Today in Science History – February 28 – Dord


dord entry in the Webster’s New International Dictionary, 2nd Edition

Dord is a noun in physics and chemistry that means density. At least, that’s what it meant for nearly 5 years.

On February 28, 1939, the word ‘Dord’ was discovered to be an error in the second edition of Webster’s New International Dictionary published in 1934. Dord is an example of a ghost word or a word that was never actually used but appeared in dictionaries.

The first edition of this dictionary had common abbreviations listed together with the words alphabetically. When the second edition was being written, they decided to let abbreviations appear in the back in their own special section.

While a dictionary is compiled, cards are created for each word to make sorting easier prior to printing. The card for the abbreviation ‘D or d’ for density went into the wrong pile and the printers mistakenly combined  ‘D or d’ into ‘dord’.

Notable Science History Events for February 28

2013 – Donald Arthur Glaser died.

Donald Glaser

Donald A. Glaser (1926-2013) Inventor of the Bubble Chamber

Glaser is an American physicist and neurobiologist who was awarded the 1960 Nobel Prize in Physics for the invention of the bubble chamber. The bubble chamber is a detection device works on the same basic principle as the cloud chamber. A vessel is filled with a transparent liquid heated to just below its boiling point and aligned with a magnetic field. As particles enter the chamber, a piston expands the chamber, causing the liquid to become superheated. Any charged particles passing through the vessel will cause bubbles to appear along the particle’s path. The bubble density and paths can give information on the type, charge and lifetime of the particles.

2006 – Owen Chamberlain died.

Owen Chamberlain

Owen Chamberlain (1920 – 2006)
Nobel Foundation

Chamberlain was an American physicist who shares the 1959 Nobel Prize in Physics with Emilio Segrè for their discovery of the antiproton. An antiproton is an antimatter proton that will be completely annihilated when it encounters a proton. They have the same mass but opposite charge of a regular proton.

1948 – Steven Chu was born.

Chu is an American physicist who was awarded one-third of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics for development of techniques to cool and trap single atoms with lasers.

1939 – Daniel Chee Tsui was born.

Tsui is a Chinese-American physicist who shares the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics with Robert Laughlin and Horst Stömer for their discovery of the fractional quantum Hall effect. Electrons cooled to a very low temperature within a strong magnetic field form a quantum fluid where the electrons have fractional electric charges.

1939 – Dord is identified as an error in the dictionary.

1936 – Charles Jules Henri Nicolle died.

Charles Nicolle

Charles Nicolle (1866 – 1936)

Nicolle was a French bacteriologist who was awarded the 1928 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work on typhus. He identified lice as the transmission vector of epidemic typhus. He attempted to create a vaccine for typhus by crushing lice and mixing it with blood from recovered typhus victims. This method did seem to work, but was not as effective as he had hoped.

He also discovered the transmission method of tick fever and developed a vaccine for Malta fever.

1930 – Leon Cooper was born.

Cooper is an American physicist who shares the 1972 Nobel Prize in Physics with John Bardeen and John Schieffer for their B-C-S superconductor theory. This theory describes superconductivity as a microscopic effect caused by electron pairs condensing to a boson-like state. He is also known for Cooper pairs, electrons bound together at low temperatures.

1915 – Peter Brian Medawar was born.

Medawar was a British zoologist who was awarded half the 1960 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his research on the immune system and rejection of tissue transplants. He developed the theory of acquired immunological tolerance through his work on skin grafts. He recognized tissue rejection as an immunological response and paved the way for more successful tissue and organ transplants.

1901 – Linus Carl Pauling was born.

Linus Pauling

Linus Pauling (1901 – 1994). Library of Congress

Pauling was an American chemist who was one of the pioneers of quantum chemistry and mechanics. His research into chemical bonding earned him the 1954 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He introduced the concept of electronegativity, or the ability of an atom to attract electrons to form bonds.

After World War II, he became an outspoken critic of atomic weapons and the effects of fallout. His efforts to eliminate above-ground atomic testing earned him the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize.

1896 – Philip Showalter Hench was born.

Philip Showalter Hench

Philip Showalter Hench (1896 – 1965)

Hench was an American physician who, together with Edward Kendall, started to treat rheumatoid arthritis with the adrenal hormone cortisone. The pair with Tadeus Reichstein investigated further adrenal gland hormones and their effects, earning them the 1950 Nobel Prize in Medicine.

1814 – Edmond Frémy was born.

Edmond Frémy

Edmond Frémy (1814 – 1894)

Frémy was a French chemist who was best known for his work with fluorine and its compounds. He discovered anhydrous hydrogen fluoride and was the first to artificially produce rubies.

Frémy is also known for Frémy’s salt. Frémy’s salt (or Potassium nitrosodisulfonate -K2NO(SO3)2) is a strong oxidizer and long-lasting radical useful in many oxidation reactions.

1743 – René-Just Haüy was born.

René-Just Haüy

René-Just Haüy (1743 – 1822)

Haüy was a French mineralogist and considered to be the founder of crystallography. He noticed the angles and cleve lines were clearly defined and fixed when a sample of calcite was broken and began an extensive study of other crystals. He established the symmetry law that showed crystals are formed by fixed laws.

Leave a Reply