lugeon
- January 2 – Dana Ulery, American computer scientist
- January 10 – Donald Knuth, American computer scientist and mathematician
- January 28 – Tomas Lindahl, Swedish biochemist and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry
- March 5 – Lynn Margulis, American biologist (d. 2011)
- March 7 – David Baltimore, American biologist, university administrator and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
- April 3 – John Darley, American social psychologist
- April 25 – Roger Boisjoly, American rocket engineer (d. 2012)
- September 26 – Alan Andrew Watson, Scottish astrophysicist
- January 31 – Sir James Crichton-Browne, Scottish psychiatrist (b. 1840)
- May 16
- June 13 – Beverly Thomas Galloway, American plant pathologist (b. 1863)
- November 20 – Edwin Hall, American physicist, discoverer of the "Hall effect" (b. 1855)
- Bawden, F. C.; Pirie, N. W. (1938). British Journal of Experimental Pathology 19: 251.
- US Patent 2,130,523 Linear polyamides suitable for spinning into strong pliable fibers; US Patent 2,130,947 Diamine dicarboxylic acid salt and US Patent 2,130,948 Synthetic fibers. Trossarelli, L. (2010). "The history of nylon". Club Alpino Italiano, Centro Studi Materiali e Tecniche. Archived from the original on 2012-03-02. Retrieved 2012-02-28.
- Hofmann, Albert (1980). LSD — My Problem Child. McGraw–Hill. ISBN 0-07-029325-2.
- Talk given by Horst Zuse to the Computer Conservation Society at the Science Museum (London) on 18 November 2010.
- Benford, Frank (1938). "The Law of Anomalous Numbers". Proc. Am. Philos. Soc. 78: 551–572. JSTOR 984802.
- Turing, A. M. (1939). "Systems of Logic Based on Ordinals" (PDF). Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society ser. 2 45 (1): 161–228. doi:10.1112/plms/s2-45.1.161. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- "Turing's Princeton Dissertation". Turing Centennial Celebration. Princeton University. 2012. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- Pearl, R. (1938). "Tobacco Smoking and Longevity". Science 87 (2253): 216–217. Bibcode:1938Sci....87..216P. doi:10.1126/science.87.2253.216. PMID 17813231.
- Cordry, Harold V. (2001). Tobacco: a reference handbook. Contemporary world issues. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 0874369673.
- Andersen, Dorothy Hansine (1938). "Cystic fibrosis of the pancreas and its relation to celiac disease: a clinical and pathological study". American Journal of Diseases of Children 56: 344–399. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1938.01980140114013.
- Asperger, H. (1938). "The psychically abnormal child". Wiener klinische Wochenschrift (in German) 51: 1314–7.
- Ives, Herbert E.; Stilwell, G. R. (1938). "An Experimental Study of the Rate of a Moving Atomic Clock". Journal of the Optical Society of America 28 (7): 215–19. Bibcode:1938JOSA...28..215I. doi:10.1364/JOSA.28.000215. Retrieved 2011-09-23.
- Rabi, I.I.; Zacharias, J.R.; Millman, S.; Kusch, P. (1938). "A New Method of Measuring Nuclear Magnetic Moment". Physical Review 53 (4): 318–327. Bibcode:1938PhRv...53..318R. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.53.318. PMID 9981980. Retrieved 2012-06-14.
- Vlasov, A. A. (1938). "On Vibration Properties of an Electron Gas". Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Physics (in Russian) 8 (3): 444–70. Retrieved 2011-09-23.