It's been quite a ride! Perhaps no other era in human history has been marked by so many engineering feats as the century we are leaving. In every field of engineering there have been engineering breakthroughs--miracles of the creative technical mind.
Throughout this last year of the 20th century, we'll review some of the truly momentous developments in engineering. Let's start with the aerospace field. Here is a list of some of the breakthroughs that have changed our way of life:
1903, Wright Brothers first sustained flight. That set the stage for much that was to come.
1926, Robert Goddard launches the first liquid-fueled rocket.
1927, Charles Lindbergh completes the first nonstop solo transatlantic flight.
1939, Igor Sikorsky builds and flies the first American-made helicopter.
1947, Chuck Yeager breaks the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 rocket plane.
1957, Russia launches Sputnik.
1958, Boeing puts into commercial service the first U.S.-built commercial jet, the 707.
1961, Yuri Gagarin is the first man in space, in April of that year.
1961, In May, Alan Shepard, Jr. is the first American in space.
1962, John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the earth. Later that year, Telstar is launched and transmits the first live transatlantic telecasts between Britain and the U.S.
1969, Neil Armstrong is the first man on the moon.
1970, the Concorde supersonic airliner exceeds twice the speed of sound.
1977, Paul MacCready's Gossamer Condor, with bicyclist Bryan Allen at the pedals, is the first craft to fly powered by human muscles.
1983, Pioneer 10 crosses the orbit of Pluto, becoming the first man-made object to leave the solar system.
1986, "Voyager," designed by Burt Rutan and flown by his brother Dick with Jeana Yeager, is the only aircraft to circumnavigate the globe without refueling.
1993, the first vertical launch/vertical landing of a rocket vehicle, the MD DC-X.
1994, the Boeing 777 rolls out, the biggest two-engine jet aircraft.
1998, the international space station begins construction.
No doubt, we've left out a few achievements, but these seem to us to be the major aerospace developments of the last 100 years. What will be the major aerospace breakthroughs in the 21st century?
The engineers and inventors of the post WWII period turned their attention to advancements in electronics, communication, and entertainment. Breakthrough inventions range from LEGOs and computer gaming to the integrated circuit and Ethernet -- a range of advancements that have little in common except they changed our lives.
Neil Fromer is the executive director of the Resnick Institute, a program for energy and sustainability at the California Institute of Technology, working to develop new ideas and research technologies related to providing a sustainable future. He spoke to us about the severity of the current drought in California and how solar energy can help prevent such situations in the future.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.