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


1 March 

  • 1893 Nikola Tesla gives the first public demonstration of radio
  • 1896 Radioactivity is discovered by Henri Becquerel
  • 1966 The Soviet Union’s Venera 3 space probe become the first to land on another planet when it crashes on Venus
  • 1943 Birth of Richard H Price, the general-relativist known for his eponymous theorem that any inhomogeneities in the geometry of the spacetime around a black hole will be radiated away
  • 1943 Birth of Rashid Sunyaev, known for his predictions of inverse Compton scattering in the cosmic microwave background radiation, along with Yakov Zel’dovich

2 March 

  • 1972 The Pioneer 10 space probe is launched, aimed at exploring the solar system’s outer planets
  • 1862 Birth of Boris Galitzine, inventor of the first electromagnetic seismograph

3 March 

  • 1969 NASA launches Apollo 9 to test the lunar module as part of its programme to put humans on the moon
  • 1847 Birth of Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone

4 March 

  • 1882 The UK’s first electric tram begins running in east London
  • 1890 The Forth Bridge, the longest in Britain, is opened
  • 1986 The Soviet space probe Vega 1 returns the first ever images of the nucleus of Halley’s Comet
  • 1862 Birth of Robert Emden, who first developed a mathematical model of the structure of stars
  • 1866 Birth of Eugène Cosserat, known for his studies of surface mechanics
  • 1904 Birth of George Gamov, the theoretical physicist who discovered alpha decay and who worked in areas including star formation, the cosmic microwave background, and nucleosynthesis in stars and in the Big Bang
  • 1944 Birth of Anthony Ichiro Sanda, the particle physicist known for his work on CP violation
  • 1947 Birth of John Hinch, known for his work on fluid dynamics

5 March 

  • 1904 Nikola Tesla describes in Electrical World and Engineer how ball lightning forms
  • 1979 Two Soviet space probes and an American satellite are hit by gamma-ray bursts, leading to the discovery of “soft gamma repeaters” – objects that emit large, irregular bursts of gamma and x-rays
  • 1979 The Voyager 1 spacecraft makes its closest approach to Jupiter

6 March 

  • 1787 Birth of Joseph von Fraunhofer, who discovered absorption lines in the Sun’s spectrum, which are now named Fraunhofer lines for him

7 March 

  • 1876 Alexander Graham Bell is granted a patent for the telephone
  • 1788 Birth of Antoine César Becquerel, who conducted early studies of electrical and luminescent phenomena and discovered the photoelectric effect along with his son AE Becquerel
  • 1792 Birth of John Herschel, who named seven of Saturn’s moons and four of those of Uranus
  • 1958 Birth of Alan Hale, co-discoverer of the comet Hale-Bopp

8 March 

  • 1804 Birth of Alvan Clark, the telescope-maker who designed some of the world’s largest instruments
  • 1914 Birth of Yakov Zel’dovich, who worked on the Soviet nuclear project before undertaking work on particle physics, cosmology and black hole thermodynamics. Along with Rashid Sunyaev he predicted that the cosmic microwave background should undergo inverse Compton scattering

9 March 

  • 1997 A solar eclipse allows the comet Hale-Bopp to be seen during the day from China, Mongolia and eastern Siberia
  • 1923 Birth of Walter Kohn, who was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1998 along with John Pople for contributions to the understanding of the electronic properties of materials
  • 1928 Birth of Gerald Bull, the engineer who developed long-range artillery and who wished to use artillery to launch a satellite into space; he was killed by an anonymous assassin in 1990
  • 1934 Birth of Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space

10 March 

  • 1876 Alexander Graham Bell makes the world’s first telephone call
  • 1977 Astronomers discover rings around Uranus
  • 2006 The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter arrives at its destination
  • 1923 Birth of Val Logsdon Fitch, who was awarded the 1980 Nobel Prize in Physics along with James Watson Cronin for an experiment in which CP violation was discovered

11 March 

  • 1811 Birth of Urbain Le Verrier, discoverer of Neptune
  • 1920 Birth of Nicolaas Bloembergen, awarded the 1981 Nobel Prize along with Arthur Schawlow and Kai Siegbahn for work on laser spectroscopy

12 March 

  • 1824 Birth of Gustav Kirchoff, who coined the term “blackbody radiation” and who worked on spectroscopy and electrical circuits
  • 1881 Birth of Gunnar Nordström, the first physicist to introduce an extra dimension to a theory of gravity to couple it with electromagnetism
  • 1907 Birth of Dorrit Hoffleit, author of the Bright Star Catalogue, containing information on more than 9000 of the brightest stars in the sky
  • 1925 Birth of Leo Esaki, who was awarded the 1973 Nobel Prize along with Ivar Giaever and Brain Josephson for the discovery of quantum tunneling of electrons. He also invented the Esaki diode, which takes advantage of electron tunneling

13 March 

  • 1781 Uranus is discovered by William Herschel
  • 1930 Harvard College Observatory is notified of the discovery of Pluto
  • 1969 Apollo 9 returns safely to Earth after testing of the Lunar Module
  • 1733 Birth of Joseph Priestley, who is usually credited with discovering oxygen
  • 1855 Birth of Percival Lowell, who founded the observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona – the first to have been deliberately placed in a location with conditions suited to astronomy – and initiated the effort that would lead to the discovery of Pluto from discrepancies in the orbits of Uranus and Neptune from their predicted values
  • 1899 Birth of John Hasbrouck van Vleck, winner of the 1977 Nobel Prize for work on the behaviour of electrons in magnetic solids

14 March 

  • 1835 Birth of Giovanni Schiaparelli, the astronomer known for his studies of Mars
  • 1879 Birth of Albert Einstein, one of the most recognisable physicists in history, who originated the theories of relativity and explained the photoelectric effect in terms of quantum mechanics, for which he was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize

15 March 

  • 1713 Birth of Nicolas Louis de Lacaille, the astronomer who catalogued around 10 000 southern-hemisphere stars
  • 1930 Birth of Zhores Alferov, the inventor of the “heterotransistor”, for which he was awarded a share of the Nobel Prize in 2000

16 March 

  • 1750 Birth of Caroline Herschel, awarded the Royal Astronomical Society’s Gold Medal for her catalogue of nebulae
  • 1789 Birth of Georg Simon Ohm, who discovered that the voltage applied across a conductor and the resultant current are proportional – this is now known as Ohm’s law, and the unit of resistance is the ohm
  • 1859 Birth of Alexander Popov, who first demonstrated practical applications of radio waves
  • 1918 Birth of Frederick Reines, awarded the 1995 Nobel Prize for his detection of the neutrino, along with Clyde Cowan

17 March 

18 March 

  • 1640 Birth of Philippe de la Hire, who calculated tables of motion of the Sun, moon and planets

19 March 

  • 1900 Birth of Frédéric Joliot, whose work on the structure of the atom earned him the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1935

20 March 

21 March 

  • 1768 Birth of Joseph Fourier, who introduced Fourier series, breaking down periodic functions into composites of sines and cosines, to solve problems in heat analysis. He is also credited with discovering the greenhouse effect

22 March 

  • 1995 Valeri Polyakov returns to Earth after a record 437 days in space
  • 1997 Comet Hale-Bopp has its closest approach to Earth
  • 1868 Birth of Robert Millikan, who first measured the charge on an electron, for which he was awarded the 1923 Nobel Prize
  • 1931 Birth of Burton Richter, the leader of the team at the Stanford Linear Accelerator that co-discovered the J/Ψ meson. Richter was jointly awarded the 1976 Nobel Prize along with Samuel CC Ting, the leader of the team at the Brookhaven National Laboratory

23 March 

  • 2001 The Russian space station Mir is deliberately burned up in the atmosphere to dispose of it
  • 1912 Birth of Werner von Braun, the pioneering rocket scientist

24 March 

  • 1896 AA Popov makes the world’s first radio transmission
  • 1965 Spacecraft Ranger 9 broadcasts television images of the moon shortly before crash landing
  • 1993 Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 is discovered just over a year before it collides with Jupiter
  • 1820 Birth of AE Becquerel, discoverer of the photovoltaic effect, on which solar cells depend
  • 1891 Birth of Sergey Ivanovich Vavilov, the co-discoverer of what is now known as Cherenkov radiation – the light produced by a charged particle moving through a dielectric medium faster than the velocity of light in that medium
  • 1893 Birth of Walter Baade, the astronomer who first classified stars into distinct groups – Population I or Population II – determined that supernovae were a new, previously unknown class of object and hypothesized the existence of neutron stars

25 March 

  • 1655 Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, is discovered by Christiaan Huygens

26 March 

  • 1753 Birth of Benjamin Thompson, known for his work on mechanically generated heat, which contradicted the then-dominant caloric theory and helped to establish the law of the conservation of energy
  • 1938 Birth of Anthony James Leggett, winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize along with Vitaly Ginzburg and Alexei Alexeyevich Abrikosov for contributions to the theory of superconductors
  • 1951 Birth of Carl Wieman, awarded the 1995 Nobel Prize jointly with Eric Allin Cornell for their production of the first Bose-Einstein condensate

27 March 

  • 1969 Mariner 7 is launched as the second part of the first dual mission to Mars
  • 1845 Birth of Wilhelm Röntgen, the discoverer of x-rays
  • 1897 Birth of Douglas Hartree, the mathematician and physicist known for the Hartree equations for the distributions of electrons in an atom

28 March 

  • 1930 Birth of Jerome Friedman, winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize along with Henry W Kendall and Richard E Taylor for their experiments at the Stanford Linear Accelerator that showed that protons have an internal structure

29 March 

  • 1974 Mariner 10 becomes the first spacecraft to fly past Mercury
  • 1941 Birth of Joseph Hooton Taylor, awarded the 1993 Nobel Prize jointly with Russell Alan Hulse for their discovery of a binary pulsar, which provided evidence for the existence of gravitational waves

30 March 

  • 240BC First recorded perihelion of Halley’s comet
  • 1939 A world-record airspeed of 463mph is set by the Heinkel He 100 fighter

31 March 

  • 1966 Luna 10, the first spacecraft to enter the moon’s orbit, is launched
  • 1890 Birth of William Lawrence Bragg, known for the Bragg law of x-ray diffraction and the winner of the 1915 Nobel Prize, along with his father William Henry Bragg, for their work on using x-rays to analyse crystal structures
  • 1906 Birth of Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, awarded the 1965 Nobel Prize with Richard Feynman and Julian Schwinger for their work on the development of quantum electrodynamics
  • 1934 Birth of Carlo Rubbia, the particle physicist who shared the 1984 Nobel Prize with Simon van der Meer for their work at CERN that led to the discovery of the W and Z bosons – the particles that mediate interactions in the weak nuclear force

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