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Шістьдесят років британським науковим інноваціям (Sixty years of British science innovation)
До святкування шестидесятирічного ювілею королеви Єлизавети II, у Великобританії склали короткий список деяких найулюбленіших наукових відкриттів і винаходів, зроблених у Великобританії за останні 60 років.
Jubilee Special: Sixty years of British science innovation
To celebrate the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, we have compiled a short list of some of our favourite scientific discoveries and inventions made in the United Kingdom over the past 60 years.
1953: Watson and Crick announce discovery of the double helix structure of DNA
Undoubtedly one of the biggest discoveries of the decade, if not the century, was that of the structure of DNA. Made by two scientists working at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, James Watson and Francis Crick, the discovery itself was not that surprising - there had been a number of previous studies and innovations leading up to the work of Crick and Watson - but it has led to significant after-effects.
Crick and Watson published their paper, Molecular structure of nucleic acids: A structure for deoxyribose nucleic acid, in Nature in April 1953, and were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, jointly with Maurice Wilkins, in 1962.
Their discovery was as a result of the x-ray diffraction data collected by Rosalind Franklin at her laboratory in London, but it was they who suggested the now infamous double helix structure.
1965: The theory of plate tectonics and continental drift
It seems surprising to us now, but less than 50 years ago, there was still a debate about how the planet was formed. In 1965, a meeting at the Royal Society in London on the theory of plate tectonics and continental drift took place, and many see this as the beginning of the universal acceptance of the theory.
The theory had been suggested many years before, but it was not until the sixties that it became the accepted theory in the scientific community.
1967: The discovery of pulsars
In July 1967, Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, then a physics Ph.D student at New Hall College at the University of Cambridge, noticed a bit of “scruff” on the charts she was analysing. She was using a radio telescope to study quasars, but the regularity of this read-out caught her eye. The signal showed a pulse at a rate of about one pulse per second.
The signal was originally dubbed as “Little Green Man 1” (LGM-1), as both Bell and her thesis supervisor, Antony Hewish, entertained the possibility that the signal could be from an extraterrestrial lifeform.
“We did not really believe that we had picked up signals from another civilization, but obviously the idea had crossed our minds and we had no proof that it was an entirely natural radio emission. It is an interesting problem - if one thinks one may have detected life elsewhere in the universe how does one announce the results responsibly? Who does one tell first?” said Bell a few years after she first saw the signals.
It was later discovered that the signal was actually from a rapidly rotating neutron star, and the beam of electromagnetic radiation emitted from one of the poles was picked up intermittently as it pointed towards the Earth.
1978: First baby born following in vitro fertilization (IVF)
In July 1978, Louise Brown was born in Oldham, UK by caesarean section. Nothing unusual about that, except that Louise was the first baby to be conceived by IVF. Robert G. Edwards, who developed the treatment, went on to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2010.
Although Louise became known as the first ‘test tube baby’, she was actually conceived in a petri dish, as is the case for all IVF babies.
1985: British Antarctic Survey discovered the Antarctic ozone hole
The discovery that the ozone layer was significantly depleted in an area around the South Pole was published in a paper in Nature in May 1985 by scientists working at the British Antarctic Survey. The discovery came as quite a shock to the scientific community because the extent of the ozone depletion was much larger than was previously expected.
Although there were satellite measurements that had shown similar levels of depletion, these were initially rejected as it was thought that they were errors in the data. When the data was looked at again, with the “anomalous” data returned, it was shown that the ozone depletion could have been seen as far back as 1976.
1996: Dolly the sheep is born
The first mammal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell, using the process known as nuclear transfer, was born in July 1996 at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh. Dolly was a female sheep, and lived until she was six years old.
The cell used as the donor for the cloning of Dolly was taken from a mammary gland, and was the proof that the genetic material from one cell was sufficient to create a whole individual.
Ian Wilmut, one of the scientists working at the Roslin Institute, has explained that the reason behind Dolly’s name was because she was derived from a mammary gland cell and that they “couldn’t think of a more impressive pair of glands than Dolly Parton’s”.
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