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3 January

Joseph Black

1754:  Joseph Black described the production and properties of ‘fixed air’ (carbon dioxide) in a fascinating letter to the professor of anatomy and lecturer on chemistry in Glasgow, Scotland, William Cullen. It read in art as follows:“I had mixed together some chalk and vitriolic acid at the bottom of a large cylindrical glass; the strong effervescence produced an air or vapour, which, flowing out at the top of the glass, extinguished a candle that stood close to it, and a piece of burning paper immersed in it was put out as effectively as if it had been dipped in water; yet the smell was not disagreeable.”

1871: Henry W. Bradley of Binghamton, New York received U.S. Patent 110,626 for a process of creating margarine that combined vegetable oils (primarily cottonseed oil) with animal fats. By the late 19th century, some 37 companies were manufacturing margarine in opposition to the butter industry, which protested and lobbied for US government intervention, eventually leading to the 1886 Margarine Act imposing punitive fees against margarine manufacturers.

1971: The Open University (UK) was inaugurated. Regular courses commenced the following Sunday, 10 January.

2004: Spirit Rover, a NASA geochemistry robot, landed on Mars, looking for evidence of water.

Born on This Day

1916:  Keith James Laidler: English chemist. He was a notable as a pioneer in chemical kinetics and authority on the physical chemistry of enzymes.