1959 in science
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Astronomy and space exploration
- January 2 – Soviet spacecraft Luna 1 is launched by a Vostok rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome; intended to impact Earth's Moon, an error causes it instead to become the first spacecraft to fly by the Moon and the first man-made object to enter heliocentric orbit.
- February 6 – At Cape Canaveral, Florida, the first successful test firing of a Titan intercontinental ballistic missile is accomplished.
- February 17 – Vanguard 2, the first weather satellite, is launched to measure cloud cover for the United States Navy.
- March 3 – Lunar probe Pioneer 4 becomes the first American object to escape dominance by Earth's gravity.
- May 28 – Jupiter AM-18 rocket launches two primates, Miss Baker and Miss Able, into space from Cape Canaveral in the United States along with living microorganisms and plant seeds. Successful recovery makes them the first living beings to return safely to Earth after space flight.
- June 25 – A KH-1 Corona satellite, believed to be the first operational spy satellite, is launched as science mission "Discoverer 4" from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, aboard a Thor-Agena rocket.
- August 7 – The United States launches Explorer 6 from the Atlantic Missile Range in Cape Canaveral.
- September 15 – Russian probe Luna 3 sends back the first photographs of the far side of Earth's Moon.
- September 19 – Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison establish the scientific rationale for SETI with the publishing of their seminal paper "Searching for Interstellar Communications" in Nature.
- November 24 – Yardymli meteorite makes a landfall in Azerbaijan.
- December 4 – Little Joe 2, a mission in the Mercury program, carries Sam the monkey into space.
- Coma Berenicids discovered.
- First successful test of a nuclear thermal rocket engine, as part of Project Rover at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States under Raemer Schreiber.
- January 1 – Cultivars of plants named after this date must be named in a modern language, not in Latin.
- March 26 – Jersey Zoo (later Durrell Wildlife Park) established by Gerald Durrell.
- August 8 – Min Chueh Chang reports the first mammals, a litter of rabbits, grown from ova having undergone in vitro fertilisation and transferred to a surrogate mother.
- The term pheromone is coined.
- B. J. Davis and Leonard Ornstein first describe the use of acrylamide in gel electrophoresis at a scientific meeting.
- October – Martin Gardner presents the Three Prisoners problem in probability theory.
- December – The specification for the programming language COBOL is completed.
- IBM ship the transistor-based IBM 1401 mainframe.
- Edsger W. Dijkstra rediscovers 'Prim's algorithm'.
- Grigore Moisil publishes Teoria algebrică a mecanismelor automate [Algebraic theory of automatic machines], on automata theory, in Bucharest.
History of science
- July – The medical research group studying Minamata disease comes to the conclusion that mercury is the cause.
- Joseph Murray performs the world's first successful allotransplantation.
- Georges Mathé, a French oncologist, performs the first bone marrow transplant on five Yugoslavian nuclear workers whose own marrow has been damaged by intense irradiation caused by a criticality accident at the Vinča Nuclear Institute, but all of these transplants are rejected.
- First known case of human HIV, in the Belgian Congo.
- July 17 – Paranthropus boisei (originally designated Zinjanthropus) is found in the Olduvai Gorge of Tanganyika by Mary and Louis Leakey. It dates from between 2.6 and 1.1 million BP.
- First femur of Arlington Springs Man is found on Santa Rosa Island, California, by Phil C. Orr. The remains are subsequently dated to 13,000 years BP, making them potentially the oldest known human remains in North America.
- Yakir Aharonov and David Bohm predict the Aharonov–Bohm effect.
- December 29 – Richard Feynman delivers a lecture "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom", anticipating the field of nanotechnology.
- June 9 – The USS George Washington is launched at Groton, Connecticut, as the first submarine to carry ballistic missiles (December 30 – commissioned).
- Agfa introduces the first fully automatic camera, the Optima.
- Eveready Battery engineer Lewis Urry invents the long-lasting alkaline battery.
- Gordon Gould publishes the term Laser.
- Pilkington Brothers patent the float glass process invented by Alastair Pilkington.
- May 7 – English scientist and novelist C. P. Snow delivers an influential Rede Lecture on The Two Cultures, concerning a perceived breakdown of communication between the sciences and humanities, in the Senate House, University of Cambridge. It is subsequently published as The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution.
- Lois Graham becomes the first woman in the United States to earn a PhD in mechanical engineering, at Illinois Institute of Technology.
- Nobel Prizes
- March 9 – Takaaki Kajita, Japanese nuclear physicist (Nobel Prize in Physics 2015).
- May 27 – Donna Strickland, Canadian physicist (Nobel Prize in Physics 2018).
- August 3 – Koichi Tanaka, Japanese chemist (Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2002).
- August 29 – Stephen Wolfram, British-born mathematician.
- September 22 – Saul Perlmutter, American astrophysicist (Nobel Prize in Physics 2011).
- October 16 – Pamela C. Rasmussen, American ornithologist.
- December 25 – Michael P. Anderson (died 2003), American astronaut.
- January 21 – Frances Gertrude McGill (born 1882), pioneering Canadian forensic pathologist.
- February 15 – Sir Owen Richardson (born 1879), English physicist (Nobel Prize in Physics 1928).
- June 9 – Adolf Windaus (born 1876) German chemist (Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1928).
- June 11 – Grantly Dick-Read (born 1890), English obstetrician.
- September 30 – Ross Granville Harrison (born 1870), American physiologist.
- October 29
- November 15 – C. T. R. Wilson (born 1869), Scottish physicist (Nobel Prize in Physics 1927).
- Austria joins CERN.
- "Coma Berenicids". Meteor Showers Online. Archived from the original on 2010-11-25. Retrieved 2011-11-08.
- Pace, Eric (31 December 1998). "R. E. Schreiber, 88, Nuclear Bomb Physicist". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-10-04.
- Chang, M. C. (1959). "Fertilization of Rabbit Ova in vitro". Nature. 184 (4684): 466–67. Bibcode:1959Natur.184..466C. doi:10.1038/184466a0. PMID 13809155.
- Greep, Roy O. (1991). "Min Chueh Chang". Biographical Memoirs. United States National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 2011-08-15.
- Karlson Peter; Lüscher Martin (1959). "Pheromones: a new term for a class of biologically active substances". Nature. 183 (4653): 55–56. Bibcode:1959Natur.183...55K. doi:10.1038/183055a0. PMID 13622694.
- "Disc Electrophoresis". Archived from the original on 2011-09-26. Retrieved 2011-10-16.
- Gardner, Martin (October 1959). "Mathematical Games: Problems involving questions of probability and ambiguity". Scientific American. 201 (4): 174–182. Bibcode:1959SciAm.201d.174G. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1059-174.
- Gardner, Martin (November 1959). "Mathematical Games: How three modern mathematicians disproved a celebrated conjecture of Leonhard Euler". Scientific American. 201 (5): 188. Bibcode:1959SciAm.201e.181G. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1159-181.
- Iwasawa, Kenkichi (1959). "On Γ-extensions of algebraic number fields". Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society. 65 (4): 183–226. doi:10.1090/S0002-9904-1959-10317-7. ISSN 0002-9904. MR 0124316. Zbl 0089.02402.
- "Minamata disease". United Nations University. Retrieved 2010-10-17.
- Machado, Calixto (2005). "The first organ transplant from a brain-dead donor". Neurology. 64 (11): 1938–42. doi:10.1212/01.wnl.0000163515.09793.cb. PMID 15955947.
- McLaughlin, Thomas P.; et al. (May 2000). "A Review of Criticality Accidents" (PDF). CSRIC. Los Alamos National Laboratory. p. 96. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-26.
Radiation doses were intense, being estimated at 205, 320, 410, 415, 422, and 433 rem.74 Of the six persons present, one died and the other five recovered after severe cases of radiation sickness.
- Johnston, Wm. Robert (2005-09-14). "Vinca reactor accident, 1958". Database of radiological incidents and related events – Johnston's Archive. Retrieved 2012-07-02.
- Martin, Douglas (2010-10-20). "Dr. Georges Mathé, Transplant Pioneer, Dies at 88". The New York Times.
- Pence, G. E. (2008). "Preventing the Global Spread of AIDS". Medical Ethics: Accounts of the Cases That Shaped and Define Medical Ethics. New York: McGraw-Hill. p. 330.
- Gould, R. Gordon (1959). "The LASER, Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation". In Franken, P. A.; Sands, R. H. (eds.). The Ann Arbor Conference on Optical Pumping, the University of Michigan, 15 June through 18 June 1959. p. 128. OCLC 02460155.
- Challoner, Jack, ed. (2009). 1001 Inventions That Changed the World. London: Cassell. p. 754. ISBN 978-1-84403-611-0.
- Graham, Lois (1959). Effect of adding a combustible to atmosphere surrounding diffusion flame (Thesis). OCLC 45226021.
- "Alumni Awards 2015: Lifetime Achievement Award: Lois Graham (M.S. ME '49, Ph.D. '59)". Illinois Institute of Technology. 2015. Archived from the original on 2018-11-20. Retrieved 2018-11-20.