Timeline of United States discoveries

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The rivalry between Othniel Charles Marsh (left) and Edward Drinker Cope (right) sparked the Bone Wars.”
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Science and technology
in the United States
African-American contributions
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(before 1890)
(1890–1945)
(1946–1991)
(after 1991)

Timeline of United States discoveries encompasses the breakthroughs of human thought and knowledge of new scientific findings, phenomena, places, things, and what was previously unknown to exist. From a historical stand point, the timeline below of United States discoveries dates from the 18th century to the 21st century, which have been achieved by discoverers who are either native-born or naturalized citizens of the United States.

With an emphasis of discoveries in the fields of astronomy, physics, chemistry, medicine, biology, geology, paleontology, and archaeology, United States citizens acclaimed in their professions have contributed much. For example, the Bone Wars,” beginning in 1877 and ending in 1892, was an intense period of rivalry between two American paleontologists, Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh, who initiated several expeditions throughout North America in the pursuit of discovering, identifying, and finding new species of dinosaur fossils. In total, their large efforts resulted in when 142 species of dinosaurs being discovered.[1] With the founding of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958, a vision and continued commitment by the United States of finding extraterrestrial and astronomical discoveries has helped the world to better understand our solar system and universe. As one example, in 2008, the Phoenix Mars Lander discovered the presence of frozen water on the planet Mars of which scientists such as Peter H. Smith of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) had suspected before the mission confirmed its existence.[2]

Eighteenth century[edit]

1747 Charge conservation

1796 Johnston Atoll

1798 Tabuaeran

1798 Teraina

1798 Palmyra Atoll

Palmyra Atoll's North Beach.

Palmyra Atoll, a territory of the United States, a Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, and a part of the wider United States Minor Outlying Islands, is a 4.6 sq mi (12 km2) atoll located in the North Pacific Ocean almost due south of the Hawaiian Islands, roughly halfway between the U.S. state of Hawaii and the U.S. territory of American Samoa. The atoll consists of an extensive reef, two shallow lagoons, and some 50 sand and reef-rock islets and bars covered with lush, tropical vegetation. The islets of the atoll are all connected, except Sand Island and the two Home Islets in the west and Barren Island in the east. The largest island is Cooper Island in the north, followed by Kaula Island in the south. Cooper Island is privately owned by The Nature Conservancy and managed as a nature reserve. The rest of the atoll is managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and is directly administered by the Office of Insular Affairs, an agency of the United States Department of Interior. Palmyra Atoll's history is long and colorful. It was first sighted on June 14, 1798, by Captain Edmund Fanning and officially discovered in 1802 by Captain Sawle of the American ship Palmyra.[7]

1798 Kingman Reef

Nineteenth century[edit]

1821 South Orkney Islands

1822 Howland Island

1825 Baker Island

1831 Chloroform

1858 Hadrosaurus foulki

Plate XIII from Cretaceous Reptiles of the United States, showing various Hadrosaurus teeth (top) and vertebrae (bottom right). The teeth on the bottom left belonged to Astrodon.

Hadrosaurus was a dubious genus of a hadrosaurid dinosaur that lived near what is now the coast of New Jersey in the late Cretaceous, around 80 million years ago. It was likely bipedal for the purposes of running, but could use its forelegs to support itself while grazing. Like all hadrosaurids, Hadrosaurus was herbivorous. Its teeth suggest it ate twigs and leaves. In the summer of 1858 while vacationing in Haddonfield, New Jersey, William Parker Foulke discovered the world's first nearly-complete skeleton of any species of dinosaur, the Hadrosaurus (named by Joseph Leidy), an event that would rock the scientific world and forever change our view of natural history. To this day, Haddonfield, New Jersey is considered to be "ground zero" of dinosaur paleontology.[12]

1859 Midway Atoll

Midway Atoll, better known as Midway Island or collectively as the Midway islands, is a territory of the United States and a part of the wider United States Minor Outlying Islands that is located in the North Pacific Ocean near the northwestern end of the Hawaiian Islands. As a 2.4-square-mile (6.2 km²) atoll, Midway Atoll is one-third of the way between Honolulu, Hawaii and Tokyo, Japan, approximately 140 nautical miles (259 kilometers) east of the International Date Line, about 2,800 nautical miles (5,200 kilometers) west of San Francisco, California, and 2,200 nautical miles (4,100 kilometers) east of Tokyo, Japan. Midway Atoll consists of a ring-shaped barrier reef and several sand islets. The two significant pieces of land, Sand Island and Eastern Island, provide habitat for millions of seabirds. Because of the importance of marine and biological environment, Midway Atoll is an insular area known as the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge that is administered and managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency of the United States Department of Interior. Midway Atoll is perhaps best known as the site of the Battle of Midway, fought in World War II on June 4–6, 1942 and the decisive turning point of the Pacific War when the United States Navy defeated an attack by the Empire of Japan. First known as "Middlebrooks Islands", Midway Atoll was discovered by U.S. Captain N.C. Brooks aboard his ship, Gambia, on July 8, 1859.[8][13]

1859 Petroleum jelly

Petroleum jelly, petrolatum or soft paraffin is a semi-solid mixture of hydrocarbons originally promoted as a topical ointment for its healing properties. The raw material for petroleum jelly was discovered in 1859 by Robert Chesebrough, a chemist from New York. In 1870, this product was branded as Vaseline Petroleum Jelly.[14]

1873 Chemical potential

1875 Red Delicious

Bushels of Red Delicious apples.

The Red Delicious is a clone of apple cultigen, now comprising more than 50 cultivars. The Red Delicious apple was discovered in 1875 by Jesse Hiatt on his farm in Peru, Iowa. Believing that the seedling was nothing more than nuisance. After chopping down the tree three times, Hiatt decided to let the tree grow and eventually, it produced an unknown and new harvest of red apples. Hiatt would eventually sell the rights to this type of apple to the Stark Brothers Nurseries and Orchards who renamed it the Red Delicious.[16]

1877 Deimos

Deimos is the smaller and outer of Mars’ two moons. It was discovered by Asaph Hall in 1877.[17]

1877 Phobos

Phobos is the larger and closer of Mars' two small moons. It was discovered by Asaph Hall in 1877.[18]

1888 Cliff Palace

The Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling in North America. The structure built by the Ancient Pueblo Peoples is located in Mesa Verde National Park in their former homeland region. The cliff dwelling and park are in the southwestern corner of Colorado, in the Southwestern United States. The ancient ruins of Cliff Palace were co-discovered during a snowstorm in December 1888 by Richard Wetherill and Charlie Mason who were searching for stray cattle on Chapin Mesa.[19]

1889 Torosaurus

Torosaurus was a herbivorous dinosaur that lived during the Late Cretaceous Period about 70 million years ago in what is now North America. Torosaurus had an enormous head that measured 8 feet (2.5 m) in length. Its skull is one of the largest know up to date, no other land animal has ever had a skull larger than Torosaurus. Torosaurus frill made up about one-half the total skull length. The first fossils of Torosaurus were discovered in 1889, in Wyoming by John Bell Hatcher. The American paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh would later name the specimen Torosaurus latus, in recognition of the bull-like size of its skull and its large eyebrow horns. Ever since, the specimen has been in display at the Peabody Museum in New Haven, Connecticut.[20]

1891 Thescelosaurus

Charles Gilmore's reconstruction of Thescelosaurus in 1915.

Thescelosaurus was a bipedal dinosaur with a sturdy build, small wide hands, and a long pointed snout from the Late Cretaceous Period, approximately 66 million years ago. As a herbivore, Thescelosaurus was not a tall dinosaur and probably browsed the ground selectively to find food. Its leg structure and proportionally heavy build suggests that it was not a fast runner like other dinosaurs. The first fossils of Thescelosaurus were co-discovered in 1891 by John Bell Hatcher and William H. Utterback, in Wyoming. However, this discovery remained stored until Charles W. Gilmore named the dinosaur in 1913.[21]

1892 Amalthea

Amalthea is the third moon of Jupiter in order of distance from the planet. It was discovered on September 9, 1892, by Edward Emerson Barnard.[22]

1899 Phoebe

Twentieth century[edit]

1902 Tyrannosaurus

The first sketch of a Tyrannosaurus skeleton in relation to a human skeleton ever published.

Tyrannosaurus, a bipedal carnivore, is a genus of theropod dinosaur. The species Tyrannosaurus rex, commonly abbreviated to T. rex, is a fixture in popular culture. It lived throughout what is now western North America, with a much wider range than other tyrannosaurids. Fossils are found in a variety of rock formations dating to the last two million years of the Cretaceous Period, 67 to 66 million years ago. It was among the last non-avian dinosaurs to exist prior to the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event. In 1902, the first skeleton of Tyrannosaurus was discovered in Hell Creek, Montana by American paleontologist Barnum Brown. In 1908, Brown discovered a better preserved skeleton of Tyrannosaurus.[24]

1908 Seyfert galaxies

1909 Burgess shale

Charles Doolittle Walcott seen excavating the Burgess shale (near Field, British Columbia) with his wife Helen and son Sidney, in the quarry which now bears his name.

The formation of Burgess shale — located in the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia — is one of the world's most celebrated fossil fields,[26] and the best of its kind.[27] It is famous for the exceptional preservation of the soft parts of its fossils. It is 505 million years (Middle Cambrian) old,[28] one of the earliest soft-parts fossil beds. The rock unit is a black shale, and crops out at a number of localities near the town of Field, British Columbia in the Yoho National Park. The Burgess Shale was discovered by American palaeontologist Charles Doolittle Walcott in 1909, towards the end of the season's fieldwork.[29] He returned in 1910 with his sons, establishing a quarry on the flanks of Fossil Ridge. The significance of soft-bodied preservation, and the range of organisms he recognized as new to science, led him to return to the quarry almost every year until 1924. At this point, aged 74, he had amassed over 65,000 specimens. Describing the fossils was a vast task, pursued by Walcott until his death in 1927.[29]

1910 Propane

1912 Golden Delicious

Golden Delicious

Golden Delicious is a large, yellow skinned cultivar of apple and very sweet to the taste. The original Golden Delicious tree is thought to have been discovered by Anderson Mullins on a hill near Porter Creek in Clay County, West Virginia. The Stark Brothers Nursery soon purchased the tree which spawned a leading cultivar in the United States and abroad. The Golden Delicious is the state fruit of West Virginia.[31]

1912 Smoking-cancer link

1914 Sinope

1915 Zener diodes

1916 Barnard's Star

1916 Covalent bonding

1916 Heparin

1917 Vitamin A

1923 Oviraptor

1924 Uncle Sam Diamond

1925 Cepheid variables

1927 Electron diffraction

1928 Jones Diamond

1930 Pluto

Clyde William Tombaugh, the American astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930.

Following the discovery of the planet Neptune in 1846, there was considerable speculation that another planet might exist beyond its orbit. The search began in the mid-19th century but culminated at the start of the 20th century with a quest for Planet X. Percival Lowell proposed the Planet X hypothesis to explain apparent discrepancies in the orbits of the gas giants, particularly Uranus and Neptune, speculating that the gravity of a large unseen planet could have perturbed Uranus enough to account for the irregularities. The discovery of Pluto by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 initially appeared to validate Lowell's hypothesis, and Pluto was considered the ninth planet until 2006.[44]

1931 Heavy hydrogen

1931 Cosmic radio waves

1932 Positrons

1932 Homeostasis

1933 Heavy water

1933 Polyvinylidene chloride

1936 Elliptical galaxies

1936 Muons

1936 Vitamin E

1936 Sodium thiopental

1937 Niacin

1937 Electron capture

1938 Fluropolymers

1938 Animal echolocation

1938 Carme

1938 Lysithea

1940 Plutonium

1942 Cyanoacrylate

1943 Streptomycin

1944 Americium

1944 Curium

1945 Promethium

1946 Cloud seeding

1948 Warfarin

1948 Miranda

1948 Serotonin

1948 Tetracycline

1949 Nereid

1949 Berkelium

1950 Californium

1951 Barium stars

1951 Ananke

1952 Polio vaccine

1952 Einsteinium

1952 Rapid eye movement

1953 DNA structure

Watson-Crick DNA model of 1953, was reconstructed largely from its original pieces in 1973 and donated to the Science Museum in London.

In 1953, based on X-ray diffraction images and the information that the bases were paired, James D. Watson along with Francis Crick co-discovered what is now widely accepted as the first accurate double-helix model of DNA structure.[81]

1955 Mendelevium

1955 Antiproton

'1956 Porous silicon

1956 Kaon

1956 Antineutron

1956 Neutrino

1956 Nucleic acid hybridization

1958 Van Allen radiation belt

1959 Antiproton

1960 Seafloor spreading

1961 Eta meson

1964 Xi baryon

1964 Cosmic microwave background radiation

1964 Quark

1964 1930 Lucifer

1964 Hepatitis B virus

1965 Aspartame

1965 Pulsating white dwarves

1968 Up quark

1968 Down quark

1969 Mosher's acid

1969 Interstellar formaldehyde

1970 Reverse transcriptase

1972 Opiate receptors

1974 Australopithecus "Lucy"

Full replica of Lucy's (Australopithecus afarensis) skeleton in the Museo Nacional de Antropología at Mexico City.

Lucy is the common name of AL 288-1, several hundred pieces of bone representing about 40% of the skeleton of an individual Australopithecus afarensis. Lucy is reckoned to have lived 3.2 million years ago.[105] This hominid was significant as the skeleton shows evidence of small skull capacity akin to that of apes and of bipedal upright walk akin to that of humans, providing further evidence that bipedalism preceded increase in brain size in human evolution. While working in collaboration with a joint French-British-American team, Lucy was discovered in Hadar, Ethiopia on November 24, 1974, when American paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson, coaxed away from his paperwork by graduate student Tom Gray for a spur-of-the-moment survey, caught the glint of a white fossilized bone out of the corner of his eye, and recognized it as hominid. Later described as the first known member of Australopithecus afarensis. Dr. Johanson's girlfriend suggested she be named "Lucy" after the Beatles' song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" which was played repeatedly during the night of the discovery.[106]

1974 J/ψ mesons

1974 Charm quark

1974 Binary pulsars

1974 Leda

1974 Seaborgium

1975 1983 Bok

1975 Themisto

1975 Amarillo Starlight

1976 D mesons

1976 Hepatitis B virus vaccine

1977 Tau lepton

1977 Rings of Uranus

A long-exposure, high phase angle (172.5°) Voyager 2 image of Uranus' inner rings. In forward-scattered light, dust bands not visible in other images can be seen, as well as the recognized rings.

The planet Uranus has a system of rings intermediate in complexity between the more extensive set around Saturn and the simpler systems around Jupiter and Neptune. The rings of Uranus were discovered on March 10, 1977, by James L. Elliot, Edward W. Dunham, and Douglas J. Mink. More than 200 years ago, William Herschel also reported observing rings, but modern astronomers are skeptical that he could actually have noticed them, as they are very dark and faint.[115]

1977 Upsilon mesons

1977 Bottom quark

1978 Restriction endonucleases

1978 Charon

1979 Metis

1979 Thebe

1979 Rings of Jupiter

1980 Oncogene

1980 Pandora

1980 Prometheus

1980 Atlas

1981 Larissa

1983 Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine

1984 Whydah wreckage

Location of Whydah Gally which sank in 1717, near Cape Cod. The red X marks the spot.

First launched in 1715 from London, England, the Whydah was a three-masted ship of galley-style design measuring 105 feet (32 m) in length, rated at 300 tons burden, and could travel at speeds up to 14.95 mph (24.06 km/h). Christened Whydah after the West African slave trading kingdom of Ouidah, the vessel was configured as a heavily-armed trading and transport ship for use in the Atlantic slave trade, carrying goods from England to exchange for slaves in West Africa. It would then travel to the Caribbean to trade the slaves for precious metals, sugar, indigo, and medicinal ingredients, which would then be transported back to England. Captained by the English pirate "Black Sam" Bellamy, the Whydah, on April 26, 1717, sailed into a violent storm dangerously close to Cape Cod and was eventually driven onto the shoals at Wellfleet, Massachusetts. At midnight she hit a sandbar in 16 feet (4.9 m) of water some 500 feet (150 m) from the coast of what is now Marconi Beach. Pummelled by 70-mile (110 km)-an-hour winds and 30 to 40-foot (12 m) waves, the main mast snapped, pulling the ship into some 30 feet (9.1 m) of water where she violently capsized, taking Bellamy, all but two of his 145 men, and over 4.5 tons of gold, silver and jewels with it. After years of exhaustive searching, it was in 1984 that world headlines were made when American archeological explorer Barry Clifford found the only solidly-identified pirate shipwreck ever discovered, the Whydah. Two-hundred thousand artifacts and sunken treasures were discovered in the shipwreck as well.[129]

1985 Puck

1985 RMS Titanic wreckage

The bow of the wrecked RMS Titanic, photographed in June 2004

The RMS Titanic was an Olympic class passenger liner owned by the White Star Line and was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, in what is now Northern Ireland. At the time of her construction, she was the largest passenger steamship in the world. Shortly before midnight on April 14, 1912, four days into the ship's maiden voyage, Titanic struck an iceberg and sank two hours and forty minutes later, early on April 15, 1912. The sinking resulted in the deaths of 1,517 of the 2,223 people on board, making it one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history. After nearly 74 years of being lost at sea on the bottom of the ocean floor, a joint Franco-American expedition led by American oceanographer Dr. Robert D. Ballard, discovered the wreckage of the RMS Titanic two miles (3 km) beneath the waves of the North Atlantic on September 1, 1985. Ballard was then forced to wait a year for weather conditions favorable to a manned mission to view the wreck at close range. In 1986, Ballard and his two-man crew, in the ALVIN submersible, made the first two and-a-half hour descent to the ocean floor to view the wreck first-hand. Over the next few days, they descended again and again and, using the Jason Jr. remote camera, recorded the first scenes of the ruined interior of the luxury liner.[131]

1986 Portia

1986 Juliet

1986 Cressida

1986 Rosalind

1986 Belinda

1986 Desdemona

1986 Cordelia

1986 Ophelia

1986 Bianca

1986 Tumor suppressor gene

1989 Rings of Neptune

1989 Proteus

1989 Despina

1989 Galatea

1989 Thalassa

1989 Naiad

1989 Bismarck wreckage

1990 Strawn-Wagner Diamond

The Strawn-Wagner Diamond is a rare 3.03 carat diamond that is certified by the American Gem Society (AGS) as the world's most perfect diamond in terms of its cut and the highest grade possible, the "Triple Zero". The Strawn-Wagner Diamond was discovered in 1990 at the Crater of Diamonds State Park by Shirley Strawn of Murfreesboro, Arkansas.[39]

1993 Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9

1995 Top quark

1995 Comet Hale-Bopp

1998 USS Yorktown (CV-5) wreckage

1998 Embryonic stem cell lines

Twenty-first century[edit]

2001 Interstellar vinyl alcohol

2003 Sedna

2003 Psamathe

2003 Mab

2003 Perdita

2003 Cupid

2004 Orcus

2005 Makemake

2005 Eris

Artist impression of Eris and Dysnomia. Eris is the main object, Dysnomia the small grey disk just above it. The flaring object top-left is the Sun.

Eris, formal designation 136199 Eris, is the largest known dwarf planet in the Solar System and the ninth-largest body known to orbit the Sun directly. It is approximately 2,500 kilometres in diameter and 27% more massive than the dwarf planet Pluto. Eris was discovered in 2005 at W. M. Keck Observatory by American astronomer Michael E. Brown.[149]

2005 Dysnomia

Dysnomia, officially (136199) Eris I Dysnomia, is the only known moon of the dwarf planet Eris. In conjunction of finding Eris, American astronomer Michael E. Brown discovered Eris' satellite, Dysnomia, at W. M. Keck Observatory in 2005.[150]

2005 Hydra

Hydra is the outer-most natural satellite of Pluto. It was discovered along with Nix in June 2005 by the Hubble Space Telescope's Pluto Companion Search Team, which is composed of Hal A. Weaver, Alan Stern, Max J. Mutchler, Andrew J. Steffl, Marc W. Buie, William J. Merline, John R. Spencer, Eliot F. Young, and Leslie A. Young.[151]

2005 Nix

Nix is a natural satellite of Pluto. It was discovered along with Hydra in June 2005 by the Hubble Space Telescope's Pluto Companion Search Team, composed of Hal A. Weaver, Alan Stern, Max J. Mutchler, Andrew J. Steffl, Marc W. Buie, William J. Merline, John R. Spencer, Eliot F. Young, and Leslie A. Young.[151]

2005 KV63 at the Valley of the Kings

2007 Human genome and variation mapping

2007 Di-positronium

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

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