January

The key historical physics events that happened in January

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1 January 

  • 1801 The dwarf planet Ceres is discovered by Giuseppe Piazzi; astronomers lose track of it shortly afterwards but its position is later correctly predicted by Carl Friedrich Gauss and Ceres re-sighted on 31 December
  • 1985 The first mobile phone call in the UK is made, by comedian Ernie Wise
  • 1989 The Montreal Protocol, phasing out substances responsible for depletion of the ozone layer, comes into force
  • 1876 Birth of Harriet Brooks, known for her work on nuclear transmutations and the discoverer of ‘atomic recoil
  • 1894 Birth of Satyendra Nath Bose, known for his work on particle statistics and remembered in the name of the Bose-Einstein condensate, a phase of matter in which quantum effects are apparent at a macroscopic scale

2 January 

  • 1959 Luna 1, the first spacecraft to reach the vicinity of the moon, is launched
  • 1822 Birth of Rudolph Clausius, one of the founders of thermodynamics

3 January 

  • 1496 Leonardo da Vinci tests his flying machine, without success
  • 1999 The Mars Polar Lander is launched

4 January 

  • 1959 Luna 1 reaches the vicinity of the moon
  • 1643 Birth of Isaac Newton, considered the father of classical physics as the discoverer of the law of universal gravitation and the three laws of motion, the developer of mathematical methods such as calculus, and the inventor of the first working reflecting telescope
  • 1940 Birth of Brian Josephson, winner of the 1973 Nobel Prize for his work in condensed-matter physics and particularly for what is now known as the Josephson Effect – an electric current across two superconductors separated by an insulating barrier

5 January 

  • 1940 FM radio is demonstrated for the first time
  • 2005 Eris, the largest known dwarf planet, is discovered

6 January 

  • 1745 Birth of Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier, co-inventor of the hot air balloon along with his brother Joseph-Michel

7 January 

  • 1610 Galileo makes the first observation of four of Jupiter’s moons, which would be named the Galilean Moons after him

8 January 

  • 1891 Birth of Walther Bothe, who was awarded a share of the 1954 Nobel Prize (with Max Born) for work on wave-particle duality
  • 1942 Birth of Stephen Hawking, the theoretical physicist and cosmologist best known for his work on black holes and for authoring the popular-science book A Brief History of Time

10 January 

  • 1863 The London Underground, the world’s first underground railway, opens
  • 1890 Birth of Grigory Landsberg, known for his contributions to optics and spectroscopy
  • 1936 Birth of Robert Woodrow Wilson, one of the discoverers of the cosmic microwave background radiation along with Arno Penzias

11 January 

  • 1787 Two moons of Uranus are discovered by William Herschel
  • 1800 Birth of Ányos Jedlik, early inventor of a prototype dynamo

12 January 

  • 1908 A long-distance radio message is sent for the first time, from the Eiffel Tower
  • 2007 Comet C2006 P1 reaches perihelion, becoming the brightest comet for 40 years
  • 1903 Birth of Igor Kurchatov, director of the Soviet atomic bomb project

13 January 

  • 1864 Birth of Wilhelm Wien, known for his work on blackbody radiation and particularly the law now named for him, describing the wavelength distribution of radiation from a blackbody at a give temperature
  • 1910 The first public radio broadcast takes place in New York City – a live performance of the opera Cavellaria Rusticana

15 January 

  • 2005 SMART-1 discovers calcium and other elements on the moon

16 January 

  • 1969 Soyuz 4 and 5 perform the first ever orbital docking
  • 2003 The Space Shuttle Colombia takes off on what would prove to be its final mission – it disintegrates on re-entering the atmosphere on 1 February

18 January 


19 January 

  • 1915 The neon discharge tube is patented (1915)
  • 2006 The New Horizons probe is launched by NASA on the first ever mission to Pluto
  • 1736 Birth of James Watt, the inventor who made revolutionary improvements to the steam engine and after whom the SI unit of power is named
  • 1851 Birth of Jacobus Kapteyn, the astronomer known for his studies of the Milky Way and for providing the first evidence of galactic rotation

20 January 

  • 1885 The rollercoaster is patented
  • 1836 Birth of André-Marie Ampère, one of the discoverers of electromagnetism, after whom the unit for electric current is named
  • 1931 Birth of David Lee, winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize along with Robert C. Richardson and Douglas Osheroff "for their discovery of superfluidity in helium-3" 

21 January 

  • 1954 The world’s first nuclear-powered submarine is launched
  • 2004 NASA loses communication with Mars rover Spirit due to faulty computer memory

22 January 


23 January 

  • 2003 The final communication with Pioneer 10, the first interplanetary mission to Jupiter, which was later sent on a trajectory taking it out of the solar system
  • 1907 Birth of Hideki Yukawa, who predicted the existence of the pion and who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1949

24 January 

  • 1986 The Voyager 2 probe passes within 81 500km of Uranus

25 January 


26 January 

  • 1911 Birth of Polykarp Kusch, awarded the 1955 Nobel Prize jointly with Willis Lamb for their discovery that the magnetic moment of the electron is larger than the value that had been predicted

27 January 

  • 1936 Birth of Samuel C.C. Ting, who discovered the J/ψ meson, also known as “charmonium”, consisting of a charm quark and antiquark, and was awarded the 1976 Nobel Prize jointly with Burton Richter

28 January 


29 January 

  • 1926 Birth of Abdus Salam, known for his work on the unification of the electromagnetic force and the weak nuclear force into electroweak theory, for which he, Sheldon Glashow and Steven Weinberg won the Nobel Prize in 1979

30 January 

  • 1996 Amateur astronomer Yuji Hyakutake discovers a long-period comet, which is subsequently named after him

31 January 

  • 1982 A white dwarf companion to Sirius is discovered by Alvan Graham Clark using an 18.5-inch telescope
  • 1958 The first successful American satellite launch, of Explorer 1, takes place
  • 1958 James Van Allen discovers the radiation belt that now bears his name
  • 1961 Ham the Chimp becomes the first hominid launched into space
  • 1921 Birth of Rudolph Mössbauer, discoverer of the Mössbauer Effect in spectroscopy and winner of a share of the 1961 Nobel Prize along with Robert Hofstadter