General information and resources for students and adult learners.


    Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning. -Albert Einstein


    The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you go. - Dr. Seuss

  • Research Is . . .

    Research means that you don't know, but are willing to find out.-Charles F. Kettering

Bunsen Burner

Robert Wilhelm Bunsen (1811-99) invented and gave his name to a burner for use in laboratories, the bunsen burner.
Bunsen, a German was a professor at Heidelberg, where he established his reputation as one of the leading chemists of his day.  Much of his greatest work was accomplished in collaboration with the physicist Kirchoff and it was with Kirchoff, in 1860, that he discovered the elements caesium and ribidium. 
It was some five years earlier, however, that Bunsen has discovered that a certain mixture of coal-gas and air could produce a smokeless flame of great heat.  He then proceeded discoveries and inventions, the bunsen burner remains the one which he is best remembered for - even (to many people) the only thing he is remembered for at all. 



Louis Braille (1809-52) invented and gave his name to an alphabet and a system of reading and writing for the blind. Braille, a Frenchman, became a teacher of the blind at the age of nineteen and soon afterwards (in 1829) published his first book in Braille, in Paris.  He also used his skill as a musician (he played the organ in a Paris church) to adapt his system to the special needs of music.

Braille's system consisted basically of six raised points on a flat surface in various combination and was far superior to previous methods, which has concentrated in the main on the use of raised type.  Nowadays, Braille is used and taught in schools for the blind throughout the world and books and literature of all kinds are reproduced in Braille in considerable quantities.

But this great benefactor of mankind, who invented the system named after him, died at the early age of forty-three, long before Braille had become accepted or even recognised as the remarkable invention it undoubtedly is.  Moreover, Louis Braille never in fact saw any of his own books in Braille-he had been blind from the age of three. 


Rudolf Diesel (1858-1913) gave his name to a type of internal combustion engine which has become known as the Diesel engine. Diesel, a German who was born in Paris, patented his engine in 1892 and after five years, the firm of Krupp produced the first successful diesel.  
But some years earlier (in 1890), a British engineer, Herbert Akroyd-Stuart, had patented a similar kind of compression-ignition engine, which was effectively the prototype of the model diesel engine. The word 'diesel', however is so well-established in the English language that it is very unlikely to be placed by one so 'alien' as 'Akroyd-Stuart'. 


Rubik Cube

Erno Rubik (1944- ), a Hungarian sculptor, designer and architectural engineer, was until recently little known outside his own community.  His invention of a toy-puzzle in the form of a pocket-sized cube, the Rubik cube has however made his name world famous and the Museum of Modern Art, in New York has honored his invention with a place in its permanent design collection.

Originally name the Buvos Kocka Magic Cube, each side of the cube is made up of nine mini cubes that can be rotated in a number of directions to give numerous combinations of six colors.

Professor Rubik originally designed his cube to give his students at Budapest's School for Commercial Artists a better understanding of three-dimensional problems but solving the puzzles it presents now occupies the minds of millions of Rubik cube addicts, from young children to academics.  

Today there have been books published on the solution to Rubik's cube and countless of reproduction of the cube itself. 



Andre Marie Ampere (1775-1836), the French scientist, is one of three men (Volta and Watt) whose names are almost certain to be found in just about every house, office, shop, building  or factory; in fact, any place where electricity is used for lighting, heating, or running machines and appliances.

Ampere made a number of important discoveries in the field of magnetism and electricity ad his name has been given to the unit of electric current and abbreviated to amp.  He also formulated the, Ampere's Law which forms the basis of the study of electrodynamics. 


Boolean Algebra

George Boole (1815-64) was an English mathematician who devised and gave his name to a method of applying mathematics to logic, known as Boolean algebra.  

Boole elaborated his method in his book An investigation of the laws of thought on which are founded the mathematical theories of logic and probabilities and his work has influenced a number of eminent mathematician, including Bertrand Russell, as well as being important in computer studies.


Euclidean Geometry

Euclid was a Greek mathematician of the third century BC but little more is known in his life.  His name has become immortalised, however, through his Elements, his great work on elementary geometry in thirteen books.

It can be said that Euclid's name is synonymous with geometry and Euclidean geometry has certainly provided the basis for the teaching of that branch of mathematics for generations.  His definition of a line as "length without breath' would be hard to improve upon for its sheer precision.  

Morse Code

Samuel Finley Breese Morse (1791-1872) would probably be remembered as a painter, had he not invented the famous dot-and-dash code named after him. Born in Charlestown Massachusetts, he came to London as a young man and exhibited at the Royal Academy and returning to America  he established himself as a quite successful portrait painter. 

In 1826 he founded and became the first president of the National Academy of Design but after a few years, his interest in the electric telegraph led him away from painting and in 1838, the first message by "Morse" telegraph was successfully transmitted.  Morse was involved in a great deal of litigation but was eventually successful in obtaining the rights to his invention.

OHM's Law

George Simon Ohm (1787-1854) gave his name to the unit of electrical resistance, the ohm and the law of electric current, Ohm's Law. Ohm, a German, linked his name with those of Ampere, and Volta, in formulating his famous law, which states that electric current is directly proportional to electromotive force and inversely to resistance; or expressed in the familiar equation: electromotive force (in volts) = current (in amperes) x resistance (in ohms).

Despite Ohm's great contribution to electrodynamics, you will rarely see his name on a piece of electrical equipment, along with Ampere, Volta and Watt.  The resistor (or resistance), a device used in electrical circuits, is marked in ohms, but by means of a color code (black, brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, grey and white representing the numbers 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 respectively.)  


Beaufort Scale

Sir Francis Beaufort (1774-1857) was an English admiral and hydrographer who devised and gave his name to a scale of wind velocity, the Beaufort scale or Beaufort's scale. The scale ranges from nought or zero (eg. calm, or conditions in which smoke rises vertically) to twelve (hurricane force winds above seventy-five mph).

Beaufort devised his scale in 1805 ( the year of the Battle of Trafalgar) and became the official hydrographer to the Royal Navy in 1829. 



László Biro was a Hungarian journalist who in 1938 invented the first practical ball-point pen, the biro.  Biro was obliged to leave Hungary with the rise of Narzism, preceding the Second World War and eventually settled in Argentina, where in 1943 he took out a patent for his invention. 

Biro's pen was first put to a really practical use by British Royal Air Force navigators who found they were able to use the biro at high altitudes, where conventional pens were unreliable or simply failed to function. A few years after the war, the ball-point became the most popular kind of pen on the market; but its original inventor had not the foresight to take out patents in other countries and the other men in those countries grew rich from the enormous sales.  


Bell's Palsy

Sir Charles Bell (1774-1842) was an eminent Scottish surgeon who described and gave his name to Bell's Palsy, paralysis of the facial nerve.  The paralysis affects the muscles on one side of the face which is given a marked appearance of lopsidedness.  

Bell was the author of numerous publication on neurology and also gives his name jointly (with the French physiologist Francois Magendie) to the Bell-Magendie law concerning neurology.  


Fallopian Tubes

Gabriello Fallopio or Gabriel Fallopius (1523-1562), was the Italian anatomist who is credited with discovering the function of the tubes or oviducts leading from the ovary to the womb and named after him as the Fallopian tubes.  

From recent experiments, a technique has been developed known as embryo transfer, which enables a woman with a malfunction of her Fallopian tubes to give birth to a baby previously denied to her. The egg is taken from the mother for fertilisation with the father's sperm and is eventually re-implanted in the mother's womb, effectively 'by passing' the natural function of the Fallopian tubes.  


Celsius Thermometer

Anders Celsius (1701-44) invented and gave his name to the Celsius thermometer, also known as the centigrade thermometer.  The scale on the Celsius thermometer is a simplification of the earlier Fahrenheit scale, showing the freezing point of water at zero and the boiling-point at 100 degrees.
Celsius was born at Uppsala, in Sweden and became a professor at Uppsala University, where his uncle Olaf Celsius, had been a teacher of Linnaeus, the famous botanist.  He was a leading astronomer of his time (he built the observatory at Uppsala) and one of the first to advocate the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in Sweden.   



Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit (1686-1736) was a German, born in Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland), who spent most of his life in Holland and England.  He invented a thermometer (using mercury instead of alcohol) with a new scale, named after him.  The Fahrenheit scale has the freezing-point of water marked at 32 degrees and the boiling point at 212. 

Fahrenheit's scale was the one most used in Britain and other English-speaking countries and the USA for many years, but by and large, this has now been superseded by the centigrade scale.  The word Fahrenheit however is firmly established as part of the English language.  



Samuel Augustus Maverick (1803-1870) was one of the leaders in the fight for Texan independence and like his famous contemporary, James Bowie, he is mostly remembered today through giving his name to a word in the English language. 

Maverick was the owner of a large cattle ranch, but he neglected to brand his cattle, which led to many of them being stolen.  From this the word maverick came into being to describe stray animal or anyone with one particular attachment to a place or a group of people.  And to maverick is to acquire something illegally.  



Leonhard Fuchs (1501-66) was the German naturalist and botanist who gave his name to the genus of South American flowering shrubs, Fuchsia. 

Fuchs was a professor of medicine at the University of Tubingen  in Germany and compiled a book of medicinal plants, which became a standard work.  

The fuchsia was named in his honor in 1703.


Dewey Classification

Melvil Dewey (1851-1931) devised the library classification system known as Dewey Decimal Classification. many libraries all over the world, particularly public libraries, are classified by Dewey.

Dewey was a student at Amherst College, Massachusetts, when he devised his classification system and it was first adopted by the college library there. He became a founder of the American Library Association and the founder and first director of the New York State Library School.

Two other Americans devised library classification systems: Henry Evelyn Bliss and Charles Ammi Cutter, Bliss's Bibliographic Classification is used in some special libraries and Cutter's Expansive Classification is still used a little in the United States but hardly at all elsewhere.


Richter Scale

Charles Francis Richter (1900-85) invented and gave his name to a scale or measuring the intensity of earthquakes, the Richter Scale.

Dr Richter, an American, was professor of seismology at the California Institute of technology, Pasadena and it was there that he worked with another seismologist, the German born Dr Beno Gutenberg (189-1960), in developing a method of calculating the magnitude of earthquakes. The Richter Scale is in fact also known as the Gutenberg-Richter Scale.

Earthquakes has been mentioned in some of the earliest records of civilisation, but there was little or no attempt made to study the subject scientifically until the last century and instruments were not used in a coordinated way on a world-wide basis until the 1920s.  With Richter's method it is now possible to assess the intensity of an earthquake at any distance.  Modern methods of detection and analysis cannot of course, prevent earthquakes, though in some cases warnings can be given and measures accordingly taken to lessen their effect on people and property. 


Down's Syndrome

John Langdon-Down (1828-96) was an English doctor who described and gave his name to Down's Syndrome, or mongolism.  This is a genetic defect of mental development, commonly identified with certain physical characteristics of the people of Magnolia, the Mongols (or Tungus), such as round, flattish face and half-hooded or seemingly slanted eyes.  

While mongolism is congenital, recent research has done much to establish its causes.  


Why pencils are yellow!

Pencils have been painted yellow ever since the 1890s. and that bright color isn't just so you can find them on your desk more easily!

The History of Pencils

Early American pencils were made from Eastern Red cedar, a strong splinter-resistant wood that grew in Tennessee and other parts of the south-eastern United States. By the 1900s, pencil manufacturers needed additional sources of wood and turned to California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.  There they found Incense-cedar, a species that grew in abundance and made superior pencils.  Californian Incense-cedar soon became the wood of choice for domestic and international pencil makers.

In ancient Rome, scribes wrote on papyrus (an early form of paper) with a thin metal rod called stylus which left a light but readable mark.  Other early styluses were made of lead.  Today we still call the core of a pencil the “lead” even though it is made of non-toxic graphite.

During the 1800s, the best graphite in the world came from China.  American pencil makers wanted a special way to tell people that their pencils contained Chinese graphite, so they began painting their pencils bright yellow.  This is because the color yellow is associated with royalty and respect in China.  The American manufacturers believed that painting their pencils yellow communicated this regal feeling and association with China.

Source: Reid, Andy, Create- Product Design, 2003 , Heinemann Education. 


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