November 27 is Anders Celsius’ birthday. Celsius was a Swedish astronomer who brought us the temperature scale that would become the Celsius temperature scale. He proposed a scale where the freezing point of water at one standard pressure was defined as 100°C and the boiling point of water was defined as 0°C. His temperature scale was called “centigrade” which meant “100 steps” in Latin.
After Celsius’ death, another Swedish scientist, Carolus Linnaeus swapped the two endpoints and renamed the scale after Celsius. The modern Celsius scale uses two different points to define the scale: absolute zero and the triple point of VSMOW, or Vienna Standard Mean Ocean Water. The name Celsius was retained and the ‘degree Celsius’ is used as the SI unit of temperature.
Notable Science History Events for November 27
1971 – Soviet Mars 2 lander becomes the first man-made object on Mars.
The Soviet unmanned probe Mars 2 reached Mars orbit and dropped its lander vehicle to the surface. Unfortunately, the lander entered the Martian atmosphere at too steep an angle and crashed. The lander’s wreckage became the first man-made object to reach the surface of Mars.
1903 – Lars Onsager was born.
Onsager was a Norwegian-American physical chemist who was awarded the 1968 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of the Onsager reciprocal relations. These relations express the relationships between forces and flows in thermodynamic non-equilibrium systems. Onsager reciprocal relations are often considered the ‘fourth’ law of thermodynamics.
1874 – Chaim Azriel Weizmann was born.
Weizmann was a Russian chemist who developed the method to produce acetone using bacteria and fermentation during World War I. Acetone was vital to the production of cordite and explosives for the war effort. After the War, he modified his technique to produce other organic compounds using bacteria during fermentation.
He was also an instrumental in the formation of the State of Israel and served as their first President.
1857 – Charles Scott Sherrington was born.
Sherrington was an English physiologist who shared the 1932 Nobel Prize in Medicine with Edgar Adrian for their research into the function of neurons. He discovered when one set of muscles is stimulated, muscles opposing the action of the first are simultaneously inhibited. He also coined the terms synapse and neuron to describe the parts of a nerve cell that receive or transmit nervous impulses from one cell to another.