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by the oceans. Historically, atmospheric CO2 has and of polar ice, notably the Antarctic continent. Sea
steadily increased since 1800, as shown by the graph level is predicted to rise between 60 cm and 1 m by
(Figure 1). 2100. Worldwide, half of humanity lives in coastal
Another important greenhouse gas is methane, areas. Some islands will be inundated, as will much of


16
Panel: Global warming




Fig. 2. Changes in global average surface temperature (surface air temperature
over land and sea surface temperatures combined) from 1860 to 2000 relative to the
period 1961–90. The solid curve represents smoothing of the annual values to
suppress sub-decadal timescale variations.




Bangladesh, the Nile delta in Egypt, and large areas in full-scale trial in Iceland from 2002 of part of this
the USA and China. The Netherlands has at least the scheme, although valuable, is limited in so far as
advantage of experience, and should be able to Iceland has a small population (276 000) and abundant
enhance existing technology and use experience not hydroelectric power to generate hydrogen.
available in other areas, where population surges will Alternative and very different ideas have also been
result from inability to control land loss. put forward; for example TELLER’S group believe that
Attempts to alleviate these huge global problems reflective particles in the upper atmosphere, to reduce
have led to calls for reduction of CO2 emissions world- incoming solar radiation, could be cost-effective.
wide, or at least (and more realistically) reduction of the Another philosophy is offered by the US economist
rate of CO2 increase. The burning of fossil fuels (coal Frances Cairncross (1944– ), who has argued that it is
and gas) for domestic heating, industrial power use, hopeless to try to prevent a massive rise in CO2 emis-
and transport are clear targets for reduction: the indus- sion from the developing world. There at present the
trialized northern hemisphere emits most CO2 but the fuel consumption is only the equivalent of 1 to 2
development of industry in Russia, China and India will barrels of oil per person annually, compared with 10
worsen the problems. More efficient usage, and better for Europeans and 40 for Americans. Her view is that
insulation, can only slightly reduce CO2 emissions. So humanity in the past has adapted to and survived
also will contributions of renewable ‘clean’ (ie CO2- great climatic changes, and can do so again; and that
free) power from hydroelectricity, geothermal, tide, other globe-wide problems (eg water pollution)
wind and wave power, despite the enthusiasm of their ‘deserve greater priority than global warming’.
supporters. More substantial help can come from wider Global warming has become essentially a political
use of nuclear fission power (as in France) but public problem. For the wealthy and democratic Western
confidence in nuclear safety has been disturbed by the world and Japan, making the social and economic
Chenobyl disaster and the UK and Germany seem changes needed to deal with the foreseeable climatic
unwilling to follow this path. Nuclear fusion, the source change would be political suicide. Good general inten-
of the Sun’s power, has yet to prove itself as a practical tions conflict with national interests. International
earthly power source. If photovoltaic (solar) power to agreements made at Kyoto and elsewhere are limited
generate electricity can be further developed, it shows in scope and are unlikely to be fulfilled. Fossil fuel
real promise: it could, for example, be used not only to interests, notably in the USA, argue that causes other
meet static needs, but also for all forms of transport. than human activities are responsible for the climatic
Unless storage batteries can be made much lighter than changes that are already discernible; and that action
existing types, it is possible that a ‘hydrogen economy’ should be delayed until further evidence is available.
will develop. In this scheme photovoltaic current is But the weight of scientific opinion is clearly
used to decompose water to give hydrogen, which is different, and scientists generally are dismayed by
then liquefied and distributed much as petrol and diesel governmental delay and complacency.
now is – but requiring high refrigeration (it boils at Moving away from high dependency on fossil fuels
–252˚ C). In a vehicle, the hydrogen would feed a fuel would reduce the influence of OPEC on world
cell, re-generating electricity to power a motor. The economies, and defer the not-too-distant date when
fossil fuel supplies become exhausted. IM
only exhaust product in the cycle would be water. A


17
Auger, Pierre Victor

chromosome; such a change in the hereditary
material leads to an abrupt alteration in the char-
acteristics of an organism). MĂĽller had shown that
X-rays produced mutations: Lotte Auerbach first
showed that mustard gas ([CH2CH2Cl]2S, used in the
First World War) did so in the fruit fly, Drosophila.
She became an authority on such chemical muta-
tions, which have been of great value in research
and in cancer treatment, and she directed the
Medical Research Council Mutagenesis Research
Unit ‘for as long as she could conceal her age from
her employers’, not retiring until 1969. She was
elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1957.
Auger, Pierre Victor [ohzhay] (1899–1993) French
physicist: discovered the Auger effect.
Auger was educated at the École Normale Supé-
rieure and subsequently became professor of
physics at the University of Paris. After the Second
World War he held a succession of posts in French
and European science administration and was
director general of the European Space and
Research Organization at his retirement.
Auger is remembered for his discovery in 1925 of
the Auger effect, in which an atom absorbs energy
in the form of an X-ray photon, and loses it by emit-
Amedio Avogadro
ting an electron. Auger spectroscopy uses the effect
to yield information about the electronic structure
of atoms, particularly if they form part of a crystal. sure, contain the same number of smallest particles’.
Avery, Oswald (Theodore) [ayveree] (1877–1955) There is now ample evidence that he was right; in
US bacteriologist: showed that the genetic material some cases (eg the noble gases) the smallest particles
of bacterial chromosomes is DNA. are atoms; for most other gases, they are combina-
Born in Canada, Avery went to New York when he tions of atoms (molecules). The law gives a direct
was 10 and remained there for his working life; he method of finding the molecular formula of a gas,
qualified in medicine at Columbia in 1904, and and such a formula in turn gives the relative atomic
from 1913 researched in bacteriology at the masses of the elements present in it. Avogadro’s Law
Rockefeller Institute Hospital. His special interest shows that the simple gases hydrogen and oxygen
was pneumococci (the bacteria causing pneumo- are diatomic (H2 and O2) and that water is H2O (and
nia). In 1928 he was intrigued by the claim of the not HO as Dalton believed). However, the law was
British microbiologist F Griffith (1881–1941) that a largely rejected or ignored for 50 years (although
non-virulent, ‘rough’ (ie unencapsulated) pneumo- Ampère accepted it) until Cannizzaro in 1860 con-
coccus could be transformed into the virulent, vinced a Chemical Congress at Karlsruhe of its value.
smooth (capsulated) form in the mouse by the mere The SI base unit of amount of substance is the
presence of some of the dead (heat-killed) smooth mole (which is related to Avogadro’s Law). The mole
bacteria. is defined as containing as many elementary enti-
Avery found this so strange that he repeated the ties (usually atoms or molecules, and specified for
work, and also showed in 1944 that the substance each case) as there are atoms in 0.012 kg of carbon-
that caused the transformation is deoxyribonucleic 12. Thus for a compound, 1 mole has a mass equal
acid (DNA). Prudently, he did not go on to surmise to its relative molecular mass in grams. The
that genes are simply DNA, which was surprising number of entities in a mole, the Avogadro con-
stant, NA, is 6.022 × 1023 mol –1; and 1 mole of any
enough to be accepted only slowly after 1950 and
formed the basic idea of molecular biology. ideal gas, at STP (standard temperature and pres-
sure), has a molar volume of 22.415 dm3.
Avogadro, (Lorenzo Romano) Amedio (Carlo)
[avohgadroh] (1776–1856) Italian physicist: proposed For example: since the relative atomic masses
a method for finding molecular formulae of gases. (‘atomic weights’) of carbon and oxygen are 12 and
Trained in law like his forefathers and working as 16 respectively, a mole of carbon dioxide (CO2) will
weigh 12 + (2 Ă— 16) = 44 g, and will have a volume at
a lawyer for some time, after 1800 he turned to sci-
STP close to 22.4 dm3.
ence and held professorships in physics for much of
Ayrton, Hertha, née (Phoebe) Sarah Marks
his life. His fame now rests on one brilliant and
important idea. He considered Gay-Lussac’s Law of (1854–1923) British electrical engineer; the first
combining volumes and with little evidence offered woman to present a paper to the Royal Society.
a daring explanation for it in 1811. His idea, Sarah Marks (she later adopted the name Hertha)
Avogadro’s Law, was that ‘equal volumes of all gases, was the daughter of a Polish Jew who fled to
under the same conditions of temperature and pres- England following persecution under the Tsarist
18
Ayrton, Hertha

regime and died when she was 7, leaving his widow after he lost any inclination to repeat the work.
with six sons and two daughters to care for. Mrs Hertha Ayrton, who had previously assisted him in
Marks was a strong-minded woman who believed the work, began the whole research afresh. She
that women needed a better, not worse, education improved the technique, obtained consistent
than men because ‘women have the harder battle results expressed in curves and equations and pub-
to fight in the world’. Consequently, she took the lished some of the results in the Electrician in 1895.
offer of her sister Marion Hartog to raise and edu- She presented papers to the British Association and
cate her elder daughter Sarah, then 9, at her school to the Institution of Electrical Engineers and became
in London. The young Sarah was gritty, stubborn, recognized as the authority on the electric arc.
undisciplined and disliked conformity, but she was She was elected a member of the Institution of
educated by the talented family she had joined. She Electrical Engineers in 1899, their first female
learned French from her uncle and mathematics member. In 1900 she spoke at the International
and Latin from her cousin Numa, senior wrangler Electrical Congress in Paris. In 1901 her paper ‘The
at Cambridge. Mechanism of the Electric Arc’ was read to the
An introduction to Mrs Barbara Bodichon, who Royal Society by an associate of her husband, as
became a life-long friend, led to her entry to Girton women were not then permitted to do so. Her book
College, Cambridge in 1876, and she sat the Tripos The Electric Arc was published in 1902, a history of
examination in 1880. At this time women students the electric arc from the time of Humphry Davy; it
took the examination unofficially within their col- became the accepted textbook on the subject. She
lege; the names of the successful students were not was proposed for the fellowship of the Royal Society
published, nor were degrees awarded. She went to in 1902, but was not accepted because she was a
Finsbury Technical College, intending to follow a married woman.
career of research and invention, having patented In 1904 Ayrton read her own paper ‘The Origin
in 1884 an instrument for dividing a line into any and Growth of Ripple Marks’ before the Royal
number of equal parts. Society and became the first woman to do so. In
In 1885 she married W E Ayrton (1847–1908), pro- 1906 she received the Hughes Medal for original
fessor of physics at the college and Fellow research on the electric arc and on sand ripples.
of the Royal Society. During a visit to Chicago From 1905–10 she worked for the War Office and
in 1893 Ayrton lost the only copy of 3 years’ work on the Admiralty on standardizing types and sizes of
‘Variation of Potential Difference of the Electric carbons for searchlights, both with her husband
Arc, with Current, Size of Carbons, and Distance and, after his death, alone; her suggestions were
Apart’ (a servant used it to light a fire) and there- adopted by the War Office and the Admiralty.




19
B
Baade, Wilhelm Heinrich Walter [bahduh] (1893– in mathematics teaching, translating continental
1960) German–US astronomer: classified stars into textbooks for their use and advocating Leibniz’s
different population types; his work gave larger calculus notation rather than Newton’s. Babbage
estimates for the size and the age of the universe. became professor of mathematics in Cambridge in
Educated in Germany at Göttingen, Baade was on 1828, and worked on the theory of functions and on
the staff of the University of Hamburg for 11 years algebra. However, he soon concerned himself with
before moving to the USA in 1931. He spent the the poor quality of the mathematical tables then
Second World War at the Mount Wilson and available, which were rich in errors, and blamed for
Palomar Observatories studying the Andromeda many shipwrecks and engineering disasters. He
galaxy (as a German immigrant he was excluded was convinced that mechanical calculation could
from military service). He used the 100 in telescope give error-free results; the subject became obsessive
and had the advantage of the wartime blackout of for him and was ultimately to change him from a
Los Angeles, which cleared the night sky. He identi- sociable young man into an irascible elder who
fied two fundamentally distinct classes of star in clashed even with the street musicians whose activ-
the galaxy – hot young blue stars in the spiral arms ities, he claimed, ‘ruined a quarter of his work
of the galaxy, which he called Population I stars, potential’.
and older redder stars in the central region, which After making a small-scale mechanical calculator
he called Population II (see HR diagram, p. 311). This in 1822, Babbage designed his ‘Difference Engine
distinction was to prove fundamental to theories of No 1’, which was to perform arithmetical opera-
galactic evolution. tions using toothed wheels. Hand-powered, it was
He showed that cepheid variable stars found in to work on decimal principles – the binary system
Andromeda, whose period/luminosity relationship is logically linked with electronics and was yet to
had been discovered 30 years earlier by Leavitt and come. Over 10 years later, in 1833, the project was
quantified by Shapley as a means of calculating abandoned with only 12 000 of the 25 000 parts
their distance, could also be divided into the two made and the then large sum of ÂŁ17 470 expended,
categories. In 1952 he demonstrated that Leavitt sufficient to build two battleships at the time. Airy,
and Shapley’s period/luminosity relationship was the Astronomer Royal, pronounced the project
only valid for Population I cepheids, and calculated ‘worthless’ and the Government withdrew its sup-
a new relationship for Population II cepheids. port. A modest section of the engine with about
Hubble, in the 1920s, had used the cepheid variable
technique to calculate the distance of the
Andromeda galaxy as 800 000 light years, from
which he estimated the age of the universe to be
2000 million years. However, Hubble’s estimate
proved to have depended upon Population II
cepheids, for which the original period/luminosity
relationship was invalid; using his new relation-
ship Baade showed that Andromeda was more than
2 million light years away and that the universe
was therefore at least 5000 million years old. (This
revised time scale came as a relief to geologists,
who had estimated the age of the Earth as
3000–4000 million years or more.)
Baade also discovered two asteroids, Hidalgo and
Icarus, which strangely are those with (respec-
tively) orbits which take them farthest and nearest
to the Sun of all known asteroids. He also worked
on supernovae and the optical identification of
radio sources.
Babbage, Charles (1791–1871) British mathemati-
cian and computer scientist: inventor of the pro-
grammable computer.
As the talented child of affluent parents, Babbage
entered Cambridge in 1814 to study mathematics.
He and his friend John Herschel put effort into
spurring their teachers to achieve a better standard Charles Babbage in his mid-30s. Engraving by Colnaghi.
20
Backus, John

2000 components, made as a demonstration piece publicizing his work; the best account of Babbage’s
in 1832, works impeccably to this day and is the views on the general theory of his ‘engines’ is due
first known automatic calculator. to her and the US Defense Department program-
Babbage promptly began to design a more ming language ADA is named for her. The two of
advanced ‘Analytical Engine’ and worked on this them also tried to devise a system for predicting the
until his death. It was to have a punched card input, winners of horse races (she was a fearless horse-
a ‘store’ and ‘mill’ (equivalent to the memory and woman) and lost money in the process.
processor in a modern computer) and would give a However, Babbage worked not only in mathemat-
printed, punched or plotted output. Construction ics, statistics and computing, but also on climatol-
of its 50 000 geared wheels, to be mounted on 1000 ogy (using tree-rings as historic climatic records),
vertical axles, never began in Babbage’s time. In the the theory of what we would now call mass pro-
late 1840s he also planned a simpler and more ele- duction and operational research, and also crypt-
gant calculator (‘Difference Engine No 2’) to work analysis, or codebreaking. He gained a reputation
with numbers up to 31 digits, but could not get gov- for the latter by deciphering a number of secret
ernment support for either machine. historical documents, including the shorthand
In 1985 the Science Museum in London began to notes of the astronomer FLAMSTEED, and a cipher
build, in public view, Difference Engine No 2. Its used by Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I. In 1854
4000 bronze, cast iron and steel components were he also devised a method of breaking the Vigenère
assembled to make the 3 ton machine with only cipher, a polyalphabetic cipher first devised by
modest changes in Babbage’s design. It was com- the French diplomat Blaise de Vigenère in 1586,
pleted in time for the Museum’s exhibition com- but still widely used in the 19th-c for military
memorating his 200th birthday; its first full-scale and diplomatic purposes because of its apparent
calculation was to form the first 100 values in the impregnability.
Babcock, Horace Welcome (1912– ) US astrono-
table of powers of 7, and it has operated without
error ever since then. It cost nearly ÂŁ300 000. Its mer: made first measurements of stellar magnetic
automatic printer is still to be built. fields.
Babbage was assisted in his work by Ada King, Horace Babcock was the son of Harold Delos Bab-
Countess of Lovelace (1815–52), the daughter of the cock (1882–1968), also an astronomer, in collabora-
poet Byron, who spent much time assisting him and tion with whom his most profitable work was done.
Both worked at the Mount Wilson Observatory,
Horace as director from 1964–78. It had been
known since 1896 that some spectral lines are
‘split’ in the presence of strong magnetic fields (the
Zeeman effect), and in 1908 Hale had shown that
light from sunspots is split in this way and that
magnetic fields of up to 0.4 T (tesla) in strength
must be present in sunspots. A generalized solar
magnetic field could not, however, be detected at
that time.
In 1948 the Babcocks developed equipment for
measuring the Zeeman splitting of spectral lines
far more precisely than had hitherto been possible.
This allowed them to detect the Sun’s magnetic
field, which is about 10–4 T in strength. They dis-
covered that the Sun’s magnetic poles periodically
flipped polarity, and went on to measure the mag-
netic fields of many other stars. Some of these were
found to be ‘magnetic variables’, their field strength
varying by several tesla over periods as short as a
few days.
Backus, John (1924– ) US computer scientist:
developed first high-level computer language.
Born in Philadelphia and educated at Columbia,
Backus was closely associated with IBM for much of
his career.
The Second World War gave a great stimulus to
the development of electronic computers, but until
the early 1950s they still had to be programmed
in a very basic fashion. Backus demonstrated the
feasibility of high-level computer languages, in
which a problem could be expressed in a readily
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, née Byron, aged
understandable form, which was then converted into
about 20. Engraving from a portrait by Margaret
the basic instructions required by the computer via
Carpenter.
21
Bacon, Francis, Viscount St Albans

Great Instauration (1620) that marine science be
developed, including study of ‘the Ebbs and Flows of
the Sea … its Saltness, its various Colours, its Depth;
also of Rocks, Mountains and Vallies under the Sea
and the like’.
Bacon, Roger (c.1214–92) English philosopher and
alchemist: supporter of experimental method in
science.
Probably a member of a wealthy family, Bacon
studied at Oxford under Robert Grosseteste (c.
1175–1253) and in Paris, and joined the Franciscan
Order as a monk about 1247. He was not himself an
experimentalist nor a mathematician (although he
did some work in optics), but he saw that these two
approaches were needed for science to develop; and
he foresaw a control of nature by man, as his name-
sake Francis Bacon was also to foresee 350 years
later. He made imprecise predictions about
mechanical transport – on land, above and below
the surface of the sea, and in the air, circumnaviga-
tion of the globe and robots. He had a wide knowl-
edge of the science of the time, together with
alchemy, and was thought to have magic powers.
He knew of gunpowder, but did not invent it. He
John Backus in the 1950s. saw theology as the supreme area of knowledge but
his difficult personality led to conflict with his
a ‘compiler’. In 1954 he published the first version colleagues. Among 13th-c thinkers, his attitude to
of FORTRAN (FORmula TRANslator) and by 1957 it science is nearest to that of the present day.
Baekeland, Leo Hendrik [baykland] (1863–1944)
was commercially available for use on IBM com-
puters. High-level languages have greatly aided the Belgian–US industrial chemist: introduced Bakelite,
use of computers in solving scientific problems, the first widely used synthetic plastic.
and FORTRAN itself remains widely used for scien- Baekeland became an academic chemist in his
tific work. native Ghent, but a honeymoon visit to the USA led
Bacon, Francis, Viscount St Albans (1561–1626) him to settle there from 1889, working as an inde-
English statesman and natural philosopher: advo- pendent consultant. From 1893 he made ‘Velox’
cate of inductive method in science. photographic paper, but sold out to Kodak in 1899.
Son of a statesman and courtier, Bacon was A few years later he studied the already known reac-
trained in law to follow the same path; with much tion of phenol C6H5OH with methanal, H.CHO.
effort and little scruple, he succeeded and held Under suitable conditions the dark solid product
office under James I, finally becoming Lord High is a thermosetting resin, rigid and insoluble.
Chancellor in 1618. Convicted of taking bribes, he Baekeland manufactured it from 1909, and mixed
was banished from Court and office in 1621. with fillers as ‘Bakelite’, it has been much used for
His views of scientific method were influential moulded electric fittings. It is now known to be a
and were expressed in a series of books and essays. highly cross-linked three-dimensional polymer of
He criticized Aristotle and the deductive method high relative molecular mass, consisting largely of
and advocated ‘induction’, in which emphasis is on benzenoid rings linked by methylene (–CH2–)
the exhaustive collection of scientific data (with groups at their 1-, 3- and 5- positions.
Baer, Karl Ernst von [bair] (1792–1876) Estonian
careful choice and the exclusion of extraneous
items) until general causes and conclusions emerge embryologist: discoverer of the mammalian ovum.
almost mechanically; Bacon was antagonistic to Baer’s wealthy family was of German descent, so it
imaginative speculation. His ideas were certainly was natural for him to study in Germany after grad-
influential in science and probably even more in uating in medicine at Dorpat in Estonia. He taught
philosophy. His personality was unattractive and at Königsberg in Germany from 1817–34, when he
his writings abstruse, but his confidence that moved to St Petersburg. His best-known discoveries,
nature could be understood and even controlled however, were made in Königsberg. There, in 1826,
was important, and as a critic and a prophet his role he studied the small follicles discovered in the
in the scientific development of the following cen- mammalian ovary by R de Graaf (1641–73) in 1673,
turies is significant. His own direct scientific work and named after him; they had often been assumed
was limited; the best example is his conclusion on to be mammalian eggs. Baer showed that the
the nature of heat, which by argument and thought- Graafian follicle of a friend’s bitch contained a
experiments he decided was ‘an expansive motion microscopic yellow structure which was the egg
restrained, and striving to exert itself in the smaller (ovum). He identified structures within the embryo
particles’. Ahead of his time, he suggested in The (the fertilized and developing egg), including the
22
Balmer, Johann Jakob

notochord, a gelatinous cord which develops into synthesis of the useful barbiturate drugs (named,
the backbone and skull in vertebrates, and he he said, after a lady friend named Barbara). Other
found the neural folds (which later form the cen- work dealt with hydrobenzenes, terpenes and the
tral nervous system). In 1817 C H Pander (1794– sensitively explosive polyalkynes. It was in con-
1865) had noted three layers of cells in the verte- nection with the latter that he devised his strain
brate embryo, which were to be named by Remak in theory to account for the relative stabilities of car-
1845 ectoderm (outer skin) mesoderm (middle skin) bocyclic rings, which in modified form is still
and endoderm (inner skin). These ‘germ layers’ accepted. Absent-minded and genial, he was very
each develop into specialized organs later (eg the popular with his students. He won the Nobel Prize
mesoderm forms muscles and bones); Baer empha- in 1905.
Baily, Francis (1774–1844) British astronomer: dis-
sized that the embryos of various species are at first
very similar and may not be distinguishable and covered Baily’s beads.
that, as it develops, the embryo of a higher animal Baily was a stockbroker and amateur astronomer.
passes through stages which resemble stages in the He observed the phenomenon known as Baily’s
development of lower animals. This idea was later beads seen during total solar eclipses where, for a
to be fruitful in embryology and in evolution few seconds just before and after totality, brilliant
theory. beads of light are seen around the edge of the
Baer led expeditions to Arctic Russia to collect Moon. These are caused by the Moon’s irregular sur-
plant and animal specimens, studied fishes and col- face allowing rays of sunlight to shine fleetingly
lected human skulls (in 1859 he suggested that down suitably aligned lunar valleys. Baily observed
human skulls might have a common ancestral the effect during the solar eclipse of 1836.
Baird, John Logie (1888–1946) British electrical
type, but he never supported Darwin’s ideas). His
fame rests on his position as a founder of modern engineer: television pioneer.
embryology. Son of a Presbyterian minister, Baird was edu-
Baeyer, Adolf von [biyer] (1835–1917) German cated in Glasgow, almost completing a course in
organic chemist: master of classical organic electrical engineering. His poor health made a
synthesis. career difficult and several ventures failed, includ-
Baeyer’s life spanned a period of rapid change in ing making and selling foods, boot-polish and soap.
science and technology; from Faraday’s laws of After a serious illness in 1922 he devoted himself to
electrolysis to X-ray crystallography and from the experimentation and developed a crude TV appara-
first rail services to regular air transport. His father tus, able to transmit a picture and receive it over a
was a Prussian soldier who became a general. The range of a few feet. The first real demonstration
boy was a keen chemical experimenter, which was within two attic rooms in Soho in early 1926. In
prompted a poet visiting the family to write a verse the following year he transmitted pictures by tele-
on the dreadful smells he caused. When Baeyer was phone line from London to Glasgow and in 1928
12 he made his first new substance, the beautiful from London to New York. In 1929 his company
blue crystalline carbonate CuNa2(CO3)2.3H2O; and gave the first BBC TV transmissions, soon achieving
he celebrated his 13th birthday by buying a lump of daily half-hour programmes with synchronized
the bronze-purple dye indigo. sound and vision. He used a mechanical scanning
After his military service in 1856 he went to study system, with 240 lines by 1936, but then the BBC
chemistry in Germany’s best-known laboratory, opted to use the Marconi–EMI electronic scanning
that of Bunsen in Heidelberg. However his interest system, with 405 lines. Baird also pioneered colour,
soon focused on the organic side, which Bunsen stereoscopic and big screen TV, and ultra-short-
had given up, and so he joined Kekulé as his first wave transmission. Television has no single inven-
research student. His first independent work was tor, but to Baird is due its first commercial success,
done during 12 years spent teaching organic chem- although his methods have largely been replaced.
Balmer, Johann Jakob [balmer] (1825–98) Swiss
istry in a small Berlin technical college. He moved
from there to Strasbourg and then to Munich, mathematician: discovered relationship between
working there for 40 years. hydrogen spectral lines.
Baeyer was a hugely talented organic chemist Son of a farmer, Balmer studied in Germany and,
with an instinctive feel for structures and reac- from 1850, taught in a girls’ school in Basle. Rather
tions. He was an experimenter who saw theory as a late in life he became interested in spectra and
tool which was easily expendable after use: he reported his first research when aged 60. The lines
wrote ‘I have never planned my experiments to find in the Sun’s spectrum had earlier seemed to be ran-
out if I was right, but to see how the compounds domly scattered, but Kirchhoff had shown that, if
behave’. His preference was for simple equipment, the spectrum of an individual element was consid-
mainly test-tubes and glass rods; he was suspicious ered, this was not so; for example, the spectrum of
even of mechanical stirrers. He had no superior as hydrogen consists of lines which converge with
diminishing wavelength, λ. Balmer found in 1884
an organic chemist in his Munich period and all the
best men in the field worked with him. that one set of the hydrogen lines fitted the relation
λ = A m2/(m2 – 4) where m has integral values 3,4,5...
His successes included the structure and syn-
thesis of indigo. His work on the purine group for successive lines, and A is a constant. This is the
began with studies on uric acid and included the Balmer series; originally empirical, it pointed to
23
Baltimore, David




J L Baird and bearded Sir Oliver Lodge.

the need to find an explanation for the data, which Baltimore’s position as president became diffi-
led through Rydberg’s work to Bohr’s theory and cult and he resigned in late 1991, continuing in
to quantum theory. full-time research in Rockefeller University. The US
Baltimore, David (1938– ) US molecular biolo- Secret Service carried out forensic work on the
gist: discovered reverse transcriptase enzyme. papers held to contain false data, but failed to con-
Baltimore’s interest in physiology was initiated vince all parties that fraud was proved, in face of
by his mother (a psychologist) when he was a school- the difficulties involved in a very complex case.
Banks, Sir Joseph (1743–1820) British naturalist
boy. However, he studied chemistry at Swarthmore
and later at the Massachusetts Institute of and statesman of science.
Technology and Rockefeller University; afterwards Educated at Harrow, Eton and Oxford, Banks was
he moved into virology, and in 1972 he became pro- wealthy and able to indulge his interest in science;
fessor of biology at MIT and later director of the he was a passionate and skilful botanist and this
Whitehead Institute at Cambridge, MA. In 1968 took him on several major expeditions at his own
Baltimore showed how the polio virus replicates, expense. The best known of these began in 1768;
with some detail on how its RNA core and protein young Banks had learned that Cook was to sail to
coat are formed. In 1970 he announced his discovery the south Pacific to observe the transit of Venus in
of the enzyme ‘reverse transcriptase’, which can 1769 and realized this would be a great opportunity
transcribe RNA into DNA and does so in some tumour to see entirely new plants and animals. He joined
viruses. This was a novel finding; the ‘central the expedition, which lasted 3 years, with his staff
dogma’ of molecular biology, due to Crick, is the of eight, and returned with a large collection of
scheme: DNA→RNA→protein, in which the first new specimens to find himself a celebrity. The
arrow is designated transcription, and the second voyage was the first to be organized and equipped
translation. Before Baltimore’s work it had been for biological work, even though the Government’s
assumed that the converse of transcription did not secret plan was political – to secure a territorial
occur. Baltimore shared a Nobel Prize in 1975 with advantage over the French. Banks brought back
H M Temin (1934–94) and R. Dulbecco (1914– ) 1300 new plant species, as well as the idea that
who had independently discovered the enzyme. Botany Bay would form a suitable penal settlement.
Baltimore became president of Rockefeller Uni- He became president of the Royal Society in 1778
versity in 1990 and combined administration with and held the post for 42 years, as the dominant per-
fundraising and research. Then a report from the sonality in British science. His successes included
National Institutes of Health alleged that one of his the introduction of the tea plant in India (from
co-authors in a paper published in Cell in 1986 had China) and breadfruit in the Caribbean (after a frus-
used falsified data. Baltimore first defended his col- trated first attempt in which HMS Bounty, carrying
league, but later changed his position on this and the breadfruit, was diverted by a mutiny). Banks did
apologized to the ‘whistle blower’ who had first much to establish the Botanic Garden at Kew,
raised the question of research ethics in this matter which he planned as a major collecting centre and
and who had faced antagonism as a result. source of advice on all aspects of plants.
24
Bardeen, John

Banting, Sir Frederick (1891–1941) Canadian phys- Bell Telephone Laboratories at the end of the
iologist: co-discoverer of insulin. Second World War. His major creative work then
Banting studied in Toronto for the church, but began, and continued after his move from Bell to a
after a year changed to medicine and, after gradua- professorship at the University of Illinois in 1951.
tion in 1916, joined the Canadian Army Medical Bardeen together with Brattain and Shockley
Corps, winning an MC for gallantry in action in received the Nobel Prize for physics in 1956, for the
1918. After the war he set up a practice in London, development of the point-contact transistor (1947).
Ontario, and also worked part-time in the physiology He won the Nobel Prize again in 1972, shared with
department of the University of Toronto. Cooper and Schrieffer, for the first satisfactory
Diabetes mellitus is a disease in which glucose theory of superconductivity (1957), now called the
appears copiously in the blood and urine, disturbing BCS theory. Bardeen thereby became the first man
the metabolism. It is not curable and until Banting’s to receive the Nobel prize for physics twice.
work it was always fatal. It was known that the dis- Superconductivity was discovered in 1911 by
ease was linked to failure of the pancreas and proba- Kamerlingh-Onnes. A metal brought into this state
bly to the cells in it known as the islets of by low temperature (< 15 K) expels magnetic field
Langerhans. In 1921 Banting devised a possible and will maintain electric currents virtually indef-
method for obtaining from these islets the unknown initely (it shows zero resistance). Work in 1950 had
hormone that was suspected of controlling glucose revealed that the critical temperature is inversely
levels and whose absence would cause the disease. proportional to the atomic mass of the metal, and
J J R Macleod (1876–1935), professor of physiology at Bardeen inferred that the oscillations of the metal
Toronto, was not impressed by the research plan or lattice must be interacting with the metal conduc-
by Banting’s skills, but eventually gave him the use tion electrons. Cooper (1956) at the University of
of a university laboratory, experimental dogs and a Illinois showed that electrons can weakly attract
recently qualified assistant, C H Best (1899–1978), to one another by distorting the metal lattice around
try the method while Macleod himself went on holi- them, forming a bound pair of electrons (Cooper
day. In 1922, after 8 months’ work, they announced pair) at low temperature when thermal vibrations
their success. Extracts of a hormone (insulin) were are much reduced. Bardeen, Cooper and Schrieffer
obtained, and with the help of a chemist, J B Collip then assumed that a co-operative state of many
(1892–1965), these extracts were purified suffi- pairs formed and that these pairs carried the super-
ciently to inject and treat diabetic patients. The conducting current. The members of a pair have a
effect was dramatic, and since 1923 millions of dia- common momentum and the scattering of one
betics have led manageable lives using insulin to electron by a lattice atom does not change the total
control their glucose levels. Industrial production of momentum of the pair, so that the flow of electrons
insulin (from pig pancreas) began in 1923. continues indefinitely.
In 1923 a Nobel Prize was awarded to Banting and The BCS theory not only greatly revived interest
Macleod. Banting was furious at the omission of in superconductivity but showed how quantum
Best and shared his half-prize with him; Macleod
shared his with Collip. Banting became a professor
at Toronto. When the Second World War began he
joined an army medical unit and researched on
war gases, but was killed in an air crash in
Newfoundland. In 1926 insulin was isolated in pure
form, but it was a generation later before Sanger
deduced its chemical structure and 1966 before it
was made by synthesis; it is a protein molecule
built of 51 amino acid units.
Insulins from different mammalian species differ
in one or more amino acid units. For diabetics,
insulin from pigs or oxen has long been used but
from 1978 human insulin has been available by a
genetic engineering process based on the bacterium
Escherichia coli.
Bardeen, John [bah(r)deen] (1908–91) US physicist:
co-inventor of the transistor and contributor to the
BCS theory of superconductivity.
Bardeen came from an academic family and stud-
ied electrical engineering at the University of
Wisconsin. He worked as a geophysicist for 3 years
at the Gulf Research Laboratories before obtaining
a PhD in mathematical physics at Princeton under
Wigner in 1936. Following periods at the University
of Minnesota and the Naval Ordnance Laboratory,
Bardeen joined a new solid-state physics group at John Bardeen in 1972.
25
Barkhausen, Heinrich Georg

theory can give rise to unusual phenomena even on female mammals, but it is absent in the males. So
a macroscopic scale. this ‘Barr body’ provides the marker in a simple test
Barkhausen, Heinrich Georg [bah(r)khowzen] for the sex of an individual; previously sex could be
(1881–1956) German physicist: developed early detected at cell level only by examining chromo-
microwave components. somes in dividing cells. It allows the sex of a fetus
Barkhausen moved from his studies at Bremen to be found long before birth, which is valuable
and Göttingen to Dresden, where he became pro- if a parent carries a sex-linked genetic disorder.
fessor of electrical engineering. His early research Barr also devised methods, using a smear of cells
established the theory of the amplifier valve (1911), from a patient’s mouth, to locate some chromo-
and he went on to discover the Barkhausen effect somal defects, such as certain types of herma-
(1919). This is the discontinuous way in which the phroditism.
Bartholin, Erasmus [bah(r)tohlin] (1625–98) Danish
magnetization of a piece of ferromagnetic material
rises under an increasing applied field. It occurs mathematician: discovered double refraction of
because a ferromagnet is made up of many mag- light.
netic domains and these change direction or size in Bartholin qualified in medicine in Leiden and
a sudden manner. Padua (his father and brother were both distin-
His work on ultra-high-frequency oscillators and guished anatomists) and he taught medicine and
early microwave components was done in 1920 mathematics at Copenhagen from 1656. His pupils
with K Kurz, and was rapidly developed for military included Römer and Prince George, who married
radar during the Second World War. the British Queen Anne. In 1669 he described in a
Barlow, Peter (1776–1862) British mathematician. book his study of the crystals of Iceland spar (a form
Self-educated, Barlow taught mathematics at the of calcite, CaCO3) including his discovery that it
Royal Military College, Woolwich, from 1801. Of his produces a double image of objects observed
books on mathematics, the best known is Barlow’s through it. He realized that the crystals split a light
Tables (1814) which gives the factors, squares, cubes, ray into two rays by what he called ordinary and
square and cube roots, reciprocals and hyperbolic extraordinary refraction. He gave no theory of this
logarithms of all integers from 1 to 10 000. double refraction, which much puzzled other
Remarkably accurate, it was familiar to genera- physicists; Huygens argued that the effect sup-
tions of students and was in print until the 1950s. ported the wave theory of light, rather than
He also worked on magnetism and devised a Newton’s idea that light consisted of particles. In
method for correcting ships’ compasses for devia- the early 19th-c, work by E L Malus (1775–1812) and
tion due to iron in the ship’s structure, by use of an Fresnel on polarized light made double refraction
iron plate suitably positioned. The ‘Barlow lens’ is a easier to understand.
Bartlett, Neil (1932– ) British–American inorganic
negative achromatic combination of flint and
crown glass used to produce magnification of a chemist; prepared first noble gas compounds.
photographic or telescopic image. Used in addition Bartlett studied in Newcastle upon Tyne and later
to a camera lens as a ‘telescopic converter’ it will worked in Canada and the USA. Although it had
give a magnification of 2Ă— or 3Ă— with acceptably been previously accepted that the noble gases were
little aberration. A similar use of a Barlow lens is not chemically reactive (the valence theory of
between the objective and eyepiece of a telescope, chemical bonding being in accord with this),
where again it increases magnification by extend- Bartlett used platinum hexafluoride, PtF6, a highly
ing the focal length of the main lens. reactive compound, to prepare xenon hexafluoro-
platinate Xe+[PtF6]– (he had shown in 1961 that
Barnard, Edward Emerson (1857–1923) US as-
tronomer: discovered Amalthea and Barnard’s star. blood-red PtF6 combined with oxygen to give a red
salt, O2+PtF6–). (Later it was found that Bartlett’s
Despite a background of poverty and poor school-
ing, Barnard became a professional astronomer xenon compound was probably a mixture rather
with great skill as an observer; he discovered a vari- than a single compound of xenon.) Since 1962
ety of interesting celestial objects. By the time he many other compounds, mainly of krypton and
was 30 he had found more than 10 comets, and in xenon, have been made using the noble gases.
Barton, Sir Derek (Harold Richard) (1918–98)
1892 he discovered Amalthea, the first new satellite
of Jupiter to be discovered for nearly three cen- British organic chemist: distinguished for work on
turies. In 1916 he discovered the star with the stereochemistry and organic natural products.
largest proper motion, a red star 6 light years away Educated at Imperial College, London, Barton
which moves across the sky at 10.3” of arc per year returned there as professor for over 20 years and in
and which is now known as Barnard’s star. With M 1985 became professor at Texas A & M University. In
Wolf (1863–1932), he showed that ‘dark nebulae’ 1950, he deduced that some properties of organic
were clouds of dust and gas. molecules depend on their conformation: that is,
Barr, Murray Llewellyn (1908– ) Canadian the particular shape adopted by a molecule as a
geneticist. result of rotations about single carbon–carbon
Working in 1949 with a research student in the bonds. The study of these effects (conformational
medical school at London, Ontario, Barr found that analysis) is applied mainly to six-membered carbon
a characteristic small mass of chromatin can be rings, where usually the conformers easily convert
detected in the nuclei of the nerve cells of most into each other; this interconversion is not easy if
26
Beadle, George Wells

the rings are fused, eg as in steroids. Reactivity can teach Newtonian natural philosophy in Italy. At
be related to conformation in many such mole- the age of 65 she was appointed to the Chair of
cules. Barton studied many natural products, Experimental Physics at Bologna. She married
mainly phenols, steroids and antibiotics. He won a and had eight children, five of whom survived
Nobel Prize (with O Hassell (1897–1981), who also childhood.
Bateson, William (1861–1926) British geneticist: a
studied six-membered carbon rings), in 1969.
Bary, (Heinrich) Anton de see de Bary founder of genetics.
Basov, Nikolai (Gennediyevitch) [basof] (1922– Bateson was described as ‘a vague and aimless
2001) Soviet physicist: invented the maser and boy’ at school and he surprised his teachers by get-
laser. ting first-class honours in science at Cambridge in
After service in the Red Army during the Second 1883. He then spent 2 years in the USA. He returned
World War, Basov studied in Moscow and obtained to Cambridge, taught there and in 1910 became
his doctorate in 1956. Remaining there, he became director of the new John Innes Institution. From
head of his laboratory in 1962. the time of his US visit he was interested in varia-
From 1952 onwards Basov developed the idea of tion and evolution, and by 1894 he had decided
amplifying electromagnetic radiation by using the that species do not develop continuously by grad-
relaxation of excited atoms or molecules to release ual change but evolve discontinuously in a series of
further radiation. His colleague A M Prokhorov ‘jumps’. To support his view against opposition, he
(1916–2002) had studied the precise microwave fre- began breeding experiments, unaware of Mendel’s
quencies emitted by gases, and together they pro- work of 1866. When the latter was rediscovered in
duced (1955) molecular beams of excited molecules 1900, Bateson saw that it gave support for his ‘dis-
that would amplify electromagnetic radiation continuity’ theory and he translated and publi-
when stimulated by incident radiation. Such a cized Mendel’s work and extended it to animals by
device is known as a maser (microwave amplifica- his own studies on the inheritance of comb shape
tion by stimulated emission of radiation). The 1964 in fowls. He showed that Garrod’s work on human
Nobel Prize for physics went to Basov, Prokhorov inborn errors of metabolism had a Mendelian inter-
and Townes (who did similar independent work in pretation. He also found that some genes can
the USA) for the invention of the maser. interact; so that certain traits are not inherited
Rather than selecting excited molecules from a independently, which is in conflict with Mendel’s
beam, Basov and Prokhorov found a way of using a laws. This interaction results from ‘linkage’, that is
second radiation source to ‘pump’ the gas into an genes being close together on the same chromo-
excited state (the ‘three-level’ method). Basov then some, as Morgan and others showed. Bateson
invented the laser (light amplification by stimu- coined the word ‘genetics’ but he never accepted
lated emission of radiation; 1958) and even the ideas of natural selection or chromosomes.
Beadle, George Wells (1903–89) US geneticist:
achieved the effect in semiconductor crystals. He
afterwards worked on the theory of laser produc- pioneer of biochemical genetics.
tion in semiconductors, on pulsed lasers and on the Born on a farm at Wahoo, NE, Beadle first
interaction of light with matter. planned to return there after graduation, but
Bassi, Laura (Maria Catarina) [basee] (1711–78) became an enthusiast for genetics and was per-
Italian physicist; the first female professor of suaded to work for a doctorate at Cornell on maize
physics at any university. genetics. In 1935 he worked with B Ephrussi in
Laura Bassi was born in Bologna, the daughter of Paris on the genetics of eye-colour in the fruit fly
a lawyer, and was educated at home by the family Drosophila; as a result of this work, ingeniously
physician, who was a professor at the university transplanting eye buds in the larvae, they sus-
and a member of the Academy of the Institute pected that genes in some way controlled the pro-
for Sciences (Istituto delle Scienze). Bassi was duction of the eye pigment. When he returned to
instructed in mathematics, philosophy, anatomy, the USA, to a job at Stanford, he met the microbiol-
natural history and languages and news of her ogist E L Tatum (1909–75), and in 1940 they decided
remarkable ability spread. She became an object of to use the pink bread fungus Neurospora crassa for a
curiosity and was pressed to appear in public. In study of biochemical genetics. It grew easily, repro-
March 1732 she was elected to the Institute duced quickly and has an adult stage which is hap-
Academy and a month later engaged in a public loid (only one set of chromosomes) so that all
debate with five scholars of the university and was mutant genes show their phenotypic expression.
awarded a degree from the University of Bologna. (Drosophila, like other higher organisms, has two
Bassi was given an official position at the univer- genes for every character, so dominant genes can
sity, but the Senate attempted to restrict her mask recessives). Beadle and Tatum exposed
appearances as a lecturer to ceremonial public Neurospora to X-rays to produce mutations and then
events and the social circles of the city. She contin- examined the mutant strains to find their ability or
ued to study mathematics and gave private lessons inability to synthesize a nutrient needed for their
at her home, while successfully petitioning for own growth. They concluded that the function of a
wider responsibilities and a higher salary to cover gene is to control production of a specific enzyme;
the cost of equipment for physical and electrical they did not know that Garrod had reached the
experiments. She was one of the first scholars to ‘one-gene-one-enzyme’ idea 30 years earlier by
27
Beaufort, Sir Francis

studying human metabolic disease. The value of amides, and also in studies on stereochemistry and
their work was in providing an experimental on reaction mechanism. Beckmann’s work led him
method that allowed biochemical genetics to to seek a general method for finding the relative
develop. It did so speedily, and their central idea molecular mass of a reaction product; he devised a
remains unchallenged. More precisely, we would method, using Raoult’s Law, by measuring the rise
now say that one functional unit of DNA controls in boiling point of a solvent caused by dissolving in
the synthesis of one peptide chain. Beadle, Tatum it a known amount of the substance whose molec-
and Lederberg shared a Nobel Prize in 1958. ular mass is required. To measure this small tem-
Beaufort, Sir Francis [bohfert] (1774–1857) British perature rise he devised the Beckmann
hydrographer; inventor of Beaufort wind scale. thermometer, which has a reservoir for adjusting
Born in Ireland, Beaufort joined the Royal Navy at its range and will measure accurately a small rise in
an early age and saw active service for over 20 years. temperature.
Becquerel, (Antoine) Henri [bekuhrel] (1852–
In 1806 he proposed the Beaufort wind scale, rang-
ing from 0–12, and specifying the amount of sail 1908) French physicist: discoverer of radioactivity.
that a ship should carry in each situation. Thus Like his father and grandfather before him,
force 12 was a wind ‘that no canvas can withstand’. Becquerel studied physics, and like them he was
He also devised a useful concise notation for mete- interested in fluorescence; he also succeeded to the
orological conditions in general. The scale was offi- posts they had held in Paris. Educated mainly at the
cially adopted by the Admiralty some 30 years later. École Polytechnique, he became professor of
Beaufort became hydrographer to the Royal Navy physics there in 1895. His crucial experiment of
and retired as a rear admiral. 1896 was performed on the day that news of
Beaumont, William [bohmont] (1785–1853) US sur- Röntgen’s discovery of X-rays reached Paris:
geon; made pioneer studies of human digestive Becquerel wondered if phosphorescent compounds
physiology. emitted similar rays. He found that a uranium salt
Beaumont was a farmer’s son who became a vil- placed on a wrapped photographic plate caused
lage schoolmaster and later qualified in medicine. this to blacken. He soon found that this did not
In the War of 1812 he became an army surgeon, require light; that it was due to the uranium only;
rather minimally licensed to practise on the basis and that the radiation was not reflected like light.
of his 2 years spent as an apprentice to a country He found it was able to ionize air. Although similar
doctor. to the X-rays discovered in 1895 by Röntgen, it was
In 1822 at Fort Mackinac a young Canadian trapper not the same. His work was soon confirmed and
was accidentally shot by a duck gun at close range, was the starting point for all studies on radio-
producing gross abdominal wounds and an opening activity. He shared the Nobel Prize for physics in
into the stomach. Beaumont was nearby, saved his 1903 with the Curies. His other studies, on mag-
life, and tended him for 2 years. He was left with a netic effects and on light absorption by crystals,
permanent fistula (opening) into the stomach. were valuable; but his work on radioactivity gave
Beaumont employed him and for 10 years was able physics a new direction.
to study digestion rather directly. Gastric juice could Radiotherapy (later used to treat cancer) began
be obtained; and the lining of the stomach could be with his observation that radium carried in his
examined easily, and its movements, and the effects pocket produced a burn. The SI unit of radioactivity
of different diets and emotions. Beaumont’s 238 is the becquerel (Bq), defined as an activity of one
observations gave a firm basis to the physiology of disintegration per second.
gastric digestion (they also much exasperated the
trapper). The work also suggested to Bernard the
value of artificial fistulas in experimental physiol-
ogy, using animals. The trapper lived to be 82,
greatly outliving his surgeon.
Beche, Sir Henry Thomas de la see de la Beche
Beckmann, Ernst Otto (1853–1923) German
chemist: discovered a rearrangement reaction and
a method for determining relative molecular mass
in solution.
Beginning as an apprentice pharmacist, Beck-
mann turned to chemistry with success, being pro-
fessor at three universities before being appointed
first director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for
Chemistry at Berlin-Dahlem in 1912. His distinc-
tion began in 1886, when he discovered the
Beckmann rearrangement – the reaction of
ketoximes with acid reagents to give a substituted
amide, often in high yield:
RR’C = NOH → R’CONHR
The reaction has been used to prepare some A H Becquerel
28
Beilstein, Friedrich Konrad

Beebe, (Charles) William (1887–1962) US natural-
Henri’s father Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel
(1820–91) initiated photoelectrochemistry, when ist: pioneer of deep-sea exploration.
in 1839 he found that platinum electrodes, one in Graduating from Columbia (New York) in 1898,
methanol and the other in aqueous ferric perchlo- Beebe’s first interest was in ornithology and he
rate, gave 0.1V on irradiation with sunlight. joined the staff of the New York Zoological Society.
Subsequent interest in photovoltaic effects has After service as a fighter pilot in the First World
focused on semiconductor devices. War, he returned in 1919 to direct the Society’s
Beddoes, Thomas (1760–1808) British physician Department of Tropical Research. Further work on
and chemist: mentor of Humphry Davy. birds was overtaken by his interest in deep-sea
A man of wide talents, Beddoes studied classics, exploration. In his ‘bathysphere’ he reached a
modern languages, science and medicine at Oxford record depth of about 1000 m near Bermuda in
and in 1788 was appointed reader in chemistry 1934 and later went even lower. He found that light
there. However, his sympathy with the French rev- was absent below 600 m, and discovered previously
olutionaries led to his resignation in 1792. He then unknown organisms at these depths. A A Piccard
turned to medicine, and linked this with his inter- (1884–1962) later went even deeper.
Beer, Sir Gavin Rylands de see de Beer
est in the new gases (‘airs’) discovered in the previ-
Behring, Emil (Adolf) von [bayring] (1854–1917)
ous few years, several by his friend Priestley. With
the help of friends he set up his Medical Pneumatic German bacteriologist: co-discoverer of diphtheria
Institution in Bristol to study the therapeutic uses antitoxin.
of gases. In 1798 he appointed the 19-year-old Davy Behring studied at Berlin and after qualifying in
to join him. A year later they observed the anaes- medicine joined the Army Medical Corps. In 1889
thetic potential of ‘nitrous oxide’, N2O (unhappily he became assistant to Koch, and from 1895 he was
neglected for half a century). Beddoes then guided professor of hygiene at Marburg. It was already
Davy in his early work on electrochemistry, as well known that the bacteria causing tetanus produced
as introducing him to influential friends in science a chemical toxin that was responsible for most of
and in literature. In 1801 Davy left for the Royal the illness of the patient; the toxin could be
Institution and soon Beddoes also left for London obtained from a culture. In 1890 Behring worked
and returned to medical practice. Beddoes’s great- with Kitasato and showed that blood serum from
est discovery was Davy (as Davy’s was Faraday) an animal with tetanus could, if injected into other
but, although much overshadowed by his pupil, animals, give them a temporary resistance to the
Beddoes’s own talents, probably partly unused, disease and so contained an antitoxin. Similar anti-
were real. His Institution was perhaps the first toxic immunity was found with diphtheria, then a
specialized institute of a type now common. major killer of children; this part of his work
Bednorz, (Johannes) Georg [bednaw(r)ts] (1950– ) was done with Ehrlich. A diphtheria antitoxin to
Swiss physicist: co-discoverer of a new class of protect human patients was soon made (best from
superconductors. the blood serum of an infected horse) and found
Nobel prizes have usually been awarded many to be protective, and also to be useful for those
years after the work which led to them; but the already having the disease; it was possibly first used
Prize won by Bednorz and K A Müller (1927– ) of on an infected child on Christmas night, 1891, in
the IBM ZĂĽrich Research Laboratory at RĂĽschlikon Berlin.
in 1987 followed quickly on their work on novel Behring was awarded the first Nobel Prize in
electrical superconductors. Superconductivity, the medicine or physiology for this work, in 1901. In
absence of resistance shown by some metals near 1913 he showed that a mixture of toxin and anti-
0 K, had been observed by Kamerlingh-Onnes in toxin gives more lasting immunity than the anti-
1911, and a theory for it was devised by Bardeen toxin alone, and later methods for preventing the
and others (the BCS theory) in 1957. The effect was disease used this method until it in turn gave way
seen to be of immense value in electronic devices if to the use of toxoid (which is toxin treated with
materials could be found in which it occurs above, formalin, introduced by G Ramon (1886–1963) in
say, 77 K (the boiling point of liquid nitrogen, an 1923). Since then, large-scale immunization of
easily obtainable temperature). In 1986, Bednorz young children has given good control over the
and MĂĽller showed that a mixed-phase oxide of lan- disease.
thanum, barium and copper superconducted above Much honoured, Behring ranks high in medical
30 K, much above any previous temperature for this science; but he was always a lone researcher with
effect. A special meeting of the American Physical few pupils, with much of his energy spent in dis-
Society in New York in 1987 on superconductivity putes and in his unsuccessful search for a vaccine
became known as ‘the Woodstock of physics’ and against tuberculosis.
Beilstein, Friedrich Konrad [biylshtiyn] (1838–
oxides of the type M-Ba-Cu-O (with M a rare earth
metal, usually lanthanum or yttrium) were then 1906) German–Russian encyclopedist of organic
announced which showed superconductivity up to chemistry.
90 K. A student of organic chemistry under several of
Bednorz graduated at MĂĽnster in 1976 and worked the masters of the subject in Germany, Beilstein
for his doctorate under Müller at IBM Zürich, where was lecturer at Göttingen and later professor at
he had joined the research staff in 1982. St Petersburg. His own experimental researches
29
Bell, Alexander Graham

were modest. He is remembered for his Handbook of
Organic Chemistry (1881), which formed a substan-
tially complete catalogue of organic compounds.
The compilation (in many volumes) has been con-
tinued by the German Chemical Society and is of
great value to organic chemists.
Beilstein’s test for halogen in an organic com-
pound is quick and useful. An oxidized copper wire
is coated with the compound and heated in a gas
flame. If the flame is coloured blue-green, halogen
is probably present. However, some nitrogen com-
pounds give the colour, so the test is only decisive if
negative.
Bell, Alexander Graham (1847–1922) British–
American speech therapist; inventor of the tele-
phone.
The son and grandson of speech therapists, Bell
followed the same interest but he also studied
sound waves and the mechanics of speech. He
emigrated to Canada in 1870 and moved to the
USA in 1871. From 1873 he was professor of vocal
physiology at Boston and could experiment on his
S Jocelyn Bell
belief that if sound wave vibrations could be
converted into a fluctuating electric current this
Bell, Sir Charles (1774–1842) British anatomist and
could be passed along a wire and reconverted into
sound waves by a receiver. Success produced the surgeon: pioneer of neurophysiology.
‘telephone’, patented by him in 1876, and the start Bell learned surgery from his elder brother John
of the AT & T company. Soon Edison much (a distinguished surgeon and anatomist) and at
improved Bell’s telephone transmitter. Bell made Edinburgh University. He moved to London in 1804
other improvements in telegraphy, improved Edi- and became well known and liked as a surgeon and
son’s gramophone, worked with Langley and on lecturer on surgery. He treated wounded from the
Curtis’s flying machines and founded the journal battles of Corunna and Waterloo. From 1807 he
Science. showed that nerves are not single units, but consist
of separate fibres within a common sheath; that a
fibre conveys either sensory or motor stimuli, but
not both (ie it transmits impulses in one direction
only); and that a muscle must be supplied with
both types of fibre. In this way Bell began modern
neurophysiology. His work was as fundamental
and as revolutionary as that of Harvey on the cir-
culation of the blood. Later he discovered the long
thoracic nerve (Bell’s nerve); and he showed that
lesions of the seventh cranial nerve produce facial
paralysis (Bell’s palsy).
Bell Burnell, (Susan) Jocelyn, née Bell
(1943– ) British astronomer: discoverer of first
pulsar.
It is probably no coincidence that Jocelyn Bell’s
father, a Belfast architect, designed the Armagh
Planetarium. She decided, after studying physics at
Glasgow, to work for a PhD in radioastronomy with
Hewish at Cambridge. He had built a large radio-
telescope there, with 2048 fixed dipole antennas
spread over 18 000 m2. Bell checked the recorders
daily, examining the 30 m of chart paper, as part of
a survey of radio-emitting quasars (remote quasi-
stellar objects) looking in particular for scintilla-
tions due to the solar wind. In mid-1967 she saw a
small unusual signal, and she found after a few
weeks that it recurred. The radio pulsation had a
precise period of over a second, and with some
effort was shown not to be an equipment malfunc-
tion or to be man-made. The name pulsar was
A G Bell, aged 29.
30
Benedict, Ruth

Benedict, Ruth née Fulton (1887–1948) US anthro-
coined, and Bell found a second example late in
1967; over 500 are now known. pologist.
The explanation due to Gold, and now accepted, Ruth Fulton was born in New York City, the eldest
is that pulsars are neutron stars, small but very daughter of a surgeon. She was 2 years old when her
massive stars, rapidly spinning. They form at the father died and her mother’s grief was hysterical,
end of a star’s life, before its final collapse to a black and ritually repeated on every anniversary. Her
hole. childhood was spent with her maternal grand-
Bell Burnell went on to research in astronomy at parents on their farm near Norwich, NY and later
London and Edinburgh, and a chair at the Open with her aunt.
University. Fulton graduated at Vassar in 1909, studying
Beneden, Edouard van [beneden] (1846–1910) philosophy and English literature, moved to
Belgian embryologist and cytologist: discovered California to teach and in 1914 married Stanley
that the number of chromosomes per cell is con- Rossiter Benedict. The marriage was not a success;
stant for a particular species. looking for occupation, Ruth Benedict chanced
Van Beneden followed his father in taking charge upon anthropology. In 1921 she went to Columbia
of zoology teaching at Liège in 1870. His course of to study for a doctorate under Franz Boas (1858–
teaching was based largely on his own researches, 1942). From 1923, as lecturer in anthropology at
which he did not publish, but one of his students pub- Columbia, despite her partial deafness and acute
lished them after van Beneden’s death. He showed in shyness, she undertook fieldwork among several
the 1880s that the number of chromosomes is con- southwestern tribes of native Americans: the Zuñí,
stant in the cells of an animal body (except the sex the Cochiti and the Pima.
cells) and the number is characteristic of the species Her views were presented in Patterns of Culture
(eg 46 in each human cell). He worked particularly (1934). Benedict saw cultures as ‘personality writ
with the chromosomes in the cell nuclei of an intesti- large’ and psychological normality as culturally
nal worm from horses; these chromosomes are con- defined, so that the misfit becomes one whose dis-
veniently large and few (four in the body cells, two in position is not contained by his culture. She made a
the sex cells). He found that the chromosome plea for tolerance of all ‘the co-existing and equally
number is not doubled in the formation of the sex valid patterns of life which mankind has created
cells (the ova and spermatozoa) so that these have for itself’. Sharply criticized by some, nevertheless
only half the usual number (a process called meiosis). Patterns of Culture was a most influential work,
When they unite, the normal number is restored, translated into 14 languages and frequently
with results in accord with Mendel’s work in genet- reprinted.
ics. In fact, van Beneden misinterpreted some of his Benedict was made associate professor at
observations, which were clarified by the work of Columbia in 1936 and served 3 years as head of the
Weismann and de Vries. department. About this time she joined the protest




1 2 3 4 5
A B




6 7 8 9 10 11 12
C




13 14 15 16 17 18
D E




19 20 21 22 X Y
F G

The 46 human chromosomes. The banding, characteristic of specific chromosomes, is developed by staining:
magnified about 2500 times. The XY karyotype shows that this is a male.
31
Bentham, George

against racism and intolerance, and published could detect currents through the intact skull from
Race: Science and Politics (1940). his family as well as from patients with brain disor-
During the Second World War she moved to ders, and from 1929 he published on this. He
Washington as head of the Basic Analysis Section, described the alpha rhythm (10 cycles per second,
Bureau of Overseas Intelligence, Office of War from certain areas of the brain at rest) and he rec-
Information. With Margaret Mead and others, she ognized that the method could be useful in the
applied anthropological methods to the study of diagnosis of diseases of the brain; since then other
complex societies and culture, working from docu- rhythms have been recognized and the EEG
mentary materials to make a number of national method has become routinely used in neurological
character studies. From her study of the Japanese and psychiatric cases, especially since Adrian’s
she produced The Chrysanthemum and the Sword work from 1934 onwards.
Bergeron, Tor Harold Percival (1891–1977)
(1946), regarded as one of the best accounts of
Japanese culture written by a westerner. Swedish meteorologist: explained mechanism of
In 1947 Ruth Benedict became president of the precipitation from clouds.
American Anthropological Association and in 1948 After studying at Stockholm and Leipzig, Berge-
was made a full professor at Columbia shortly ron worked at the Bergen Geophysical Institute
before her death. with Bjerknes. In 1947 he was appointed professor
Bentham, George (1800–84) British plant taxono- of meteorology at the University of Uppsala. His
mist. principal contribution to the subject was to sug-
Son of a wealthy naval architect, Bentham became gest, in 1935, a mechanism for the precipitation of
interested in botany at 17. He was trained in law and rain from clouds. He proposed that ice crystals pre-
worked as secretary to his uncle, the philosopher sent in the cloud grew by condensation of water
Jeremy Bentham, from 1826–32. Thereafter, his stud- vapour on to their surfaces and that at a certain size
ies in botany took up all his time; in 1854 he gave his they fell, melted and produced rain. His ideas were
herbarium and library to Kew Gardens and worked soon borne out by the experimental studies and
there for the rest of his life. His Plant Genera (3 vols, observations of W Findeisen and are now known as
1862–83) written with Hooker has continued to be a the Bergeron–Findeisen theory. It cannot apply in
standard work for British botanists; but he also wrote tropical areas.
Bergius, Friedrich Karl Rudolf [bairgeeus] (1884–
other floras, eg the seven-volume Australian Flora.
Berg, Paul (1926– ) US molecular biologist: discov- 1949) German industrial chemist: devised conver-
ered first transfer RNA and pioneered recombinant sion process from coal to oil.
DNA techniques. Son of a chemical manufacturer, Bergius studied
Educated in the USA, Berg held chairs from 1970 at under Nernst and Haber. After 5 years in teaching
both Washington University (St Louis) and Stanford. he worked in the chemical industry from the start
In 1955 Crick had suggested that the biosynthesis of of the First World War to the end of the Second
proteins from amino acids, under the control of an World War. His interest in high-pressure reactions
RNA template, involved an intermediate ‘adaptor’ of gases developed under Haber. Realizing that
molecule. He thought it possible that a specific adap- petroleum (crude mineral oil) differs from coal in
tor existed for each of the 20 amino acids. The next the higher hydrogen content and lower relative
year Berg identified the first adaptor, now called molecular mass of the oil, Bergius developed a
a transfer RNA; it is a small RNA molecule which method (the Bergius process) for the conversion, by
transfers a specific amino acid, methionine. heating a mixture of coal dust and oil with hydro-
Later, Berg developed a method for introducing gen under pressure, with a catalyst. Hydrogen is
selected genes into ‘foreign’ bacteria, thereby caus- taken up, and the product is distilled to give petrol
ing the bacteria to produce the protein characteris- (gasoline). The process was much used in Germany
tic of the cells from which the genes had been in the Second World War. He also developed indus-
taken. This technique of recombinant DNA tech- trial syntheses for phenol and ethane-1,2-diol. He
nology (‘genetic engineering’) is of value because it shared a Nobel Prize in 1931.
Bergström, Sune Karl [bairgstroem] (1916– )
can give a convenient bacterial synthesis of a
desired protein such as insulin or interferon. Swedish biochemist.
However, it offers the potential danger that novel Educated at the Royal Caroline Institute in
pathogens might be created, by accident or other- Stockholm, Bergström returned there as professor
wise, and Berg was influential in warning of this of biochemistry in 1958. His interest focused on the
problem. He shared a Nobel Prize in 1980. prostaglandins, a group of related compounds
Berger, Hans (1873–1941) German psychiatrist: pio- whose biological effects were first noted in the
neer of electroencephalography (EEG). 1930s by U VON EULER. Their effects are complex, but
Berger studied physics for a year at Jena, but then a common feature is their ability to induce con-
changed to medicine and later specialized in psy- traction of smooth muscle, and their high potency
(10–9 g can be effective); originally found in human
chiatry. He worked on the physical aspects of brain
function (eg its blood circulation, and its tempera- semen, they have since been found in many cells
ture) to try and relate these to mental states; and in (one rich source is the Caribbean sea whip coral).
1924 he recorded the electric currents he detected Bergström first isolated two prostaglandins in pure
on the exposed brain of a dog. Then he found he form, in the 1950s. In 1962 they were shown to have
32
Berthelot, Marcellin

a general structure pattern of a five-carbon ring not in accord with existing ideas, which led to fruit-
with chains on adjacent carbon atoms, and much ful new concepts. Perhaps his greatest contribution
medicinal chemistry has been devoted to them to physiology was the idea that life is dependent on
since. a constant internal environment (homeostasis);
Bergström shared a Nobel Prize in 1982 with two cells function best within a narrow range of
people; the Swedish biochemist B I Samuelsson osmotic pressure and temperature and bathed in
(1934– ) who had worked with him on the isola- a fairly constant concentration of chemical con-
tion, physiological properties and chemical struc- stituents such as sugars and metallic ions.
Bernoulli, Daniel [bernooyee] (1700–82) Swiss
ture of the prostaglandins: they were shown to be
synthesized in the body from polyunsaturated fatty mathematician: pioneer of hydrodynamics and
acids in the diet. The other Nobel laureate, the kinetic theory of gases.
British pharmacologist (Sir) J R Vane (1927– ), also This extraordinary family, in the century before
worked with prostaglandins: one of his contributions and the century after this Daniel’s birth, produced
was to show that the effect of aspirin in reducing 11 substantial mathematicians in four generations.
inflammation, pain and fever is due to it blocking Most of them worked mainly in applied mathemat-
the action of prostaglandins which can cause ics and analysis, had talents in some other areas,
inflammation in some physiological situations. from astronomy to zoology, and quarrelled vigor-
Bernard, Claude [bairnahr] (1813–78) French physi- ously with their relatives.
ologist: pioneer of experimental medicine and Daniel studied medicine in Switzerland and
physiological chemistry. Germany and qualified in 1724, and published
Bernard was the son of vineyard workers and he some major work in mathematics in the same year.
remained fond of country life; later he spent his In 1725 he was appointed professor of mathematics
time in either a Paris laboratory or, during the har- in St Petersburg, but found conditions in Russia
vest, in the Beaujolais vineyards. His schooling was primitive and returned to Basle in 1733 as professor
provided by his church, and at 19 he was appren- of anatomy and botany and, later, of physics. He
ticed to an apothecary. His first talent was in writ- worked on trigonometry, calculus and probability.
ing for the theatre, but he was urged to qualify in a His work on hydrodynamics used Newton’s ideas
profession and chose medicine. He qualified for on force applied to fluids, and advanced both
entry with some difficulty and emerged from his theory and a range of applications. One of his
training in Paris as an average student. Then as results (Bernoulli’s principle) deals with fluid flow
assistant to Magendie he found his talent in exper- through pipes of changing diameter and shows
imental medicine. He never practised as a physi- that pressure in a narrow section (see diagram) is
cian, and an early problem for him was how to lower than in the wider part, contrary to expecta-
make a living. He solved this by marrying a success- tion. A closely related effect leads to the uplift of an
ful Paris physician’s daughter and living on the aircraft wing; since the distance from leading edge
dowry until he succeeded to Magendie’s job in to rear edge is greater over the top of the wing than
1852. His marriage was unhappy. below it, the air velocity over the top must be
Bernard’s discoveries were wide-ranging; many higher and therefore its pressure is lower; the
depended on his skill in vivisection, using mainly result is uplift. Again, when a golf ball is driven off,
dogs and rabbits. In digestion he showed the pres- the loft of the club causes the ball to spin, and the
ence of an enzyme in gastric juice; the nervous con- resulting airflow gives it lift so that it has an asym-
trol of gastric secretion and its localization; the metric flight, rising in nearly a straight line. As the
change of all carbohydrates into simple sugars spin decreases, the lift diminishes and the ball
before absorption; and the role of bile and pancre- moves into a path like that of a thrown ball.
atic juice in the digestion of fats. He noted that the Bernoulli also proposed a mental model for gases,
urine of herbivores is alkaline and that of carni- showing that if gases consist of small atoms in cease-
vores acid, and he pursued the comparisons that less rapid motion colliding elastically with each
these observations suggested. This led him to find other and the walls of their container, Boyle’s
that nutrition is complex and involves inter- experimental law should result. This was both a
mediate stages and synthesis as well as transport. very early application of the idea of atoms and the
He discovered glycogen, and sugar production by origin of the kinetic theory of gases.
Berthelot, Marcellin (Pierre Eugène) [bair-
the liver. He studied the nervous system and dis-
covered the vasomotor and vasoconstrictor nerves. tuhloh] (1827–1907) French chemist: pioneer in
Beginning with an attempt to prove Lavoisier’s organic synthesis and in thermochemistry.
simple ideas on animal combustion, Barnard As the son of a Paris physician, Berthelot saw the
showed that in fact the oxidation producing city life of the poor and the sick and was often unwell
animal heat is indirect, and occurs in all tissues and himself. His life was successful from school prizes to
not simply in the lungs. He studied the action of world-wide honours in old age, but his early impres-
curare and other paralysing poisons and showed sions remained, and at 71 he wrote ‘I have never
their use in experimental medicine. His approach trusted life completely’.
to research was essentially modern; he combined Originally a medical student, he turned to chem-
experimental skill with theory and had a valuable istry early. Previously, organic chemistry had been
talent for noting experimental results that were concerned with compounds derived from living
33
Berthollet, Claude Louis, comte




(1) (2)




(3) (4)

Bernoulli’s principle. 1. – Liquid flow through a narrowed tube. 2. – Air flow supporting a wing: air has a longer path
above the wing than below it, so it moves faster, and its pressure is lower, above the wing; hence there is an uplift
acting on the wing. 3. – Trajectory of a golf shot: the dimpled, spinning ball counteracts gravity for much of its flight.
4. – Diagram from Bernoulli’s Hydrodynamics, in which kinetic theory is used to show that pV is constant for a gas
(Boyle’s Law). In reality, the average distance between gas molecules is about 300 times the molecular diameter at STP
(ie much more than in the diagram in relation to the apparent size of the ‘atoms’).

nature and little synthesis had been attempted. Originally a physician, Berthollet moved to chem-
From 1854 Berthelot used synthetic methods in a istry and was an early staff member of the École
systematic way and built up large molecules from Polytechnique, but was not an effective teacher. He
simple starting compounds. Thus he made was a friend of Napoleon, and joined him in the
methanol from methane, methanoic acid from attack on Egypt in 1798. In 1814 he helped depose
carbon monoxide, ethanol from ethene, and fats Napoleon ‘for the good of France’, and was made a
(glycerides) from propane-1,2,3-triol and organic peer by Louis XVIII. In chemistry, he was an early
acids. He made ethyne from hydrogen passed supporter of Lavoisier’s ideas; his research exam-
through a carbon arc and benzene from ethyne. ined the nature of ammonia, the sulphides of hydro-
The former idea of a ‘vital force’ was banished; gen, hydrogen cyanide and cyanogen chloride, and
organic chemistry became simply the chemistry of the reactions of chlorine. He deduced that some
carbon compounds and organic chemists had a acids did not contain oxygen (unlike Lavoisier’s
new basis for their thinking and an emphasis on view). He discovered KClO3, but his use of it in gun-
synthesis, increasingly making compounds (as powder destroyed a powder mill in 1788. His work
Berthelot did) that do not occur in nature. In the on bleaching fabrics with chlorine, and on dyes and
1860s he studied the velocity of reactions and, steelmaking, was more successful.
later, the heat they evolved (thermochemistry). He He believed that chemical affinity resembled grav-
concluded that reactions are ‘driven’ in the direc- itation in being proportional to the masses of the
tion which evolves heat. (In fact, the matter is not reactants; he was wrong, but his work foreshad-
as simple as this, as Gibbs showed.) He also worked owed that of Guldberg. Similarly, he had a courte-
on physiological chemistry and on explosives (he ous conflict with Proust, attacking the latter’s law
discovered the ‘detonation wave’). of constant composition. For long, Proust’s views
He was scientific adviser during the siege of Paris seemed to have prevailed entirely, but since 1935
by the Prussians in 1870 and later was a Senator, ‘berthollide’ compounds of slightly variable compo-
and Foreign Minister in 1895. He died a few hours sition have been proved to exist. Berthollet’s chemi-
after his wife, and the two had the unique state cal instincts were usually good and even when they
honour of a joint burial in the Panthéon. were not the debate led to a valuable outcome.
Berthollet, Claude Louis, comte (Count) [bairto- Berzelius, Jöns Jacob, Baron [berzayleeus] (1779–
lay] (1748–1822) French chemist: worked on a range 1848) Swedish chemist; dominated chemical
of inorganic problems. theory for much of his lifetime.
34
Panel: Napoleon and Science


NAPOLEON AND SCIENCE influence, including most areas of science, in which
France took a leading place, with a commanding posi-
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 –1821) is unique among tion in chemistry and physics in the first decades of the
leading historical figures in many ways, and one of 19th-c.
them is that he had an active interest in science. He As a schoolboy and as a young artilleryman
expended time and effort in gaining personal knowl- Bonaparte had a substantial interest in science. Then, as
edge of results and problems in the science and tech- a very young general commanding the French army in
nology of the early 19th-c. Only after he became Italy in 1796, he came to know the chemist BERTHOLLET,
emperor (1804) did he become a mere patron of who had been sent there by the French Government
science, although even in this role he was vastly better (the Directoire) to secure spoils of war, both art trea-
informed than other national leaders who patronized sures and scientific apparatus. The two became great
science, such as Charles II in 17th-c England or Lenin in friends, with a liking for one another that was to survive
20th-c Russia. In making scientific effort a part of despite future difficulties. The next year a vacancy arose
national policy, he broke new ground. in the limited and exclusive Institut de France, in its First
Born in Corsica, in the years following the French Class (ie the science division). Despite severe competi-
Revolution Bonaparte was a young artillery officer; he tion, the 28-year-old Napoleon was elected, and took a
had entered the École Militaire in 1785 and did excep- real part in its meetings thereafter.
tionally well in mathematics, which he was taught by His pleasure in membership was linked with his
MONGE’S brother Louis; his examiner in finals was ambition that France should dominate the world not
LAPLACE. His speedy military successes in Europe gave only militarily and politically but in scientific achieve-
him the reputation that allowed him to propose and ment also. At the same time as he joined the Institute,
lead a military expedition to Egypt in 1798, and his Bonaparte was appointed to command the army to
political skills secured his election as First Consul in invade England. In the event, this plan was abandoned
France by 1800. He easily obtained personal rule in this and replaced by a scheme to invade Egypt. Its object
capacity, became emperor in 1804 and established his was to extend French influence, embarrass England’s
three brothers as kings in Holland, Germany and Italy. link with India, secure spoil and civilize backward Egypt.
By 1810 his empire was vast, but his invasion of Russia To join him in the voyage Bonaparte chose Berthollet,
in 1812 was disastrous and defeats in Germany soon who was also to recruit others: the mathematicians
followed. His abdication in 1814 and exile in Elba were Monge and FOURIER, the zoologist Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire
the result; his return to Europe in 1815 and the (1772–1844) and the inventor N-J Conté (1755–1805).
‘Hundred Days’ only led to his final defeat by Included also were a team of engineers, cartographers
Wellington at Waterloo, renewed exile in St Helena and and interpreters. The invasion, in 1798, was a success
his death there in 1821. During the 14 years of and soon after the Battle of the Pyramids and the victo-
Bonaparte’s dominance, France was nearly always at rious entry into Cairo Bonaparte set up an Institute of
war. Despite this, it was a period of advance for some Egypt, whose task was to educate and civilize north
cultural and practical institutions within his sphere of Africa and bring to it the benefits of French culture and,



Orphaned, Berzelius was brought up by relatives.
He was interested in natural history and medicine
was his chosen career from his schooldays. After
studying medicine he graduated at Uppsala in
1802. He had read and experimented in chemistry
under J Afzelius and his interest focused upon the
subject. The wars against France (1805–9 and 1812–
14) gave him financial freedom, because the need
for military surgeons led to an increase in pay for
the medical faculty in Stockholm where Berzelius
held the chair of medicine and pharmacy from
1807 (renamed chemistry and pharmacy in 1810).
In 1808 he became a member of the Swedish Aca-
demy of Sciences. Berzelius married late in life; he
was 56 and his bride 24; as a wedding gift the king
of Sweden made him a baron.
Berzelius provided the first major systemization of
19th-c chemistry, including the first accurate table
of relative atomic masses (for 28 elements in his list
of 1828); the reintroduction and use of modern ‘ini-
tial letter’ symbols for elements; concepts including
J J Berzelius
35
Besicovitch, Abram Samoilovitch


especially, French science. The Institute’s quarters in on sugar from beet was encouraged to make up the
Cairo included laboratories for chemistry and for loss. A prize system encouraged advances in other areas
physics, a library and observatory. Much work of scien- of manufacture and technology.
tific value was done. However, French success in Africa Something is known of Bonaparte’s reading in
was checked by the British Navy’s dominance under science. During the voyage to Egypt, he spent time in
Nelson in the Mediterranean, and Bonaparte soon tutorials with Berthollet and others, and shared a tent
returned to France, with Berthollet and Monge. The with him during the campaign. Later he wrote that had
Rosetta stone, found by the French in 1799 and surren- he not became a general and national leader ‘I would
dered to the British in 1801, was to yield the long- have thrown myself into the study of the exact sci-
awaited key to the written language of ancient Egypt. ences. I would have traced a path following the route
By 1800 Bonaparte was combining his rule of France of Galileo and Newton’. Returning from Egypt, his
as First Consul with the presidency of the First Class of library contained 14 scientific books, along with some
the Institute. His interest in science was well demon- poetry, novels and political works (although he held art
strated by his treatment of the Italian physicist VOLTA; in and literature in rather low regard).
1801 Bonaparte attended three Institute meetings led Despite his notable success in encouraging science-
by Volta on electricity, saw the potential importance of based industry in France, and the fundamental
the subject, and awarded a substantial annual prize for research which underpins it, he was not able quickly to
new work in it, performed by a scientist of any nation. adjust the educational system to provide the body of
An early winner was DAVY, who was later given a pass- scientifically trained men he desired, mainly because of
port to visit and work in France in 1813 (despite the the shortage of teachers at school level; eventually this
Anglo-French war) and whose treatment there again was largely rectified, through the work of the École
confirmed that Bonaparte saw science and its practi- Normale and the École Polytechnique.
tioners as above mere national interests. Although he One period when Bonaparte had full leisure for
had a very direct interest in applications (he sat on com- reading was during his banishment to Elba, and again on
mittees assessing the value of new work on gunpowder, St Helena, where he was able to study some of the scien-
and on steam traction) he had a comparable interest in tific writing which he had himself commissioned, such as
mathematics and in pure physics, spending time in HAÜY’S books on physics, along with natural history,
1808, for example, studying Chladni’s work on astronomy and chemistry.
acoustics and again making him a generous award. He Although by modern standards Napoleon would be
ensured that Berthollet and some other leading scien- rated as a scientific amateur with major talents in other
tists had such substantial and assured incomes that directions, his support for work in science and its
they could operate effective research laboratories. After funding was well ahead of its time, was unique among
1807 Bonaparte set up the ‘Continental System’, national leaders and certainly led to outstanding
excluding British trade from Europe, and Britain coun- results for his country.
tered by imposing a blockade. This cut off the supply of
IM
cane sugar to France and Bonaparte saw to it that work



isomerism and catalysis, and the division of the sub- Liverpool. After a year he obtained a similar post in
ject into organic and inorganic branches; and, Cambridge and in 1950 was elected to the Rouse
importantly, his theory of dualism, based on his Ball professorship.
work in electrochemistry. This theory proved first a The research in Copenhagen was done with
spur and later an inhibitor to further development Harald Bohr (1887–1951; younger brother of Niels
but can now be seen as a precursor to the later divi- Bohr), and imbued Besicovitch with an interest in
sion of elements into the electropositive and elec- analysis and almost-periodic functions. He pub-
tronegative classes. He was the discoverer of three lished a book on this area (1932) as well as work on
new elements (selenium, cerium and thorium). real and complex analysis, and geometric measure
For many years Berzelius was a uniquely domi- theory.
Bessel, Friedrich Wilhelm (1784–1846) German
nant figure in chemistry, with great influence
through his research, his year-book on advances in astronomer and mathematician: made first mea-
chemistry and his many pupils. surement of a star’s distance by parallax; detected
Besicovitch, Abram Samoilovitch (1891–1970) that Sirius had a companion; introduced Bessel
Russian–British mathematician: contributed to functions.
mathematical analysis and periodic functions. As a young trainee accountant in Bremen, Bessel
Besicovitch was educated in St Petersburg, study- prepared for travel by studying navigation and
ing under Markov, and became professor when then astronomy. This in turn took him, aged 26, to
26 at Perm (renamed the Molotov University) and be director of the new Königsberg Observatory.
Leningrad. In 1924 he worked in Copenhagen, Much of Bessel’s work deals with the analysis of
and then Hardy secured him a lectureship at perturbations in planetary and stellar motions. For
36
Bessemer, Sir Henry

this purpose he developed the mathematical func-
tions that now bear his name, publishing his results
in 1824 in a paper on planetary perturbations. Bessel
functions have subsequently proved to have wide
application in other areas of physics. In 1838 he was
the first to announce the measurement of a star’s
distance by measurement of its parallax. Stellar par-
allax is the displacement the nearer stars should
show (relative to distant ones) over time, because
they are viewed at varying angles as the Earth moves
across its orbit. Such parallax had not been observed
previously; Copernicus suggested that this was
because all stars are so distant that the parallax is
immeasurably small. Bessel was able to measure the
parallax of the binary star 61 Cygni as 0.3” of arc and
thus found its distance to be 10.3 light years (within
10% of the present value). Around the same time he
observed a small wave-like motion of Sirius and sug-
gested that it was the result of the gravitational
influence of an unseen orbiting companion; the
faint companion Sirius B was subsequently detected
by Alvan G Clark (1832–97), a telescope lens maker,
in 1862. Bessel also succeeded in computing the
Henry Bessemer
mass of the planet Jupiter by analysing the orbits of
its major satellites and showed its overall density to
be only 1.35. He suggested that irregularities in the
orbit of Uranus were caused by the presence of an engineer at the Paris Mint who returned to England
unknown planet, but died a few months before the during the French Revolution. Bessemer first gained
discovery of Neptune. some knowledge of metallurgy at his father’s type
Bessemer, Sir Henry [besemer] (1813–98) British foundry. It was a time of rapid progress in indus-
engineer and inventor: developed a process for the trial manufacture and Bessemer was interested
manufacture of cheap steel. in all new developments. Largely self-taught, he
Bessemer’s father was an English mechanical became a prolific inventor.




Cheap steel from the Bessemer process encouraged engineers to use it for large structures, usually successfully; but the
rail bridge over the river Tay failed in high wind in 1879, costing the lives of 73 train passengers.
37
Bethe, Hans Albrecht

When he was 20 he produced a scheme for the played in it by carbon-12) gives good agreement with
prevention of forgeries of impressed stamps used observation for some types of stars. Bethe also con-
on documents; these forgeries were then costing tributed, with Alpher and Gamow, to the alpha-beta-
the Government some ÂŁ100 000 per year. The gamma theory of the origin of the chemical elements
Stamp Office adopted his suggestion, but did not during the origin of the universe (see Alpher for an
reward him. It was an experience he did not forget. account). He won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1967.
Bichat, (Marie-François) Xavier [beesha] (1771–
Horrified at the price of hand-made German ‘gold
powder’ purchased for his sister’s painting, he 1802) French pathologist: founder of animal his-
devised a method of manufacturing the powder tology.
from brass. Unable to patent the process, for Bichat followed his father in studying medicine.
secrecy he designed a largely automatic plant, His studies were interrupted by a period in the
workable by himself and his three brothers-in-law. army, and he returned to Paris at the height of the
From this he made enough money to cover the Terror in 1793. From 1797 he taught medicine and
expenses of his future inventions, which included in 1801 worked in Paris’s great hospital, the Hôtel-
improvements in sugar cane presses and a method Dieu. He was struck by the fact that various organs
for the manufacture of continuous sheet glass. consist of several components or ‘tissues’ and
The Crimean War directed Bessemer’s interest to described 21 of them (such as connective, muscle
the need for a new metal for guns. Cast iron (pig and nerve tissue). He saw that when an organ is dis-
iron), which contains carbon and other impurities, eased, usually it was not the whole organ but only
is brittle, and the relatively pure wrought iron was certain tissues which were affected. He distrusted
then made from pig iron by a laborious and time- microscopes and did not use one for most of his
consuming method. Steel (iron with a small work; and cell theory was yet to come. Bichat’s
amount of carbon) was made in small quantities work, done with great intensity during the last
with heavy consumption of fuel and so was costly. years of his short life, had much influence in med-
He developed the Bessemer process for making ical science. It formed a bridge between the ‘organ
cheap steel without the use of fuel, reducing to pathology’ of Morgagni and the later ‘cell pathol-
minutes a process which had taken days. Bessemer ogy’ of Virchow; and the study of tissues (histology)
steel was suitable for structural use and was cheap has been important ever since.
Biffen, Sir Rowland Harry (1874–1949) British
enough to use for this, which greatly helped the
industrial development then in progress; as well as geneticist and plant breeder.
being of value for railway systems and the machine- Biffen graduated at Cambridge in 1896 and, after
tool industry. The Bessemer process consisted of an expedition to South and Central America study-
blowing air through molten crude iron, oxidizing ing rubber production, he returned to Cambridge
carbon to blow-off gas and silicon and manganese to teach agricultural botany. He was to dominate
to solid oxides. For this purpose he designed the the subject there for a generation. In 1899 he began
Bessemer converter, a tiltable container for the cereal trials intended to select improved types,
molten metal, with holes for blowing air through then a chance process. A year later Mendel’s
its base. Some early users of his process were unable neglected work of the 1860s on plant genetics at
to reproduce his results, which led to legal disputes last became known. Biffen quickly saw that plant-
over royalty payments to him. The failures were breeding could be rationalized and he guessed that
due to ores containing phosphorus; Bessemer had physiological traits might be inherited, as well as
by chance used iron ore free from phosphorus. This the morphological traits studied by Mendel. In
problem of phosphorus impurities in some ores 1905 he showed this was the case for resistance by
was solved in 1878 by S G Thomas (1850–85) and P C wheat to yellow rust, a fungal disease; it is inher-
Gilchrist (1851–1935). R F Mushet (1811–91) also im- ited as a simple Mendelian recessive. Since then,
proved the process, by the addition of an alloy of improvement of crop plants by hybridization has
iron, manganese and carbon. been widespread. Biffen’s own wheat variety ‘Little
Bessemer set up his own steel works in Sheffield, Joss’ was unsurpassed for 40 years.
Biot, Jean (Baptiste) [beeoh] (1774–1862) French
using phosphorus-free ore. During his lifetime the
Bessemer process was appreciated more abroad. physicist: pioneer of polarimetry.
Andrew Carnegie made his fortune by it in the USA, A child during the French Revolution, Biot joined
but the British steel manufacturers were loth to the artillery at 18 but soon left to study mathemat-
acknowledge its success. Bessemer was knighted in ics, and at 26 was teaching physics at the Collège de
1879. France. His research showed variety. With Gay-
Bethe, Hans Albrecht [baytuh] (1906– ) German– Lussac he made an early balloon ascent (1804) and
US physicist: proposed mechanism for the produc- made meteorological and magnetic observations
tion of stellar energy. up to 5 km; his nerve failed for a second attempt.
In 1939 Bethe proposed the first detailed theory for He made a number of geodetic and astronomical
the formation of energy by stars through a series of expeditions, visiting Spain and Orkney.
nuclear reactions, having the net result that four His famous work is on optical activity. He showed,
hydrogen nuclei are converted into a helium nucleus for the first time, that some crystals of quartz
and radiated fusion energy. The process (sometimes rotated the plane of polarized light while other
known as the ‘carbon cycle’ because of the key part crystals rotated it to the same extent but in the
38
Bjerknes, Vilhelm

opposite direction. In 1815 he showed that some Collaboration with Von Neumann gave rise to the
liquids (eg turpentine) will also rotate plane polar- ‘weak form’ of the ergodic theorem, which was
ized light, and later he observed the same effect shortly followed by Von Neumann’s discovery of the
with some solids when dissolved in water (eg sugar, ‘strong form’. Ergodicity refers to whether a dynam-

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