Baseless assumptions and hypothesis are championed every minute and science experiments are conducted almost every day but these experiments do not necessarily affect the course of the nature or even our own understanding of the things around us in ways that seem many a times unimaginable to us. Similar is the case with the following notoriously famous experiments that have undergone the severity of ruthless time and emerged victorious in exhibiting the human race at its inquiring and intellectual best. These singular or combined efforts have delivered insights that changed our view of ourselves or the universe around us.
Below are listed and a tad bit elaborated the famous 9 experiments and a fabulous failure that could and should be championed as the top 10 scientific experiments of all time.
EXPERIMENT 1: Eratosthenes records the measurement of the Earth
As many educated Greeks were cognizant that the Earth was spherical in shape, Eratosthenes, a Greek mathematician and astronomer, gauged that if he knew the distance between two cities, he could multiply that figure by 50 and calculate Earth’s curvature, and thus its total circumference. Furnished with this information, Eratosthenes calculated the Earth’s circumference as 250,000 stades, a Hellenistic unit of length that roughly equals 600 feet. Today the correct figure of 24,900 miles equates to the circumference of our world that stands hopelessly close to the figure proposed by Eratosthenes.
In light of his befitting contribution to science, mankind has conferred upon him a nickname i.e., “the father of Geography”.
EXPERIMENT 2: William Harvey discovers blood circulation in the human body
Having born in England in 1578, William Harvey was a physician whose greatest interest was anatomy i.e. the study of the internal structure of animals or plants. His first revelation was when he drained blood from animals such as sheep and pigs. Upon dissection, Harvey was revealed to the information that an unquantifiable volume of blood, exceeding the animals’ physical size, would have to pump through the heart every hour to keep the animal alive.
To further his hypothesis, Harvey cut open live animals in public, revealing their tiny blood vessels with hefty supplies of blood flowing at a pace similar to that of a stream that flows into a river.
EXPERIMENT 3: Gregor Mendel demonstrates the fundamentals behind genetic inheritance
The profound mystery behind the inheritance of physical traits was unraveled to mankind a century and a half ago, owing to Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian Friar and a scientist. Through his various studies and experiments, Gregor demonstrated that a child resembles, to some degree, his/her parents or either one of them. His pioneering work in the science of genetics is above par and still un-surmounted.
EXPERIMENT 4: Isaac Newton unveils the nature of color and light
In Newton’s time, it was largely believed by the intellectual and thoughtful elite that light acquires the color of the medium through which it propagates, like sunlight through tinted or stained glass. Unsatisfied, Isaac Newton performed a prism experiment that proved color to be an intrinsic characteristic of light. This breathtaking insight pioneered the field of optics, fundamental to modern science and technology.
EXPERIMENT 5: Michelson and Morley Whiff showed the way light moves
The basic hypothesis was that as the Earth orbits the sun, it constantly moves through ether, generating an ether wind of sorts. When a light beam travels in the same direction as the wind, the light should move faster as compared when travelling against the direction of the force of wind.
To calculate this hypothesized effect, Michelson invented a type of interferometer, a device that culminated all sources of light together to create an interference pattern. The scientists protected their delicate interferometer setup from vibrations by placing it on a solid sandstone slab, floating almost friction-free in a trough of mercury and further isolated in a campus building’s basement. Though the experiment failed terribly and didn’t show light speed to vary with the force of the ether, it did kick off into ether theory and set-off a chain of futue experimentation and theorizing, leading to Albert Einstein’s breakthrough, i.e. special relativity.
EXPERIMENT 6: Marie Curie defines what is radioactivity
For her PhD. thesis, Marie Curie instigated investigation on a novel kind of radiation, resembling X-rays and having been discovered just a year earlier. Using an electrometer, Marie measured the peculiar rays emitted by uranium and thorium. Despite of the molecular structure of the elements— a black powder or a yellow crystal, in uranium’s case — radiation rates were dependent solely and wholly on the quantity of the element present.
This experiment led Marie to deduce that the emission of radiation was independent of a substance’s molecular arrangements. Radioactivity — a term she coined — was an intrinsic property of individual atoms, flowing from their internal structure. Owing to this observation, Marie had finally pushed the door open to an understanding of matter at a more fundamental, subatomic level.
EXPERIMENT 7: Ivan Pavlov discovers conditioned reflexes
Up until the experimental work of Pavlov, a famous Russian physiologist, reflexes were deemed fixed or riveted and not alterable. Pavlov’s experimental work with dogs not only won him a Nobel Prize in 1904, but also revealed to the world that reflexes could change as a result of cognition and experiences.
EXPERIMENT 8: Robert Millikan calculates the accurate value of a single electron’s charge
In his lab at the University of Chicago, Robert Millikan began working on the highly sophisticated oil-drop experiments through which he found out that an electron did actually possess a though small, but still fathomable, unit of charge. Millikan approximated the value of this charge to be within the auspices of the contemporarily accepted charge of one electron that is equal to 1.602 x 10-19 coulombs, as measured by the electron microscope.
EXPERIMENT 9: Thomas Young discovered the wave like nature of light and electrons
Through his famous double-slit experiments, Thomas Young, the famous British physician and physicist, proposed that the particles of light move in the form of waves. Though his findings were later rebuffed by modern physicist, Young’s experiments led to opening the doors for Quantum physics and even beyond.