Annotated Timeline

Dates extend to 1988; those marked "c." are approximate.
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  • c. 500 BC---Pythagoras.
  • 432 BC---Meton introduces his calendar in Athens.
  • c. 270 BC---Aristarchus of Samos estimates the distance and size
          of the Sun, proposes Earth goes around it.
  • c. 250 BC---Erathosthenes (276-192 BC) estimates size of the Earth.
  • c. 135 BC---Hipparchus discovers precession of the equinoxes, estimates distance of the Moon.
  • 46 BC---Julius Caesar reforms the Roman Calendar
  • c. 140---Claudius Ptolmaeus (Ptolemy) writes "He Mathematike Syntaxis" (known 1000 years later as "Almagest"), proposing his world system.
  • c. 820 ---Caliph Al Ma'mun establishes "House of Wisdom" in Baghdad
  • c. 780-850---Al Khorezmi. (c. 780-850)
  • 1543---Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) publishes his theory of the solar system.
  • 1572---Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) observes a "new star."
  • 1582---Pope Gregory the 13th reforms the calendar.
  • 1609---Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) builds the first astronomical telescope and observes for the first time craters on the Moon, satellites around Jupiter, and the way Venus goes through phases like the Moon (crescent, etc.) .
  • ---Johann Kepler (1571-1630), using Tycho's observations, formulates his first two laws of planetary motion (3rd law in 1619).
  • 1686---Isaac Newton (1647-1727) publishes "Philosophie Naturalis Principia Mathematica," outlining laws of mechanics and law of gravity.
  • 1769---James Watt (1736-1819) devises the modern steam engine.
  • 1798---Henry Cavendish (1731-1810) first measures the force of gravity between two objects in his laboratory.
  • 1806---William Congreve devises military rockets; used 13 September 1814 in British attack on Baltimore.
  • 1835---Gaspard Coriolis (1792-1843) publishes the laws of mechanics in rotating frame, including an extra force on moving objects.
  • 1838---Friedrich Bessel first measures distance to the star 61 Cygni, using the diameter of the Earth's orbit as baseline.
  • 1840--- Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) publishes "Etudes sur les glaciers", proposes that giant glaciers once covered central Europe.
  • 1843---James Prescott Joule (1818-89) measures the "exchange rate" between mechanical energy and heat.
  • 1852---Radanath Sikhdar (1813-70) identifies the highest peak on Earth, later named for Sir George Everest (1790-1866).
  • 1857---Christoph Hendrik Buys Ballot (1817-90) proposes the rule for the swirl direction of large storms and hurricanes.
  • 1883---Ernest Mach (1838-1916) publishes a critical study of Newtonian mechanics.
  • 1899, 19 October---Robert Goddard (1882-1945) climbs cherry tree, resolves to pursue his dream of spaceflight.
  • 1903, 17 December---First successful flight by the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
  • 1911---Andre Bing in Belgium patents multistage rocket.
  • 1916---Goddard tests rockets with De-Laval nozzles.
  • 1926, 16 March---Goddard launches his first liquid-fuel rocket.
  • 1927, 5 July---German "Society for Space Travel" founded.
  • 1932---1 November--Wernher Von Braun (1912-1977) starts conducting rocket research for the German army.
  • 1936---Theodore von Karman starts the Guggenheim Aeronautical Lab at the California Institute of Technology, later leading to JPL.
  • 1944, 8 September---V2 rockets begin falling on Britain
  • 1947, 14 October---X-1 rocket plane piloted by Chuck Yaeger breaks sound barrier.
  • 1949, 24 February---"Bumper" 2-stage rocket reaches altitude of 393 km.
  • 1957-8---The International Geophysical Year (extended to 18 months).
  • 1957---4 October, Soviet Union launches Sputnik 1
  • 1958---31 January--Launch of Explorer 1.
  • 1958-9---"Project Orion" to design nuclear-powered spaceships.
  • 1959, 2 January---Luna 1 launched by Soviet Union, comes within 6000 km of Moon; Luna 2 (September) observes first signs of "solar wind"; Luna 3 (October) takes picture of Moon's far side.
  • 1961, 12 April--- Yuri Gagarin becomes first human to orbit Earth.
  • 1962, 20 February---John Glenn becames first American in orbit.
  • 1965---HARP cannon operated on Barbados.
  • 1968, 21-7 December---Apollo 8 with three astronauts loops around the Moon, returns to Earth.
  • 1969, 20 July---Apollo 11 astronauts land on the Moon.
  • 1970, 11 February---First launch of a Japanese spacecraft, by Lambda 4S rocket.
  • 1971, 2 December--- Soviet Mars 3 entered orbit around Mars, landed capsule which transmitted for 20 seconds.
  • 1973, 2 March (5 April)---Pioneer 10 (11) launched towards Jupiter, arrives 4 December 1973 (5 December 1974; Saturn, 1 September 1979)
  • 1974, 29 March---Mariner 10 (launched 3 November 1973) flies past the planet Mercury.
  • 1975, 8 June---Soviet Venera 9 lands on Venus, returns pictures
  • 1976, 20 July---Viking 1 soft-lands on Mars, takes pictures, searches for life.
  • 1977, 5 September (August 20) ---Voyager 1 (2) launched towards Jupiter. arriving 5 March (9 July) 1979, continuing to encounter Saturn 12 November 1980 (26 August 1981) . Voyager 2 continued to Uranus (25 January 1985) and Neptune (25 August 1989).
  • 1979, 24 December---First flight of Europe's Ariane rocket.
  • 1981, 12 April---First flight of the Space Shuttle.
  • 1986, 6 March---Russia's Vega 1 flies past Comet Halley, after dropping French balloon experiment on Venus.
  • 1988, 15 November---Soviet space shuttle "Buran" conducts its first (unmanned) flight.


    Glossary



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    Author and curator: David P. Stern
    Last updated 6 March 1999


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