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This Week in Geek History: Birth of NACA, Chemical Composition of DNA Discovered, Telephone Introduced

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Every week we bring you new facts and figures from the annals of Geekdom. This week we’re taking a look at the birth of NASA’s forefather, the composition of DNA, and the first telephone.

Founding of NACA, Predecessor to NASA

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The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was the predecessor to the  National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Founded in 1915 it was initially focused on aeronautical engineering and testing.  The agency would research, test, and promote new designs and aircraft fabrication techniques for 43 years before the pressures of the space race would lead to the creation of NASA and the folding of all NACA research facilities and assets into the NASA program. Some interesting trivia about NACA: Orville Wright was on the first NACA board, NACA created the first wind tunnel in the US in 1920, and the air intake and airfoil designs created at NACA are still in use today. Check out NASA’s pictorial history of NACA here.

Chemical Composition of DNA Discovered

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Although DNA was discovered in 1869 the composition of this critical piece of the mystery-of-genetics puzzle discovered until nearly a century later. In 1953, Researchers at Cambridge University, James Watson and Frances Crick, discovered the chemical composition of DNA strands, paving the way for future research and monumental changes in genetic research. Because of their discovery, that the DNA strand was essentially a helix polymer that recombined when mated with other DNA strands, a host of new technologies like genetic screening become possible.

The Telephone Makes Its Debut

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The telephone is such an ubiquitous piece of technology that we hardly even notice it (and are shocked when people don’t have one). Prior to 1876, however, nobody had even heard of the telephone. That all changed when Alexander Graham Bell filed a patent for the telephone and then gave a demonstration of the primitive prototype of the modern telephone. What’s interesting is that, after the rockiness of the initial adoption period, the telephone remained largely unchanged for decades. The basic phone one could buy in 1910 wasn’t much different from the basic phone available in 1980. For an interesting look at the history of the telephone make sure to check out this timeline.

Other Notable Moments from This Week in Geek History

Although we only shine the spotlight on three interesting facts a week in our Geek History column, that doesn’t mean we don’t have space to highlight a few more in passing. This week in Geek History:

  • 1904 – Birth of Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel), perhaps the most famous children’s author ever.
  • 1945 – Birth of Dirk Benedict, best known as Faceman from the A-Team.
  • 1949 – Birth of Gates McFadden, best known as Dr. Beverly Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • 1982 – Death of Phillip K. Dick, acclaimed Sci-Fi writer (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, The Minority Report, and A Scanner Darkly, among others).

Have an interesting bit of geek trivia to share? Shoot us an email to tips@howtogeek.com with “history” in the subject line and we’ll be sure to add it to our list of trivia.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 03/3/11

Comments (2)

  1. Kevin

    Really? Faceman is better known than Lieutenant Starbuck?

  2. Viki

    Slam dunkin like Shaquille O’Neal, if he wrote informative aircltes.

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