Fun Facts and Interesting Information from Around the World


Streptomycin was discovered by Dr. Selman A. Waksman (1888–1973), a Ukrainian-born biochemist who immigrated to the United States. Waksman worked as a professor of soil microbiology at Rutgers University in New Jersey from 1918 to 1958. He had studied microorganisms in soil, and after one of his students, R. Dubos, isolated the powerful antibacterial tyrothricin… read more »


With the development of motion pictures [V] and their popularity during the 1910s and 1920s, many experimenters sought to improve the medium with the development of color photography. From 1926 to 1933, three researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)—D. F. Comstock, H. T. Kalmus, and W. B. Westcott—worked on perfecting a system that… read more »


Teflon, a plastic material technically known by its abbreviation PTFE, for polytetrafluoroethylene, was discovered by a Du Pont chemist, Roy Plunkett, in 1938. The material is an excellent insulator and is extremely slippery, resisting adherence. Applications proliferated after World War II, with the concept of developing nonstick cookware occurring in several locations in about 1952…. read more »

thermonuclear weapons

Thermonuclear weapons or hydrogen bombs were first built in both the United States and the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1955, and a dispute as to which country developed such a weapon first soon ensued, a symptom of the Cold War competition between the two powers. Both the United States and the Soviet Union considered… read more »

three-dimensional motion pictures

In the 1950s, the increasing popularity of television caused movie producers to search for new technologies that might lure TV viewers back into theaters. Two of the efforts were three-dimensional motion pictures (3-D) and wide-screen motion pictures. Three-dimensional effects could be achieved in a number of ways. One had been developed as early as 1915,… read more »


The transistor was invented in 1947 by a team that included William Shockley (1910–1989), Walter H. Brattain (1902–1987), and John Bardeen (1908–1991). In 1956 the three men received the Nobel Prize in physics for the development. Later close study of the invention has tended to minimize the role of Shockley, suggesting that he insisted on… read more »

uranium isotope separation

When the researchers in the Manhattan Project sought to build an atomic or nuclear bomb from 1942 to 1945, they soon recognized that there were two elements that could represent the fissionable core of the weapon. One fissionable material was plutonium,which could be made in nuclear reactors.The second was an isotope [V] of uranium with… read more »

Van Allen belts

In 1958, the American scientist John Van Allen (1914– ) discovered two belts of radiation encircling Earth, now known as Van Allen belts. The belts are shaped like concentric doughnuts, with the doughnut hole over the North and South Poles of the planet. Van Allen, who had earned a doctorate in physics in 1939 from… read more »

laser disc

David Paul Gregg envisioned and patented an optical disc for recording a video record, conceiving the idea in 1958 and receiving patents on the process in 1961 and 1969. He was employed at the time at Westrex Corporation in Hollywood, California. The system he developed was acquired by MCA, which produced the first consumer optical… read more »