View our new "On this day" sections for August.


1 August 

  • 1889 Birth of Walter Gerlach, known for the experiment on particle deflection conducted jointly with Otto Stern, that showed that some of the properties of electrons are intrinsically quantum mechanical and that measurement of a system affects that system

  • 1945 Birth of Douglas Osheroff, who won the 1996 Nobel Prize along with David Lee and Robert C. Richardson for their discovery of superfluidity in Helium-3

2 August 

  • 1932 Carl D Anderson discovers the positron, the antimatter counterpart to the electron, for which he would be awarded the 1936 Nobel Prize

  • 1939 Albert Einstein and Leó Szilárd write to US President Franklin D Roosevelt warning of Nazi attempts to develop a nuclear weapon and urging that the American government initiate a project to create one of their own
  • 1820 Birth of John Tyndall, known for his many contributions to experimental physics, including showing that the Earth’s atmosphere causes a greenhouse effect
  • 1835 Birth of Elisha Gray, the inventor of the music synthesiser and an inventor who held more than 70 patents -– although he lost out to Alexander Graham Bell on that for the telephone

3 August 

  • 1860 Birth of William Kennedy Dickson, inventor of an early film camera. His choice of 35mm for the size of celluloid film is a standard still in common use

4 August 

  • 1755 Birth of Nicolas-Jacques Conté, who was involved in the development of the hot air balloon in aeronautics and who invented the pencil

  • 1805 Birth of William Rowan Hamilton, known for his many contributions to physics and particularly his mathematical reformulation of classical Newtonian mechanics in terms of the total energy of a system

5 August 

  • 1930 Birth of Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the Moon

  • 1937 Birth of Brian G Marsden, the astronomer known for rediscovering “lost” comets and asteroids, particularly the comet Swift-Tuttle

6 August 

  • 2011 NASA launches Mars rover Curiosity to explore the Gale Crater on Mars as part of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission (MSL).
  • 1996 NASA announces that a meteorite fragment thought to have originated on Mars may contain microscopic fossils of bacteria
  • 1900 Birth of Cecil Howard Green, the geophysicist who invented a magnetometer that was used during World War Two to detect submarines and who became one of the founders of the electronics company Texas Instruments
  • 1907 Birth of László Heller, who co-invented a cooling system for power stations

7 August 

  • 1944 The world’s first program-controlled calculator is presented to Harvard University by IBM

8 August 

  • 1901 Birth of Ernest Lawrence, awarded the 1939 Nobel Prize for his development of the cyclotron

  • 1902 Birth of Paul Dirac, one of the founders of quantum mechanics, who predicted the existence of antimatter and whose eponymous equation describes the behavior of fermions. Dirac’s work in these areas saw him awarded the 1933 Nobel Prize along with Erwin Schrödinger
  • 1931 Birth of Roger Penrose, known for his many important contributions to cosmology and general relativity

9 August 

  • 1896 Birth of Erich Hückel, known for his contributions to physical chemistry

  • 1911 Birth of William Alfred Fowler, winner of the 1983 Nobel Prize along with Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar for his work on the importance of stellar nuclear reactions on the relative abundance of chemical elements throughout the universe

10 August 

  • 1675 Construction of the Royal Greenwich Observatory begins

  • 1990 The spaceprobe Magellan arrives at Venus and begins mapping the surface using radar
  • 1839 Birth of Aleksandr Stoletov, known for his work on ferromagnetism and electrical engineering and for his studies of the photoelectric effect
  • 1913 Birth of Wolfgang Paul, whose work led to the development of the ion trap, for which he and Hans Georg Dehmelt shared half of the 1989 Nobel Prize

11 August 

  • 1942 A patent for the communications technology that makes radar-guided torpedoes harder to jam and which will later form the basis for wi-fi is granted to the composer George Antheil and the actress Hedy Lamarr

12 August 

  • 1887 Austrian Erwin Schrödinger (best known for the Schrödinger's cat experiment) was born on this day.
  • Annually The Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak
  • 1851 A patent for the sewing machine is granted to Isaac Singer
  • 1877 Deimos, one of the moons of Mars, is discovered by Asaph Hall using the US Naval Observatory’s telescope, then then the largest in the world

13 August 

  • 1898 The near-Earth asteroid 433 Eros, the first to be found, is discovered by Carl Gustav Witt

  • 1625 Birth of Rasmus Bartholin, known for his discovery of the double refraction of light by calcite
  • 1814 Birth of Anders Jonas Ångström, a pioneer in spectroscopy and the physicist after whom the measurement 10-10 metres is named
  • 1819 Birth of George Stokes, known for his contributions to fluid dynamics; the Navier-Stokes equations describing the motions of fluids are named for him and Claude-Louis Navier

14 August 

  • 1888 Thomas Edison holds a press conference in London to introduce his phonograph or gramophone, playing one of the first recordings of music ever made

15 August 

16 August 

  • 1989 Trading on Toyko’s stock market comes to a halt after a geomagnetic storm caused by a solar flare affects the functioning of electronic components

  • 1845 Birth of Gabriel Lippman, winner of the 1908 Nobel Prize for his invention of a method of reproducing colours in photographs, based on the interference of waves of light

17 August 

  • 1970 The Russian spaceprobe Venera 7 is launched; it will later become the first spacecraft to transmit data from the surface of another planet after landing on Venus on December 15

18 August 

  • 1868 Pierre Janssen spots a previously undiscovered spectral line in the spectrum of the Sun, which is later attributed to the presence of a new element – helium

  • 1877 The Martian moon Phobos in discovered by Asaph Hall
  • 1685 Birth of Brook Taylor, the mathematician after whom the Taylor theorem and Taylor series are named

19 August 

  • 1646 Birth of John Flamsteed, who catalogued more than 3000 stars and became the first Astronomer Royal

  • 1913 Birth of John Argyris, the aeronautical engineer who developed the Finite Element Method, a numerical technique for obtaining approximate solutions to partial differential equations

20 August 

  • 1975 Viking 1, the first spacecraft to land, and complete a mission, on Mars is launched by NASA

  • 1977 NASA launches Voyager 2, the first spaceprobe to take detailed, up-close photographs of the solar system’s giant planets

21 August 

  • 1945 A criticality incident occurs with a plutonium core at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the US; Harry K Daghlian Jr receives a fatal dose of radiation

22 August 

  • 1962 The NS Savannah, the world’s first nuclear-powered cargo ship, commissioned by US President Dwight D Eisenhower as part of his “Atoms for Peace” initiative, finishes its maiden voyage

  • 1989 Voyager 2 images show the first unequivocal evidence of rings around Neptune
  • 1647 Birth of Denis Papin, inventor of a type of high-pressure cooker that was a forerunner of the steam engine and pressure cooker
  • 1834 Birth of Samuel Pierpoint Langley, inventor of the bolometer

23 August 

  • 1875 Birth of William Eccles, the pioneer of radio communications technology and known for patenting, jointly with F W Jordan the flip-flop circuit in electronics, which would later become the basis for computer memory

24 August 

  • 1891 Thomas Edison receives a patent for his motion picture camera

  • 2006 The International Astronomical Union announces its new definition of a planet, under which Pluto is now considered a dwarf planet

25 August 

  • 1609 Galileo demonstrates his first telescope

  • 1928 Birth of Herbert Kroemer, known for his work on semiconductor devices, for which he and Zhores I. Alferov were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2000

26 August 

  • 1740 Birth of Joseph-Michel Montgolfier, co-inventor of the hot air balloon along with his brother Jacques-Étienne

  • 1728 Birth of Johann Heinrich Lambert, known for his work on photometry and for inventing the first practical hygrometer
  • 1882 Birth of James Franck, winner of the 1925 Nobel Prize for his experiments contributing to confirmation of the Bohr model of the atom
  • 1951 Birth of Edward Witten, notable for his research in string theory and other areas of mathematical physics

27 August 

  • 1939 The world’s first jet aircraft, the Heinkel He 178, makes its first flight

  • 1915 Birth of Norman Foster Ramsey, winner of a share of the 1989 Nobel Prize for his work on studying atoms or molecules using magnetic fields, now known as the Ramsey Method, which has applications in the functioning of atomic clocks

28 August 

  • 1853 Birth of Vladimir Grigoryevich Shukhov, known for his contributions to structural engineering

  • 1919 Birth of electrical engineer Godfrey Newbold Hounsfield, winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, along with Allan McLeod Cormack, for their development of the CT scan

29 August 

  • 1831 The phenomenon of electromagnetic induction – in which an electrical current is produced in a conductor moving in a magnetic field – is discovered by Michael Faraday

30 August 

  • 1856 Birth of Carl Runge, the mathematician and physicist known for inventing the Runge-Kutta Method in numerical analysis and for studying the spectral lines produced by various elements

  • 1912 Birth of Edward Mills Purcell, winner of the 1952 Nobel Prize along with Felix Bloch, for their independent discoveries of nuclear magnetic resonance, which is now used as the basis of MRI machines in hospitals

31 August 

  • 1663 Birth of Guillaume Amontons, who rediscovered the laws of friction first described by Leonardo Da Vinci; they would later be confirmed by Charles-Augustin de Coulomb

  • 1913 Birth of Bernard Lovell, known for his contributions to radio astronomy
  • 1949 Birth of Hugh David Politzer, winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize with David Gross and Frank Wilczek for their discovery of asymptotic freedom in quantum chromodynamics