On this day in science history: 4 June

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

4th June 2017
Set of French collecting cards on ballooning to mark the centenary of the Montgolfier Brothers' first flight in 1783, with scenes of early French balloon flights © Universal History Archive/Getty Images

Set of French collecting cards on ballooning to mark the centenary of the Montgolfier Brothers' first flight in 1783, with scenes of early French balloon flights © Universal History Archive/Getty Images

1783 – First ascent of a hot air balloon

The Montgolfier brothers successfully launch an unmanned balloon in France.

The balloon, made of silk and lined with paper, measured 10 metres across. It rose around 2,000m, and stayed aloft for 10 minutes, travelling about two kilometres. The brothers launched a tethered balloon carrying a person in October that same year, and finally an untethered, manned balloon made its first flight one month later.

Q&A: how high can a helium balloon float?

1896 – First road test of Ford

Henry Ford sits in his pride and joy, the 1896 Quadricycle © Bettmann/Getty
Henry Ford sits in his pride and joy, the 1896 Quadricycle © Bettmann/Getty

Henry Ford unveils his ‘quadricycle’ on the streets of Detroit.

Ford’s first vehicle consisted of a simple frame with four bicycle wheels, weighing in at just 230kg. The ethanol-powered quadricycle had two driving speeds, no reverse, and had a top speed of 20 miles per hour. Its steering mechanism was simple, using a tiller, and Ford also installed a horn using a doorbell button. The Ford Model A, the first car produced and sold by Ford would begin production in 1903.

Listen: They Made Our World – Henry Ford

1968 – People of Dover begin ‘bird purge’

Two gulls stand on the White Cliffs of Dover as the Sun rises on 21 March 2017 in Dover, England © Jack Taylor/Getty Images
Two gulls stand on the White Cliffs of Dover as the Sun rises on 21 March 2017 in Dover, England © Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Dover residents remove intrusive seagulls from their buildings.

The town had had enough of the birds spoiling the seaside town with their noise and dirt. Perhaps there’s only so many times it’s still considered lucky to have your clothes spoiled by overhead seagulls, especially considering the bird are gifting you with quite a nasty concoction. In the three-day annual event, residents removed eggs and nests from their chimney pots and rooftops, where seagulls began nesting after being scared inland from the cliffs during the war.

1984 – DNA from extinct animal cloned

 By Frederick York (d. 1903) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Frederick York (d. 1903) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Scientists clone fragments of DNA taken from a quagga.

DNA was extracted from a piece of muscle tissue that had been preserved for 140 years in the skin of a quagga specimen in the Mainz Museum of Natural History, Germany. A close relative of the zebra, the animal died out in 1878. The gene fragments were the first to be extracted from any extinct species, and revealed that genes can survive for over a century. The cloning allowed partial sequencing of the DNA, which led to the discovery that quaggas were more closely related to zebras than to horses. Zebras have since been selectively bred to reduce their stripes and create ‘Rau Quaggas’, named after Reinhold Rau, the founder of the Quagga Project. The animals resemble quaggas in appearance but are still genetically different.

Q&A: how did the zebra get its stripes?

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