January 2, 1900 The direction of the Chicago River is reversed so that it flows into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, thereby cleansing the city’s Lake Michigan drinking water.
March 20, 1900 Nikola Tesla is granted a U.S. patent for a “system of transmitting electrical energy” (the radio patent) and another patent for “an electrical transmitter.”
July 17, 1902 Willis Carrier designs an air-conditioning system for a Brooklyn printing plant.
1903 The first steam turbine generator, pioneered by Charles Curtis, is put into operation at the Newport Electric Corporation in Rhode Island.
December 17, 1903 Orville and Wilbur Wright conduct the first motor-powered flight at Kitty Hawk, NC.
1904 Benjamin Holt, a California manufacturer of agricultural equipment, develops the first successful crawler tractor, equipped with a pair of tracks rather than wheels. Dubbed the ‘caterpillar’ tread, the tracks help keep heavy tractors from sinking in soft soil and are an inspiration for the first military tanks.
1905 Jay Brownlee Davidson designs the first professional agricultural engineering curriculum at Iowa State College. Courses include agricultural machines, agricultural power sources, farm building design, rural road construction and field drainage.
September 26, 1905 Albert Einstein publishes the special theory of relativity.
December 24, 1906 Reginald Fessenden conducts the first wireless radio broadcast of entertainment and music in Brant Rock, MA.
September 26, 1908 Jersey City, NJ, becomes the first city in the U.S. to begin chlorination of its water supply. Death rates from waterborne diseases, typhoid in particular, begin to plummet.
July 13, 1907 Belgian scientist Leo Baekeland files a U.S. patent for Bakelite, the first completely man-made plastic material, which marked the birth of the plastics industry.
1910 Thomas Hunt Morgan’s experiments with fruit flies show that heredity was in part determined by genes carried by chromosomes.
1910 Gulf Oil, Texas Refining and Sun Oil introduce asphalt manufactured from byproducts of the oil-refining process. Suitable for road paving, it is less expensive than natural asphalt mined in and imported from Venezuela.
August 19, 1912 Garrett Morgan files a patent for his “breathing device” to be used by the Cleveland Fire Department. His invention is later incorporated into the gas masks used by the U.S. military in World War I.
1913 The University of Kansas School of Medicine discovers that corn oil is good for cooking.
November 5, 1913 The Los Angeles-Owens River Aqueduct opens, bringing water by gravity to the Los Angeles basin from the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains, more than 230 miles to the north.
December 1, 1913 Ford introduces the moving assembly line for the mass production of autos in Highland Park, MI, a concept borrowed from the meat-packing industry. Workers perform a single task rather than master whole portions of automobile assembly.
November 14, 1914 Dodge introduces the first car body made entirely of steel, fabricated by the Budd Company of Philadelphia.
January 25, 1915 Alexander Graham Bell makes the first transcontinental telephone call to Thomas Watson – from New York to San Francisco.
1916 Clarence Birdseye begins experiments in quick-freezing. Birdseye develops a flash-freezing system that moves food products through a refrigerating system on conveyor belts. This causes the food to be frozen very fast, minimizing ice crystals.
April 15, 1917 Wisconsin is the first state to adopt a numbering system as the network of roads increases. The idea gradually spreads across the country.
1917 American Gas & Electric, an investor-owned utility, establishes the first long-distance high-voltage transmission line. The line originates from the first major steam plant to be built at the mouth of a coal mine, virtually eliminating fuel transportation costs.
November 2, 1920 Pittsburgh’s Westinghouse-owned KDKA, the first commercial radio station in the United States, broadcasts election results. By 1922, three million Americans own radios.
July 1, 1925 Cleveland opens the first municipal airport in the U.S. in continuous operation; 100,000 visitors celebrate the occasion.
November 13, 1927 Completion of the Holland Tunnel beneath the Hudson River links New York City and Jersey City, NJ. It is named for engineer Clifford Holland, who solved the problem of venting the build-up of deadly car exhaust by installing 84 electric fans, each 80 feet in diameter
January 7, 1927 Philo Farnsworth files a patent for the first electronic television set.
May 21, 1927 Charles Lindbergh completes the first nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, traveling 3,600 miles from to New York to Paris.
August 19, 1927 “The Jazz Singer” is the first featured-length motion picture to have synchronized sound.
February 22, 1928 Charles Adler, Jr., invents the first modern electric traffic signal, which is installed at a Baltimore intersection.
1929 Frigidaire markets the first room cooler, designed to be located outside the house, or in the basement.
March 15, 1929 Working at the Carnegie Observatories in California, astronomer Edwin Hubble publishes a scientific paper claiming that distant galaxies were moving away from each other at a rate constant to the distance between them.
1932 The U.S. Public Health Service, working with the Tuskegee Institute, begins a study to record the natural history of syphilis in hopes of justifying treatment programs for African-Americans. The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male is conducted without the patients’ informed consent. Although penicillin becomes widely available for use against syphilis in 1947, patients never receive it. Originally projected to last six months, the experiments continue until 1972.
December 26, 1933 Edwin H. Armstrong patents frequency modulation, or wide-band FM, radio.
May 18, 1933 Congress passes legislation establishing the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a federal corporation providing electrification to homes and businesses in the Tennessee Valley.
February 28, 1935 DuPont chemist Gerard Berchet of the Walter Carothers research group invents nylon, intending it to replace silk in stockings.
May 11, 1935 President Roosevelt signs an executive order establishing the Rural Electrification Administration (REA). The REA provided loans and other assistance so that rural cooperatives could build and run their own electrical distribution systems.
November 12, 1936 Englishman Alan Turing and American Alonzo Church introduce an algorithm that describes what information can be computed and provided a model for computing.
May 27, 1937 The Golden Gate Bridge opens, connecting San Francisco with Marin County.
1937 The paving of Route 66 linking Chicago and Santa Monica, CA, is complete. Stretching across eight states and three time zones, the 2,448-miilelong road is the country’s main thoroughfare, bringing farm workers from the Midwest to California and contributing to California’s post-World War II population growth.
1938 A Window air conditioner using Freon is marketed by Philco-York as the “Cool-Wave.” The Philco air conditioner plugs into an electrical outlet.
October 22, 1938 Physicist Chester Carlson invents xerography.
August 2, 1939 Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard write a letter to President Roosevelt explaining the need to build a nuclear bomb to counter Nazi Germany’s effort.
October 1939 John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry at Iowa State College design the first electronic computer, which incorporates binary arithmetic and electronic switching.
1940 Oldsmobile introduces the first mass-produced fully automatic transmission, named Hydra-Matic, in its cars.
October 1, 1940 The Pennsylvania Turnpike opens as the country’s first roadway with no cross streets, no railroad crossings and no traffic lights. Built on an abandoned railroad right of way, it includes 7 miles of tunnels through the mountains, 11 interchanges, 300 bridges and culverts, and 10 service plazas.
December 30, 1940 The Arroyo Seco Parkway (today known as the Pasadena Freeway) opens, connecting Pasadena and Los Angeles. This first freeway in southern California begins a wave of highway construction that transforms urban transportation in America.
August 13, 1942 The Manhattan Engineering District is founded with the mission to design and build a nuclear bomb.
November 20, 1942 The Alaska Canada Military Highway (the Alcan) is completed, linking Dawson Creek, British Columbia and Delta Junction, Alaska. Built by African American and white soldiers of the Army Corps of Engineers, the Alcan has been called “the road to civil rights.”
December 2, 1942 The first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction occurs at the University of Chicago in an experiment led by physicist Enrico Fermi.
July 16, 1945 The U.S. Army’s Manhattan Engineer District tests the first atomic device at Alamogordo, NM, under the code name Trinity.
August 6, 1945 The atomic bomb nicknamed Little Boy is dropped on Hiroshima, Japan; three days later another bomb, Fat Man, is dropped on Nagasaki, Japan.
October 8, 1945 Engineer Percy Spencer accidentally discovers the possibility of making a microwave oven during an experiment with electromagnetic radiation while working at Raytheon.
February 14, 1946 John W. Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert Jr. put the first electronic computer into operation at the University of Pennsylvania. The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) weighs 30 tons and includes 18,000 vacuum tubes, 6,000 switches and 1,500 relays.
August 1, 1946 President Truman signs the Atomic Energy Act, transferring nuclear authority from the Army to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.
1947 Mass-produced, low-cost window air conditioners become possible as a result of innovations by engineer Henry Galson, who sets up production lines for a number of manufacturers. For the first time, many homeowners enjoy air conditioning without having to buy a new home or renovate their heating system.
October 14, 1947 U.S. Air Force pilot Capt. Charles “Chuck” Yeager pilots the first manned supersonic flight aboard the Bell X-1.
December 24, 1947 John Bardeen, Walter H. Brittain, and William B. Shockley, scientists at Bell Labs, build the first transistor that can amplify and switch electronic signals.
December 23, 1949 American physicist Willard Libby and his colleagues develop radiocarbon dating, revolutionizing the field of archeology.
1951 Isaac Asimov writes “Foundation,” a science fiction story about a group of scientists who try to preserve knowledge as civilization regresses.
October 1, 1951 Stanford University sponsors Stanford Industrial Park, a research facility containing Hewlett-Packard, General Electric and Lockheed; area becomes known as Silicon Valley.
October 4, 1951 Henrietta Lacks dies at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore from cancer of the cervix; her living cancerous cells removed from her body and preserved in a lab later launch a medical revolution.
December 20, 1951 In Arco, ID, Experimental Breeder Reactor I produces the first electric power from nuclear energy, lighting four light bulbs.
1952 Grace Murray Hopper, a senior mathematician at the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation and a programmer for Harvard’s Mark I computer, develops the first computer compiler, a program that translated computer instructions from English into machine language.
1953 Ray Bradbury writes “Fahrenheit 451,” a dystopian tale about a futuristic society where books are banned.
1953 Scientists James Watson and Francis Crick discover the structure of DNA, the substance that contains the genetic instructions for all living things.
December 8, 1953 President Eisenhower delivers his “Atoms for Peace” speech before the United Nations, calling for greater cooperation in the development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes.
1954 Gordon Teal, a physical chemist with Texas Instruments, creates transistors from pure silicon, thereby demonstrating the first mass-produced transistor.
April 25, 1954 Bell Labs demonstrates the first practical silicon solar cell.
1956 The first transatlantic telephone cable, the TAT-1, is installed from Scotland to Nova Scotia, providing telephone service between North American and the United Kingdom. Additional circuitry links London to Western Europe.
June 29, 1956 President Eisenhower signs a new Federal Aid Highway Act, committing $25 billion in federal funding to link all state capitals and most cities with populations larger than 50,000.
December 8, 1956 Larry Curtiss, a junior at the University of Michigan, constructs the first glass-clad fibers and inaugurates the use of fiber-optics in medical research.
1957 FORTRAN (for FORmula TRANslation), a high-level programming language developed by IBM, becomes commercially available. Other programming languages quickly follow, including ALGOL in 1958 and COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language) in 1959.
December 2, 1957 The world’s first large-scale nuclear power plant begins operation in Shippinport, PA, supplying electricity to the Pittsburgh area.
December 12, 1958 Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments (and Robert Noyce of Fairchild Semiconductor independently) invents the integrated circuit.
1958 The Seagram Building, Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe’s “glass box” masterpiece opens in New York and shapes the appearance of many American cities.
September 2, 1958 The National Defense Education Act authorizes a $1 billion four-year program of federal financial assistance to strengthen science, mathematics and foreign-language instruction.
1959 Research Triangle Park is created near Raleigh, NC, by state and local government, nearby universities, and business community; it’s home today to over 130 research and development facilities, including the largest IBM location in the world, employing 11,000.
December 29. 1959 Richard Feynman, a Cal Tech physics professor, delivers a speech on nanotechnology, declaring that storing vast amounts of data in minute objects was possible.
May 9, 1960 The era of modern contraception begins when the Food and Drug Administration approves the birth control pill for distribution.
May 16, 1960 Theodore Maiman creates the first working laser (an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) at the Hughes Research Laboratories in California.
1961 Robert A. Heinlein writes “Stranger in a Strange Land,” about a human who comes to earth from the planet Mars.
February 21, 1961 Otis Boykin invents the electrical resistor that is later used in computers, radios and televisions.
November 22, 1961 The U.S. Navy commissions the world’s largest ship, the U.S.S. Enterprise. It is a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with the ability to operate at speeds up to 30 knots for distances up to 400,000 miles without refueling.
1962 The U.S. military introduces ARPANET, a network of two computers that grew to more than a million computers by 1992.
1962 Consumer activist Rachel Carson writes “Silent Spring,” documenting the dangers of pesticide use to humans and wildlife, and leading to the ban on DDT.
February 20, 1962 John Glenn pilots the Mercury Friendship 7 spacecraft in the first U.S. human orbital flight.
July 11, 1962 The first transatlantic transmission of a television signal takes place using the TELSTAR satellite.
1963 The first touch-tone telephone is introduced, with the first commercial service available in Carnegie and Greensburg, PA, for an extra charge.
1963 Kurt Vonnegut writes “Cat’s Cradle,” about life in a post-Hiroshima world.
January 14, 1964 James E. West and Gerhard M. Sessler, working for Bell Labs, receive a patent for their “electroacoustic transducer,” a microphone that is used today in almost all telephones, camcorders, baby monitors and hearing aids.
1965 Frank Herbert writes “Dune,” set in an imaginary desert landscape.
1965 James Russell invents the compact disc.
1965 Ralph Nader writes “Unsafe at Any Speed,” charging that the American automobile industry is neglecting consumer safety issues.
1967 A Texas Instruments team led by Jack Kilby invents the first handheld calculator.
June 21, 1967 Stanford University professor Douglas Engelbart applies for a patent for his invention of the computer mouse as a pointing device.
1968 Philip K. Dick writes “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” a tale about a post-apocalyptic future. It became the basis for the 1982 film “Blade Runner.”
1968 Arthur C. Clarke writes “2001: A Space Odyssey” in conjunction with the film directed by Stanley Kubrick.
July 20, 1969 Astronaut Neil Armstrong is the first man to step on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission.
October 29, 1969 The first ARPANET message is sent from UCLA to the Stanford Research Institute; the inauguration of sharing a message digitally launches the Internet revolution.
June 30, 1970 A T&T inaugurates picture-phone service in Pittsburgh, but the idea fails to catch on.
1971 Intel introduces a “computer on a chip,” the 4004 microprocessor. Costing $1,000, it was as powerful as ENIAC, the vacuum-tube computer of the 1940s. Executing 60,000 operations per second, it changes the face of modern electronics by making it possible to include data processing in hundreds of devices.
1973 Martin Cooper, the director of research at Motorola, invents the cell phone.
1975 The Altair 8800, widely considered the first home computer, is marketed to hobbyists. Bill Gates and Paul Allen form a partnership called Microsoft and write a version of BASIC for the new computer.
1976 Stanford University professor Martin Hellman and graduate student Whitfield Diffie invent public key cryptography, which enables users on the Internet to transmit private data securely.
1977 Citibank introduces the 24-hour automated teller machine (ATM), which revolutionizes customers’ access to their money.
1977 Piers Anthony writes the first in his series of fantasy novels, “The Xanth.”
April 16, 1977 Apple Computer, founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, releases the Apple II, a desktop personal computer for the mass market that features a keyboard, video monitor, mouse and RAM that can be expanded by the user.
July 3, 1977 Dr. Raymond Damadian completes the first full-body magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in order to distinguish between cancerous and noncancerous tissue.
August 1977 Orson Scott Card’s “Enders Game” first appears in the magazine Analog Science Fiction.
1978 The U.S. government launches a satellite-based navigation system for military purposes which, adapted to civilian life, becomes the GPS.
March 28, 1979 The worst accident in U.S. commercial reactor history occurs at the Three Mile Island nuclear power station near Harrisburg, PA.
June 6, 1980 Nobel Award winner in Physics Luis Alvarez and his son, geologist Walter Alvarez, publish a scientific paper in Science magazine theorizing that 65 million years ago a giant asteroid had struck earth, killing the dinosaur population.
1981 Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a new disease when symptoms are noted in many young men in Los Angeles and New York.
August 12, 1981 IBM introduces the Personal Computer using the Intel 8088 microprocessor and an operating system, MS-DOS, designed by Microsoft. Fully equipped with 64 kilobytes of memory and a floppy disk drive, it costs $1,565.
1982 “Tron” is the first motion picture to use computer-generated imagery.
1984 Apple introduces the Macintosh, a low-cost, plug-and-play personal computer. Although it doesn’t offer enough power for business applications, its easy-to-use graphic interface finds fans in education and publishing.
1985 Margaret Atwood writes, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a dystopian novel about a totalitarian Christian theocracy that has overthrown the U.S. government.
May 17, 1988 Dr. Patricia E. Bath invents a new device for cataract surgery known as the “laserphaco.”
1990 Tim Berners-Lee invents the Web by creating the first Web browser and Web pages, which could be accessed by the Internet.
1991 The World Wide Web becomes available to the general public.
1994 Linus Torvalds creates the Linux open source operating system.
1995 “Toy Story” is the first all computer-generated feature movie.
January 1, 1998 Larry Page files a patent for PageRank, the forerunner of Google, which revolutionized how we conduct research.