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79 CE

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79 CE

The Roman City of Pompeii is buried by ash and clouds of toxic gas. Thousands are killed. In the 1700s the city is rediscovered and early archeologists excavate the site. Empty hollows are found in the ash and when they are filled with plaster they reveal the forms of the dissolved bodies of the stricken citizens.

One of those killed in the eruption is the famous author of the Natural History, a man know as Pliny the Elder.


After Pliny died, his nephew, called Pliny the Younger, wrote a letter to the historian Tacitus, in which he describes his uncle’s approach to natural history…

  • “He had neither the temperament for original investigation, nor the leisure necessary for the purpose.”
  • So, Pliny simply copied whatever someone else had said, and people kept repeating it for more than 1000 years.
sci 3010 environmental science
SCI 3010 Environmental Science

Aristotle – the most famous of all the ancient Greek scholars. This is an imaginary portrait done long after he died. No one really knows what he looked like.


John Dalton (1766 – 1844)

Antoine Lavoisier (1743 – 1794)

and Marie Lavoisier (1758 -1836)

Dmitri Mendeleyev (1834 – 1907)

sci 3010 environmental science2
SCI 3010 Environmental Science

The original version of Mendeleyev’s periodic table of the elements…

sci3010 environmental science2
SCI3010 Environmental Science

Recording of the Signal from the first ever Space satellite, Sputnik 1, recorded by an amateur radio operator, Roy Welch of Dallas, on October 7, 1957.

The launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union stunned the world and started the ‘Space Race.’ Millions of people around the world, including Dr McC, went out into the night to watch this satellite pass over as a tiny fast moving star.


Youtubevideo of the moon landing in 1969


The NAVSTAR navigation system uses 24 (actually about 36 now) satellites to triangulate the position of any receiver anywhere on the surface of the Earth with precision accuracy. It depends on extremely accurate atomic clocks and a microwave broadcasting system. Receivers (GPS units) compare the signals from several satellites – in general, four satellites must be read in order to establish the longitude, latitude, velocity and altitude of the receiver properly.

The 18th century mathematicians who worked on the longitude problem would be amazed at this technology, but they would readily understand the calculations.


In this animation pink steam forces up a piston/is drawn into a cylinder attached to a heavy beam - the beam is attached to a large bucket that will draw up water. When the cylinder has fully expanded, cool water is blown into the cyliner, condensing the steam and sucking the piston back down… This engine requires a LOT of coal.

The Thomas Newcomen steam engine was first used in 1712. Over the next 75 years probably hundreds of similar engines were built and used to pump mines throughout Britain. Many improvements were made but although this engine had clearly shown the value of steam power, it could not compete against the highly efficient engines that were designed by James Watt…


The brilliant English poet William Wordsworth was one of the most important writers in the history of English literature. In 1803 he took a walking tour through the scenic countryside of Scotland, accompanied by his sister Dorothy and the poet Samuel Coleridge.

Dorothy kept a famous diary of this tour which is often read by students of English literature because of its many insights into her brother’s writing. But in this case, we see how a thoughtful and poetic intellectual reacts to the sight of a Newcomen engine….


Triple expansion engine (improved model) designed originally by James Watt of Glasgow in 1769. This engine was much more efficient than the Newcomen engines and its rapid smooth motion was much more suitable than the Newcomen engine for use in tranport or other power appliactions… Watt aggressively protected his patent rights, but when the patent expired in 1790 then Watt pattern engines very rapidly appeared all over Britain leading to many more minor improvements.


Another very nice animation of a steam engine…

Another nice animation that shows the use of a Watt style engine in the first really successful railway locomotive… George Stephenson’s Rocket. It could travel reliably at 12 miles an hour pulling a very heavy load, or at over 30 miles per hour with a minimum load… unheard of speed at that time…


You Tube video – riding on George Stephenson’s Rocket!

Within 50 years the whole of North America was crisscrossed with 10,000s of miles of steam railways that looked like this…


The earliest flying machines were lighter-than-air hot air balloons produced by the Montgolfier brothers in France in 1783. Within a few years hydrogen balloons had been devised. The balloons were used in the American Civil war for observation of the enemy. By the late 1800s there was a scheduled passenger service running between several German cities using small hydrogen dirigibles called Zeppelins after a German Count who was their main proponent and developer.


The Zeppelin or Dirigible Hindenberg

For reasons shown in this video, this dirigible was essentially the end of the development of large lighter-than-air craft for transport…


No movies of the Wright Brothers first flight exist (although you can find some fakes on YouTube! Hahaha) but this short video is a

Compilation of authentic shots from several flights made over the few years after their initial success at Kitty Hawk in 1903.


And less than ten years after the war, Lindbergh flies the Atlantic from New York to Paris with no stops