On this day in science history: 26 May

From the days of ancient technology to modern science - find out what happened on this day in the history of science.

26th May 2017
The HMS Challenger engraving by William Frederick Mitchell (1845-1914) © DeAgostini/Getty Images

The HMS Challenger engraving by William Frederick Mitchell (1845-1914) © DeAgostini/Getty Images

1676 – Microorganisms observed for first time

'Animalcules' observed by Anton van Leeuwenhoek © Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images
'Animalcules' observed by Anton van Leeuwenhoek © Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek spots ‘animalcules’ using handmade microscopic lenses.

Van Leeuwenhoek viewed rainwater runoff from a roof under a lens, and found it contained single-celled organisms. His powerful magnifying lenses were spheres created from molten glass, with the smallest spheres giving the highest magnifications. Van Leeuwenhoek was also the first person to observe muscle fibres, bacteria, and blood flow in capillaries. His important biological discoveries mean he is considered the ‘Father of Microbiology’.

See Antonie van Leeuwenhoek immortalised in a Google Doodle

1876 – Challenger expedition returns home

Chart illustrating ocean temperatures at different depths, taken from Reports of the Challenger cruise, 1872-76 © Science & Society Picture Library/SSPL/Getty Images
Chart illustrating ocean temperatures at different depths, taken from Reports of the Challenger cruise, 1872-76 © Science & Society Picture Library/SSPL/Getty Images

The HMS Challenger returns to England after its four-year exploration of the Earth's oceans.

The world’s first oceanographic expedition, Challenger covered almost 130,000km around the globe, and recorded over 4,000 new marine species. Its key finding was the discovery the Challenger Deep at the southern end of the Mariana Trench – the deepest known point of the ocean floor. The crew recorded a depth of 8,184m, but modern measurements are closer to 11,000m.

The HMS Challenger was previously a British Naval ship, but for the expedition she was stripped of all but two cannons, and was fitted out with several laboratories, storage for collected specimens, and a dredging platform.

Listen: HMS Challenger and the Space Shuttle on Radio 4’s The Long View

1927 – Last Model T Ford Car produced

A Ford worker adds the final touches to the fifteenth million Ford car produced, a Model T Ford, in the USA. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)
A Ford worker adds the final touches to the fifteenth million Ford car produced, a Model T Ford, in the USA © Keystone Features/Getty Images

The 15 millionth, and last, Model T Ford rolls off the production line.

Thanks to Henry Ford’s efficient assembly line production, the Model T is regarded as the first affordable automobile.

James May takes the Ford Model T for a test drive

Discover more history of science

 


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