Binary Theory

In 1935 theoretical mathematician Alan Turing proposed a machine that would use a series of on and off switches that could represent or compute anything.

Turing joined the war effort to build mechanical computers that decrypted Enigma messages. Eventually, he helped with electronic computers. His theories underpin all modern computers.

Subsequently, Turing envisaged reasonably sentient artificial intelligence, an idea that was ridiculous in his time. He ultimately developed the “Turing Test,” where a person could not tell whether they were communicating with a person or a computer. As of 2019, no computer program has yet to pass the Turing test.

Because of a conviction for homosexuality Turing was banned from computers on national security grounds. Subsequently, he committed suicide in 1954.

Radar

The origin of Radar is secret. Even after commercialization, the inventors remained in the shadows, secret warriors who enabled the Allies to shoot down the Nazi Lufthansa with eerie precision. Consequently, it was as if the Allies could project through the clouds exactly where the planes were. Of course, that would be impossible…

Specifically, Watt supervised, Wilkins sketched, and Bowen built the first radar system for locating aircraft.

Earlier, Watt, a meteorologist, originally designed a more primitive system for detecting lightning.

The project started, ironically, with a German. Heinrich Hertz described a system but seems never have built one. Radio can transmit and receive electromagnetic waves.

Allied forces relied extensively on Wilkins radar in WWII. Shrouded in secrecy radar, considered vital to the war effort, radar was secret. Wilkins is as a “forgotten man.” For decades nobody knew he invented one of the great technologies of the modern world.

“Many things were adopted in war which we were told were technically impossible, but patience, perseverance, and above all the spur of necessity under war conditions, made men’s brains act with greater vigour, and science responded to the demands.”

Winston Churchill, June 1935

Rockets

In 1914, Goddard patented the first rocket and, in 1926, Goddard fired the first liquid-fueled rocket. Goddard predicted rockets would one day enable space flight, a prediction widely ridiculed as science fiction.

Eventually, in 1929, Oberth fired his modern liquid-fueled rocket. Oberth eventually taught Wernher von Braun, who perfect modern rocketry. In time, both Oberth and von Braun built rockets for the Nazis and may have been Nazi Party members.

Rockets were first used as weapons. No sooner did they perfect the technology than nazi’s launched their V-2 rockets indiscriminately into the United Kingdom towards the end of WWII. Slave labor in Nazi concentration camps built the V-2 rockets. Consequently, after the Nazi surrender, the German rocket engineers – including von Braun – surrendered to the United States. The Soviet Union also captures significant Nazi rocketry technology.

Eventually, on Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first manmade orbital satellite. After several attempts with monkeys (and, some say, people), the Soviets followed up launching Yuri Gagarin into space on April 12, 1961.

In a rocketry program overseen by former Nazi von Braun, the US followed up by blasting American Alan Shepard into Space. von Braun went on to oversee the US space program, supervising the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions.

Electronic Cipher (Enigma)

Enigma is a cipher, a machine that implements an algorithm to encrypt and decrypt messages.

On Feb. 23, 1918, Scherbius applied for his first patent for what would become the most well-known cipher machine in history, the Enigma. Initially marketed for commercial purposes the German army modified a version for military encryption in 1926.

Nazis used Enigma extensively during WWII. They believed the encryption was unbreakable.

Decrypting Enigma messages required a new type of soldier, one more reliant on pencils and slide rules than rifles. These mathematicians and puzzle solvers were stations in the nondescript Bletchley Park.

Their work, led in large part by Alan Turing, both broke the Enigma encryption and eventually led to the innovation of the modern computer.

Scherbius died in an accident in 1929, long before WWII and the widespread use of his machine.

“The intelligence which has emanated from you before and during this campaign has been of priceless value to me. It has simplified my task as a commander enormously. It has saved thousands of British and American lives and, in no small way, contributed to the speed with which the enemy was routed and eventually forced to surrender.”

Letter from Gen. (later President) Eisenhower to the workers of Bletchley for breaking Enigma, Jul. 12, 1945

Aspirin

1899

Arthur Eichengrün
Felix Hoffman

Aspirin is often referred to as a miracle drug. The inexpensive medicine relieves pain without addiction, reduces fever, and even helps prevent heart attack. There is some evidence Aspirin even prevents cancer.

Aspirin is the distilled and purified version of medicine known since ancient times. Hippocrates, he of the Hippocratic Oath, noted that willow leave and bark relieve pain and fever. Salicylic acid, the active ingredient in Aspirin, is especially plentiful in willow tree bark.

Low cost, non-addictive aspirin started as an alternative to opioids for pain relief. In the 18th and early 19th century, opioids were available without prescription and addiction was rampant.

Early versions of pure salicylic acid were unsuccessful. The acid was too harsh on the stomach without further refinement and the proposed dosages were far too high.

Hoffman is widely credited with creating modern Aspirin due to a footnote in a German encyclopedia published in 1934.

Looking back over lab notes, historians believe Eichengrün, Hoffman’s lab assistant, is the true inventor. However, Eichengrün was Jewish and Bayer a German company. Nazi’s likely revised the history in their attempt to wipe out not only Jewish people but also Jewish achievement. Hoffman was also the inventor of heroin.

Interestingly, Bayer was originally a dye manufacturer. Aspirin was one of the first pharmaceuticals. One reason that Aspirin was so successful, besides that it worked, was Bayer’s history as a consumer marketing company. The company had a well-known brand name, reach into the consumer market channels, and B2C expertise. At one point, Bayer market aspirin, heroin, and cocaine as effective over-the-counter medicines.

Related image
Early Bayer advertisement

By 1950, Aspirin became the most widely sold painkiller in the world. However, it wasn’t until the 1970s that scientists began to figure out why the drug actually worked. Despite the age and popularity of the medicine, it remains one of the most widely studied drugs with evermore uses.

Magnetic Tape Recording

Poulsen, a Danish engineer, created and patented a machine that recorded onto magnetic tape. His called the invention a Telegraphone. There was no amplification and the recording quality was poor.

In 1928, Pfleumer, a German, vastly improved the magnetic tape. He named his device a Magnetophone. During WWII the Germans used it for communications and to spoof radio communications. Nazis time-shifted recorded conversations leaving allies unsure whether they were hearing intercepted real communications or purposefully misleading recordings.

American John Herbert Off captured the Magnetophone and, after the war, brought it to the US for commercialization. He teamed up with Russian immigrant Alexander M. Poniatoff who eventually created Ampex (Alexander M. Poniatoff Excellence) from the shell of a former company, Dalmo-Victor.

Existing recording technologies were not adequate for live broadcasts. But Ampex equipment offered vastly higher quality for live broadcasts. Therefore, radio broadcasts were virtually always live. Then superstar Bing Crosby heard the new technology and eventually decided to use Ampex equipment for his radio show. This enabled re-takes and post-production engineering we now take for granted.

Ampex and magnetic tape recording subsequently became a ubiquitous technology.