May 27, 1907: Rachel Carson, American biologist, was born. She is best known for her writings on environmental pollution & natural history of the sea. Embedded within all of Carson’s writing was view that human beings were but one part of nature distinguished primarily by their power to alter it, in some cases irreversibly. Disturbed by profligate use of synthetic chemical pesticides after World War II, Carson reluctantly changed her focus in order to warn public about long term effects of misusing pesticides. In her book, Silent Spring (1962), she challenged practices of agricultural scientists & government agencies. Carson called for change in way humankind viewed the natural world.
May 27, 1995: Christopher Reeve, American actor, was thrown head first while riding his horse in Virginia. Reeve was paralyzed, unable to walk or breathe on his own. He was best known for his chiseled good looks that mirrored those of the comic book character, Superman. He literally brought role of Superman to life as he made valiant efforts to recover from his injury & fought for other victims of paralyzing injuries.
May 27, 1995: Earthquake (7.1-magnitude) struck Sakhalin Island in Russia where 1,989 people died.
May 27, 1995: F5 tornado completely destroyed Jarrell, Texas where 30 people died. Note: F5 tornadoes have winds of more than 260 miles per hour. One item was later found 100 miles away. A survivor reported that she had been carried off with her house as she lay in the bathtub.
May 27, 1994: Highest plasma temperature (510 million degrees Celsius/918 million degrees Fahrenheit) was produced in magnetic fusion reactor at Princeton University. This was world’s first laboratory reactor used to study confinement & heating of plasmas with 50/50 mixtures of deuterium & tritium. Note: If it ever becomes feasible, this hazardous material fuel mixture could be used in future commercial fusion power plants.
May 27, 1962: Fire at Centralia, Pennsylvania town dump ignited exposed coal seam, setting off a chain of events that eventually led to evacuation & demolition of nearly every building in Centralia. Note: Centralia is listed on forthcoming book, “101 Places a Hazardous Materials Manager Must Visit Before They Die!”
May 27, 1941: U.S. Federal Register published definition of enriched flour giving specifications for required amounts it must contain of vitamin B-1 (thiamine), nicotinic acid (niacin) or nicotinic acid amide (niacin amide) & iron. All wheat flour manufactured after the effective date was required to be enriched with vitamins to improve nation’s nutrition & good health. Enriched bread could be produced using enriched flour. Addition of niacin led to virtual elimination of pellagra.
May 27, 1937: San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge opened to public. This stunning technological & artistic achievement was world’s longest bridge until New York City’s Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was completed in 1964.
May 27, 1930: Richard Drew, American inventor, patented removable masking tape. Its patent rights were assigned to 3M Company, which marketed it as “Scotch Tape.”
May 27, 1909: William Hansen, American physicist, was born. He contributed to development of radar & is regarded as founder of microwave technology. He developed a vacuum tube essential to radar technology. Based on amplitude modulation of an electron beam, rather than on resonant circuits of coils & condensers, it permits generation of powerful & stable high-frequency oscillations. It revolutionized high-energy physics & microwave research and led to airborne radar. Vacuum tubes were used in satellite communications, airplane and missile guidance systems, and telephone & television transmission.
May 27, 1907: Sailor in San Francisco, California was diagnosed with bubonic plague. Deadly disease soon spread to all areas of the city. New York Times reported, “The disease increased with such virulence that it looked for a time as if the city were to be decimated as was medieval Europe”. Good news: Scientists discovered that the plague was carried by pests & rodents. These theories were not widely accepted. Regardless, San Francisco began to solve its problem by collecting & killing rats. In 1909, San Francisco was finally plague-free.
May 27, 1896: Tornado struck St. Louis, Missouri where 255 people died.