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This Week In Science History, May 6-12

Posted: 05/13/2012 4:45 am Updated: 05/13/2012 4:45 am

Paging Dr. Freud--this week in science history marks the birthday of the father of psychoanalysis. Also this week historians of science are remembering an epic feat of American engineering--not to mention the introduction of a drug that revolutionized sexuality in America, and the first successful attempt of one of the riskiest surgeries.

Check out the slideshow below to see the biggest science events in science history this week.

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  • Transcontinental Railroad Completed

    On May 10, 1869, the East and West coasts of the U.S. were joined when railroad workers met in Promontory, Utah to drive the last spike that connected the rails of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads. An epic feat of engineering, the Transcontinental Railroad revolutionized shipping in the U.S.

  • First Open-Heart Surgery

    Doctors in Philadelphia performed the first successful open-heart surgery on May 6, 1953. The procedure showed that patients could be kept alive during such surgery with the help of a heart-lung machine.

  • Birth-Control Pill Gets Green Light

    The Pill, now the most common form of birth control used by women, was approved by the FDA on May 9, 1960. The hormone-based pharmaceutical quickly became popular, spurring a conservative backlash and support from the feminist movement. But feminists championed the Pill--and men were fans too.

  • Hindenburg Explodes

    Hydrogen, the lightest element, is highly flammable. That fact was driven home in dramatic fashion on May 6, 1937, when the German dirigible Hindenberg exploded in Lakehurst, N.J., killing 36 people. The 800-foot blimp contained 7 million cubic feet of hydrogen, and the disaster effectively ended public confidence in hydrogen airships.Today blimps are filled with non-flammable helium.

  • Sigmund Freud Born

    Paging Dr. Freud! The Viennese doctor whose pioneering use of psychoanalysis made him famous around the world was born in the town of Příbor in the Austrian Empire (now the Czech Republic) on May 6, 1856.

  • Space Shuttle Endeavor Blasts Off

    The Endeavor began its maiden voyage on May 7, 1992. During the mission, astronauts space-walked for more than eight hours--setting a U.S. record.

  • Metric System Is Born

    Still having trouble converting liters to gallons? You can blame Charles Maurice de Tallyrand, who was born in Paris on May 8, 1790. The French bishop proposed a new system of measurement that evolved into the present-day metric system.

  • Robert Edwin Peary Born

    Robert E. Peary, the first person to reach the geographic North Pole, was born in Cresson, Pennsylvania on May 6, 1856. The American explorer led an expedition to the top of the world in April, 1909.

  • 'Monkey Trial' Hearing

    The infamous Scopes trial got started with a preliminary hearing in Dayton, Tenn. on May 10, 1925. Public school teacher John T. Scopes was charged with breaking the law by teaching Darwin's theory of evolution and was eventually convicted. The trial spotlighted the conflict between religious belief and scientific reality, setting the stage for a debate that continues to this day. Scopes was represented in the trial by famed defense attorney Clarence Darrow, pictured here.

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Filed by Melissa Cronin  |