c. 140 ---Claudius Ptolmaeus (Ptolemy) writes "He Mathematike Syntaxis" (known 1000 years later as "Almagest"), proposing his world system.
c. 820 ---Caliph Al Ma'mun establishes "House of Wisdom" in Baghdad (see link below).
c. 780-850---Al Khorezmi. (c. 780-850)
- 313---The Roman Emperor Constantinus adops Christianity; in 330 he builds new capital and names it Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey). Roman empire gradually divides into western and eastern parts ("Byzantine Empire"), with capitals at Rome and Constantinople.
- 410---Alaric, leader of the Visigoths, captures and sacks Rome. Decline of Rome: Attila king of the Huns devastates much of its empire, reaches the gates of Constantinople and later (452) of Rome.
Beginning of Europe's "dark ages" which continue to the Renaissance (see below): cities decay, trade, shipping, literacy, scholarship and life expectancy all decline.
- 622---Mohammed flees to the city of Medina, marking the beginning of Islam (and the starting date of the Moslem calendar). His followers conquer the Near East, North Africa and Spain.
1054--A supernova appears in the constellation of the Crab, and is observed by Chinese astronomers, who call it the "guest star."
- 1000-1400 Age of feudal lords in Europe: castles, knights, religious fervor, only very rudimentary science and technology. Also age of Vikings, some of whom sailed as far as Greenland and America. Mongols overrun and subjugate southern Russia.
1543---Nicholaus Copernicus (1473-1543) publishes his theory of the solar system.
- 1095-1291 Crusades
- 1460 Johann Gutenberg invents the printing press with movable type. Combined with paper (a Chinese invention which gradually reached Europe and displaced parchement), the printed book is the major force behind a cultural and technical growth spurt, the Renaissance (French for "rebirth").
- 1492 Columbus discovers America, followed by Spanish (and some Portugese) explorers. The main powers in Europe are Spain, France, England, Turkey and a confederation of German princes ("Holy Roman Empire.")
1572---Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) observes a "new star." (See also here.)
1582---Pope Gregory the 13th reforms the calendar.
1588 The "Spanish Armada," a fleet attacking Britain, is destroyed by the British navy and by storms. For the first time Britain is able to claim part of the American continent.
1609---Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) builds the first astronomical telescope and observes for the first time craters on the Moon, satellites around Jupiter, and the way Venus goes through phases like the Moon (crescent, etc.) .
- Europe and Asia are introduced to American crops--potatoes, tomatoes, corn. Europe´s diet is also gradually enriched by sugar, oranges and pepper, originating in India.
1610 (approx) Sunspots and their rotation with the Sun were discovered independently by Galileo Galilei, Johann Fabricius (Holland) and Christopher Scheiner. All used the recently-invented telescope, and Scheiner apparently introduced the safe method of projecting the Sun's image on a flat surface.
---Johann Kepler (1571-1630), using Tycho's observations, formulates his first two laws of planetary motion (3rd law in 1619).
1686---Isaac Newton (1642-1727) publishes "Philosophie Naturalis Principia Mathematica," outlining laws of mechanics and law of gravity.
- After a failed attempt (1586) to establish a colony on Roanoke Island, Virginia (now part of N. Carolina), Jamestown is founded in Virginia in 1607, and the first English settlers land in Massachussetts Bay in 1620 (the "Pilgrims").
- 1618-1648---The 30 years' war. A century after Martin Luther broke away from the Roman church, a great religious war sweeps Europe, devastates Germany and establishes Sweden as a major military power. In the civil war in England, parliament suspends monarchy 1645-1660, king beheaded 1649.
- 1683---The Turkish army reaches Vienna but is repelled; among the booty the victors discover coffee, develop a taste for it. Englishmen begin smoking tobacco, an American plant.
1704--Isaac Newton publishes his "Opticks" describing (among other things) his work with prisms.
1769---James Watt (1736-1819) devises the modern steam engine.
- 1708---Abraham Darby begins extensive iron production in England, based on roasted coal (coke). As firewood gets scarce, coal becomes England's choice fuel and coke replaces charcoal in iron production. To run the pumps that keep coal mines dry, Newcomen in 1712 invents a crude steam engine.
- 1712---Russia's king (czar) Peter the Great "opens a window to the West" by founding a new capital, which he names St. Petersburg and which becomes Russia's main port on the Baltic sea.
1798---Henry Cavendish (1731-1810) first measures the force of gravity between two objects in his laboratory.
- 1775-83---US War of Independence. Britain's colonies in America achieve a growing degree of self-sufficiency. Benjamin Franklin prints books in Philadelphia, also demonstrates (1749) that lightning is an electrical phenomenon. Later (1775-1783) the colonies rebel against Britain, win their independence and form a confederation. In 1787 they write a constitution and form a federal republic.
- 1781---William Herschel, a German musician settled in Britain, discovers the planet Uranus with a mirror telescope he had constructed.
- 1783---The Montgolfière brothers in France, owners of a paper factory, build the first hot air balloons; balloons lifted by hydrogen follow.
- 1789---The French Revolution: France rebels against its king, who is later deposed and executed. The French follow the US example and set up a republic, but a military officer, Napoleon Bonaparte, gradually gains power. From 1798 to 1815 France under Napoleon fights a series of wars and for a while rules or controls most of the European continent.
- 1793---Alexander Mackenzie crosses Canada from coast to coast.
- 1796---Edward Jenner in Britain introduces vaccination against smallpox.
1806---William Congreve devises military rockets; used 13 September 1814 in British attack on Baltimore.
- 1803---US purchases Louisiana from Napoleon. To explore the new lands and the mountains beyond, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark cross the continent from St. Louis to the mouth of the Columbia River.
1807--Humphrey Davy isolates a new metal, sodium, by the action of an electric current
- 1807---Robert Fulton uses steam to run the first commercial paddlewheeler on the Hudson river;
- 1803---John Dalton, a chemist, argues that observations in chemistry require matter to be composed of atoms.
1811--Amadeo Avogadro links the laws of gases and chemistry, providing a vital confirmation of the atomic nature of matter. His work was widely recognized only after 1860.
Hans Christian Oersted observes the magnetic effect of electric currents.
- 1811---Simón Bolivar begins a series of wars to liberate Spain's colonies in South America, leading to the independence of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru.
1820--Andre-Marie Ampere describes magnetism as the force between electric currents (see link above).
1833--Michael Faraday derives the laws of electrical separation of compounds (as used by Davy in 1807), suggesting that atoms contain electrical charges.
- The Industrial revolution: George Stephenson in Britain (1825) and Peter Cooper in the US (1830) found successful railroads, run by steam. Mass production of fabric and paper. Henry Bessemer in 1856 finds a way to mass-produce steel.
- 1826---crude photography by L.J.M. Daguerre, greatly improved in the decades that follow.
- 1829--Joseph Ressel (a Czech forester employed by the Austrian Navy in Trieste) builds and tries out a simple ship's propeller. Later in 1836 John Ericsson patents the propeller and develops it further.
1835---Gaspard Coriolis (1792-1843) publishes the laws of mechanics in rotating frame, including an extra force on moving objects.
1838---Friedrich Bessel and others first measure the distance to the star 61 Cygni, using the diameter of the Earth's orbit as baseline.
- 1837--Samuel Morse invents his telegraph; in 1844 first commercial telegraph line opens, by 1866 undersea telegraph cables link Europe and America.
1840--- Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) publishes "Etudes sur les glaciers", proposes that giant glaciers once covered central Europe.
1843---James Prescott Joule (1818-89) measures the "exchange rate" between mechanical energy and heat.
1851--The 11-year sunspot cycle (observed in 1843 by Heinrich Schwabe) is generally recognized.
- 1846---Anesthesia by ether is introduced by William T. Morton in Boston.
- 1849---California gold rush.
1852---Radanath Sikhdar (1813-70) identifies the highest peak on Earth, later named for Sir George Everest (1790-1866).
1854--Hermann von Helmholtz proposes that the Sun derives its energy from gravitational shrinkage.
1855--James Clerk Maxwell extends the 3-color theory of vision, following earlier work by Thomas Young.
1857--- Christophorus Henricus Didericus Buys Ballot (1817-90) proposes the rule for the swirl direction of large storms and hurricanes.
- 1856---Commodore Perry and a US fleet open up Japan to western culture and technology; rapid modernization follows, enabling Japan to defeat Russia in war less than 50 years later.
- 1859---Charles Darwin publishes "Origin of the Species"
1864--James Clerk Maxwell proposes his equations of electromagnetism and suggests that light is an electomagnetic wave.
- 1859---Edwin Drake extracts petroleum from an oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Beginning of a world-wide effort to find and extract oil, refine it and use its constituents for light, heat and later to run gasoline and diesel engines.
- 1861---Italy unified under the king of Piedmont; 1850-70, Germany unified under Prussian leadership.
- 1860-65---US Civil War
1869--Norman Lockyer finds that a yellow spectral line observed in the Sun's spectrum during the 1868 eclipse must belong to a new element (later named helium)
- 1865---Joseph Lister introduces antiseptics to surgery, cutting its risks.
1883---Ernst Mach (1838-1916) publishes a critical study of Newtonian mechanics.
- The Industrial revolution continues: bicycles are introduced (high-wheelers, then "safety models"), mass production of fabrics, also Brooklyn Bridge (1883), Statue of Liberty (1886), Eiffel Tower (1889).
- 1870---Suez Canal opens, a shortcut between Europe and Asia. Age of exploration and colonization in Africa.
- 1870---Railroad across the US. In 1891-1905, the trans-Siberian railroad is built.
- 1876---Telephone invented
- 1879---Edison invents the electric lightbulb, initially using a fragile carbon filament.
- 1882---Electric power stations in London and New York. Large scale refrigeration.
- 1885-1900---After the introduction of electric train engines, the construction of subways begins in the major cities of Europe (starting with London, then Budapest) and the US (starting with Boston, then New York).
1885--Johann Balmer discovers a simple formula which characterizes the atomic spectrum of hydrogen, an early clue to quantum physics.
1886--Heinrich Hertz produces and detects electromagnetic waves, of what is later called "radio."
- 1884---Charles Parsons invents his steam turbine, which ultimately becomes the preferred power plant of electric power stations and ships. Diesel engine introduced in 1897 by Rudolf Diesel.
1892--George Ellery Hale devises the "spectroheliograph" taking pictures of the Sun in the light of a single spectral color.
- The beginning of automobiles (Marcus 1864 in Austria; Benz, 1887 in Germany; Duryea, 1893 in the US).
- 1890---Nitrocellulose photographic film introduced (George Eastman of Kodak, Rochester NY), making possible the first "movies."
1895--William Ramsay extracts helium from a terrestrial mineral.
1895--Wilhelm Röntgen discovers X-rays.
1895--Henri Becquerel discovers radioactivity.
1896--Svante Arrhenius credits carbon dioxide with the "greenhouse effect" warming the Earth.
1897--J.J. Thompson discovers the electron.
1899, 19 October---Robert Goddard (1882-1945) climbs cherry tree, resolves to pursue his dream of spaceflight.
1900--Max Planck explains the way hot objects radiate light by postulating that light energy can only be emitted in discrete packets, later called "photons"
1903, 17 December---First successful flight by the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
1905--Einstein shows that the way light knocks electrons out of metals suggests it can only transmit energy in "photons" that depend on its wavelength.
1908--George Ellery Hale finds that sunspots must be intensely magnetic.
- 1906---Lee De Forest invents the triode--the vacuum-tube device (based on the Edison effect) by which weak electric signals can be greatly amplified. It makes possible radio, sound films, loudspeakers and later a whole generation of electronic devices.
1911---Andre Bing in Belgium patents multistage rocket.
- 1909---L.H.Baekeland introduces "bakelite", first mass-produced plastic material. It is widely used as electrical insulator.
- 1904-1914---Panama canal is built.
1911--Ernest Rutherford conducts his experiments with the scattering of alpha particles off atoms, concludes that the atom's mass and positive charge are concentrated in a tiny nucleus.
1916---Goddard tests rockets with De-Laval nozzles.
1926, 16 March---Goddard launches his first liquid-fuel rocket.
- 1911---Amundsen reaches South Pole.
- 1912---Emperor overthrown in China, republic proclaimed.
- 1914-1918---World War I. The main opponents are Germany, Austria and Turkey, lined up against Russia, France, Britain, Italy. In 1917 Russia withdrew, defeated, and the Czar was overthrown by Communist workers (Russian Revolution) but the US entered to help Britain, whose side prevailed. A very large, destructive war, the first in which technology played a major role, including airplanes, tanks, machine guns, submarines and poison gas.
1927, 5 July---German "Society for Space Travel" founded.
- 1922 to 1925---Fascism, the creed of a strong, all-controlling government, gains power in Italy under Benito Mussolini.
- 1924---In Russia, Communist leader V.I. Lenin, dies; after that Joseph Stalin gradually gains power, kills or exiles all his rivals and institutes a reign of terror.
1932---1 November--Wernher Von Braun (1912-1977) starts conducting rocket research for the German army.
- 1927---Charles Lindbergh flies solo from the US to Paris.
- 1929---The New York stock market crashes, beginning a long economic depression, in the US and across the world.
- 1929---Edwin Hubble concludes from astronomical observations that distant galaxies recede from us in all directions, and that therefore the universe is expanding.
- 1927-1930---Talking films (black and white). "The Wizard of Oz" (1939) pioneers color movies, but more than 10 years pass before color films become prevalent.
- 1930---In Germany, hard-hit by the economic hardships following WW-I and by the world-wide depression, the Fascist Nazi party under Adolph Hitler comes 2nd in the polls in 1930, takes power 1933.
1932--James Chadwick discovers the neutron.
1936---Theodore von Karman starts the Guggenheim Aeronautical Lab at the California Institute of Technology, later leading to JPL.
- 1932---Sulfa drugs, first new anti-bacterial weapon. Penicillin follows during World War II, and other antibiotics are developed after the war.
1938--Hans Bethe proposes a nuclear fusion reaction for releasing energy in stars
- 1936---The DC-3, the first modern airliner, can reach 210 mph with 21 passengers.
1939--Nuclear fission discovered by Hahn, Meitner and Strassmann: when a uranium nucleus absorbs a neutron, it can be shaken up to the point that it splits in two fragments of comparable size, releasing a great amount of energy.
1942, 2 December--The first nuclear reactor, designed by Enrico Fermi, is successfully operated in Chicago.
- 1939-1945 World War II. A world-wide conflict is started by Hitler's Germany, whose army annexed Austria and Czechoslovakia, then attacked Poland. Germany was allied with Italy and after December 1941 with Japan, which launched its own war of expansion (it had invaded China years before that). A war with unsurpassed destruction and cruelty, including Hitler's attempt to exterminate the Jewish people, of whom about 6 million were killed in a deliberate plan. Technology played an even greater role than in World War I, including long-range bombing raids, improved submarines, jet engines, radar and towards the end, large military rockets and nuclear bombs. Opposing Hitler were France (which fell to the Germans), Britain, Russia and after 1941, the United States: 1941-3 the Germans became bogged down in brutal winter fighting in Russia, in 1943 the US and its allies invaded Italy and forced its surrender, then in 1944 they invaded France and in 1945 first Germany and then Japan surrendered. In 1945 in San Francisco, the victors formed the "United Nations", an international union whose major role was to ensure peace and arbitrate conflicts.
- 1943---Oswald Avery at the Rockefeller Institute in New York proves that DNA, a hitherto unexplained substance in all nuclei of living cells, carries the genetic information.