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On This Day in Science - March 20

By Jake Beardslee · March 20, 2024

From revolutionary theories that challenged conventional wisdom to ingenious inventions that propelled humanity forward, each day marks a significant step in the relentless pursuit of knowledge.

Join us as we unravel the captivating stories behind these scientific milestones, celebrating the inquisitive minds and tenacious spirits that dared to push the boundaries of what was once thought impossible.

Let's explore the scientific events that occurred on this day, March 20.  Unsplash

Albert Einstein Changes Science Forever

On March 20, 1916, Albert Einstein published his general theory of relativity, reshaping our understanding of physics by introducing the concept of spacetime and gravitation as the curvature of spacetime​.  PD-US/Wikimedia

A Leap Forward in Medicinal History

The FDA approved AZT (zidovudine) on March 20, 1987, as the first drug for the treatment of AIDS, marking a significant milestone in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic​.  NIH/Wikimedia

Cosmic Alignment with Catastrophic Implications

The alignment of Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars on March 20, 1345, was believed by medieval scholars to herald the Black Death, showcasing the historical intersection of astronomy and human history, albeit through a misguided interpretation.  Royale Albert Ier, Bruxelles/Wikimedia

A Revolutionary Discovery in Skin Science

In 2019, researchers, aided by a woman who can smell Parkinson’s disease, identified molecules on human skin as early warning signs of the condition. This breakthrough on March 20 represents a significant advancement in our understanding of neurological diseases and their detection. staff (2014). Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014/Wikimedia

The Birth of the World's Largest Corporation

On March 20, 1602, the Dutch East India Company was established, a venture that would become the largest company in recorded history. While primarily economic, its formation had profound implications for global trade, exploration, and the scientific study of geography and natural sciences.  Wenceslaus Hollar/Wikimedia

The Fire that Changed Urban Planning

The Great Fire of Boston on March 20, 1760, destroyed 349 buildings. The reconstruction efforts and changes in urban planning and fire safety measures that followed contributed significantly to the development of modern scientific approaches to urban design and disaster preparedness​.  Internet Archive Book Images/Wikimedia

The Birth of a Canadian Biochemist

Maud Leonora Menten, born on March 20, 1879, significantly contributed to biochemistry and organic chemistry, marking her birthday as a day of recognition for her contributions to science​.  Smithsonian Institution from United States/Wikimedia

A Historic Balloon Circumnavigation

On March 20, 1999, Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones became the first aviators to circumnavigate the globe nonstop in a balloon, a monumental feat in aviation history​.  John Mathew Smith & from Laurel Maryland, USA/Wikimedia

Sir Isaac Newton's Death

The passing of Sir Isaac Newton on March 20, 1727, marks a poignant moment in history, remembering the man whose work, Principia, was pivotal in the scientific revolution.  Godfrey Kneller/Wikimedia

Spanish Nobelist Stamps

On March 20, 2006, Spain issued stamps honoring Nobel Prize winners Santiago Ramón y Cajal and Severo Ochoa for Physiology or Medicine achievements. Cajal's stamp depicted nerve cells, while Ochoa's showed a DNA molecule.  Rafandalucia/Wikimedia

Tesla's Wireless Power Patent

On March 20, 1900, Nikola Tesla patented wireless electric power transmission (No. 645,576), a groundbreaking concept still influential today.  Photographer: Dickenson V. AlleyRestored by Lošmi/Wikimedia

Birth of AC Power

On March 20, 1886, George Westinghouse's AC power plant in Massachusetts marked a milestone in electricity distribution, sparking a new era of electrical engineering.  George Westinghouse/Wikimedia

Volta's Battery Invention

On March 20, 1800, Alessandro Volta announced his voltaic pile invention, a precursor to the modern battery, sparking the exploration of electricity's potential. His innovation spurred early experiments in electrolysis.  Le Petit Journal/Wikimedia

Matzeliger's Shoe Manufacturing Innovation

On March 20, 1883, Jan Matzeliger received his first U.S. patent (No. 274,207) for a shoe "Lasting-Machine," revolutionizing footwear production. This innovative device boosted efficiency by swiftly attaching soles to uppers, enhancing shoe manufacturing output.  J.E. Matzeliger/Wikimedia

Aviation Milestone: USS Langley

On March 20, 1922, the United States Navy commissioned its first aircraft carrier, the USS Langley, formerly known as the USS Jupiter (AC-3). Converted from the USS Jupiter at the Norfolk Navy Yard, the ship was named in honor of Samuel Pierpoint Langley, a pioneering astronomer and physicist. Langley's early experiments with flying machines, dating back to 1898, and his ambitious attempts at aircraft launches from a houseboat in 1903, inspired the ship's renaming.  Naval History & Heritage Command/Wikimedia

Earthquake of the Century

The 1861 Mendoza earthquake struck Argentina's Mendoza province on March 20 at 11:30 PM, with a magnitude of 7.2 on the Ms scale and intensity of IX–X on the Mercalli scale. It originated around 30 kilometers deep. Tectonically, Mendoza sits east of the Precordillera belt, part of the Andes. Subduction of the Nazca Plate beneath the South American Plate causes compression, notably along active thrust faults like the Cal Thrust, which ruptured during the quake.  General Archive of the Nation/Wikimedia