Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) turns a tiny bit of DNA into a much larger amount which can subsequently be sequenced. In 1983, Mullis figured out a way to multiply the tiniest piece of DNA by orders of magnitude, making millions of copies. This is how the smallest bit of DNA, from bacteria, viruses, historical artifacts, […]

Statins

Statins dramatically lower blood cholesterol, and the likelihood of heart attacks. Akira Endo discovered statins. Akira Endo & His Molds Endo is a Japanese researcher with a lifelong fascination related to fungi. Recalling that Fleming accidentally discovered penicillin, he theorized that fungi might hold other miracle drugs. Endo noted that Americans are much heavier than […]

Computed Tomography (CT or CAT scan)

Computed Tomography (CT or CAT scans for short) are 3-dimensional x-rays. Self-taught innovator Hounsfield, while on a camping trip, wondered if he could x-ray the contents of a box in 3D by moving the x-ray machine. That worked. Eventually, he implemented it in his own machine and used that to image a cow brain. Subsequently, […]

Charge-Coupled Device (CCD)

1969 William BoyleGeorge Smith “We are the ones who started this profusion of little cameras all over the world.” William Boyle Charged Coupled Devices (CCD’s) are a special type of chip that reacts to light. They are inexpensive and especially useful in imagining, enabling digital photography and video. William Boyle and George Smith worked for […]

Fiber Optic Cable

Fiber optic cable is extremely thin cable that uses light, rather than electricity, to send information. Background In 1854, John Tyndall demonstrated that light bends through water. In 1880, Bell showed an analog voice signal propelled by light. He called it a Photophone. However, the process was subject to interference and abandoned. Additionally, Europeans demonstrated […]

Integrated Circuits (Microchips)

In early electronic computers, each circuit involved a vacuum tube. They were large, relatively slow, and consumed a lot of power. Shockley, Brattain, and Bardeen created the semiconductor. Their circuits eliminated the need for vacuum tubes. Kilby and Noyce discovered that semiconducting material held burned-in semiconductor circuits. Their printed circuits worked like the much larger […]

DNA Sequencing

DNA sequencing creates a map of DNA. The process reads DNA like a computer reads a hard drive. Eventually, the technology will allow scientists to understand and manipulate life functions. In 1955, Sanger discovered how to sequence DNA, which would later win him the Nobel Prize. He is one of four people in the world […]

Nuclear Power

One of the great physicists, Fermi won the Nobel Prize in 1938, at the age of 37. No sooner did he receive his prize than he fled from his home in fascist Italy to New York City, taking US citizenship. Eventually, Fermi and the other nuclear scientists had convinced President Roosevelt that the Nazis could […]

Electron Microscope

Electron microscopes enable scientists to see extremely small particles. In the 1920s, scientists discovered that electrons in a vacuum behave much like light except they can be manipulated with electric and magnetic fields. Since electrons curve around particles, these electron microscopes are vastly more powerful than traditional light-based microscopes. Ruska invented the electron microscope at […]

Antibiotics

“I did not invent penicillin. Nature did that. I only discovered it by accident.” Sir Dr. Alexander Fleming Few medical discoveries impacted life expectancy and quality of life more than antibiotics. Before their discovery, simple wounds were often fatal. For example, during the US Civil War, most soldiers eventually died from infection, not from their […]