1956 in science
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- March – Denham Harman proposes the free-radical theory of aging.
- Wesley K. Whitten reports developing eight-cell mouse ova to blastocyst stage in vitro.
- February – Joseph Kruskal publishes Kruskal's algorithm.
- December – Martin Gardner begins his Mathematical Games column in Scientific American.
- May 1 – Minamata disease epidemic is identified in Japan by Hajime Hosokawa.
- June 1 – Elsie Stephenson becomes founding Director of the Nurse Teaching Unit, University of Edinburgh, the first nurse teaching unit within a British university.
- November – The classic definition of obesity hypoventilation syndrome is published.
- Asian flu pandemic originates in China.
- Use of penicillamine in treatment of Wilson's disease first described.
- Existence of the antineutrino is experimentally confirmed by the Cowan–Reines neutrino experiment carried out by Clyde L. Cowan and Frederick Reines.
- Existence of the antineutron is experimentally confirmed by University of California, Berkeley physicist Bruce Cork.
- DIDO heavy water enriched uranium nuclear reactor begins operation at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Harwell, Oxfordshire.
- November 15 – Cooper pairs are first described by Leon Cooper.
- January 1 – Leon Festinger, Henry W. Riecken and Stanley Schachter's book When Prophecy Fails provides a classic study of disconfirmed expectancy.
- April 14 – 2-inch quadruplex videotape, the first practical and commercially successful analog recording videotape format, is released for the broadcast television industry by Ampex of Redwood City, California.
- August 27 – Calder Hall nuclear power station in England is first connected to the National Grid. This Magnox plant is the world's first nuclear power plant to deliver electricity in commercial quantities. Official opening is on October 17.
- November 11 – First flight of Convair B-58, the first supersonic jet bomber capable of Mach 2 flight, designed by Robert H. Widmer.
- First Chamberlin electro-mechanical keyboard instrument, developed and patented by Wisconsin inventor Harry Chamberlin, is introduced.
- Nobel Prizes
- April 16 – David M. Brown (died 2003), American astronaut.
- April 19 – Anne Glover, Scottish biologist.
- May 3 – Carlo Rovelli, Italian-born theoretical physicist.
- May 20 – Marlene Zuk, American biologist.
- October 17 – Mae Jemison, African American engineer and astronaut.
- October 19 – Carlo Urbani (died 2003), Italian physician, discoverer of SARS.
- December 23 – Simon Wessely, English psychiatrist.
- February 3 – Émile Borel (born 1871), French mathematician.
- March 17 – Irène Joliot-Curie (born 1897), French radiochemist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
- March 22 – George Sarton (born 1884), Belgian American historian of science.
- August 25 – Alfred Kinsey (born 1894), American biologist, professor of entomology and zoology, and sexologist who founded the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University (Bloomington).
- September 22 – Frederick Soddy (born 1877), English radiochemist.
- October 30 – María Teresa Ferrari (born 1887), Argentine physician.
- November 10 – Henry Luke Bolley (born 1865), American plant pathologist.
- November 24 – Sir Lionel Whitby (born 1895), English haematologist, clinical pathologist, pharmacologist and army officer.
- Harman, Denham (1956). "Aging: a theory based on free radical and radiation chemistry". Journal of Gerontology. 11 (3): 298–300. doi:10.1093/geronj/11.3.298. PMID 13332224.
- Whitten, W. K. (14 January 1956). "Culture of Tubal Mouse Ova" (PDF). Nature. 177 (4498): 96. Bibcode:1956Natur.177...96W. doi:10.1038/177096a0. Retrieved 2011-08-11.
- Plass, Gilbert N. (1956). "The Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climate Change". Tellus. 8 (2): 140–54. doi:10.1111/j.2153-3490.1956.tb01206.x. Retrieved 2013-12-12.
- Kruskal, Joseph B. (1956). "On the shortest spanning subtree of a graph and the traveling salesman problem". Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society. 7: 48–50. doi:10.1090/S0002-9939-1956-0078686-7. JSTOR 2033241.
- Burwell, C. Sidney; Robin, Eugene D.; Whaley, Robert D.; Bicklemann, Albert G. (1956). "Extreme obesity associated with alveolar hypoventilation – a Pickwickian syndrome". The American Journal of Medicine. 21 (5): 811–8. doi:10.1016/0002-9343(56)90094-8. PMID 13362309. Retrieved 2014-07-03. Reproduced as Burwell, C. S.; Robin, E. D.; Whaley, R. D.; Bicklemann, A. G. (1994). "Extreme obesity associated with alveolar hypoventilation; a Pickwickian syndrome". Obesity Research. 2 (4): 390–7. doi:10.1002/j.1550-8528.1994.tb00084.x. PMID 16353591.
- Walshe, John M. (January 1956). "Wilson's disease; new oral therapy". The Lancet. 270 (6906): 25–6. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(56)91859-1. PMID 13279157.
- "The Reines-Cowan Experiments: Detecting the Poltergeist" (PDF). Los Alamos Science. 25: 3. 1997.
- Cooper, Leon N. (1956). "Bound electron pairs in a degenerate Fermi gas" (PDF). Physical Review. 104 (4): 1189–1190. Bibcode:1956PhRv..104.1189C. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.104.1189. Retrieved 2016-01-04.
- Bensinger, Charles (1981). "All About Videotape". VideoPreservation Website. Retrieved 2012-04-14.
- "Some Quad History". Quad Videotape Group. Retrieved 2012-04-14.
- "Calder Hall Power Station". The Engineer. 5 October 1956.
- "Sellafield Sites, Site history". Retrieved 2007-12-04.
- Wilson, Stewart (2000). Combat Aircraft since 1945. Fyshwick, ACT, Australia: Aerospace Publications Pty Ltd. p. 38. ISBN 1-875671-50-1.
- Epand, Len (April 1976). "A Phantom Orchestra at Your Fingertips" (PDF). Crawdaddy!: A27–A28. Retrieved 2011-12-16.