German-Russian Siege of Leningrad

By the June of 1941, Germany felt invincible, as much of the west was under their control, with the exception of Britain, she who was surrounded by water on all sides and Russia.

Hitler and Nazi Germany turned their forces on Russia on the 22nd June 1941, as some three million German soldiers, streamed across the Soviet border heading eastwards to Volga, giving Stalin no option but to retreat as the Soviet Union was cut in two.

Hitler, was well aware that any battle against the Soviet Union, Leningrad would play a key objective, for it was the home base of Russia’s Baltic Fleet.

On the 31st August 1941, German forces captured the town of Mga, cutting off Leningrad’s last remaining rail connection, next they took Shlisselburg cutting off the last open roadway.  By the 8th September, their only connection to the outside world was by water; via Lake Ladoga.  Leningrad had been completely encircled by Germans and Finnish allies from the north.

The German advance carried on until late September when Soviet forces brought a halt to Russian forces, in the northern suburbs of Leningrad.  The German army became bottled up in trench warfare, which led Hitler to change strategy as he prepared his forces to settle in for a siege.  Hitler sent out an order, that surrender negotiations were to be ignored, since he had no intention of feeding Leningrad’s three million strong, city’s population, he would simply wait for them to starve to death.

The German forces had started a military campaign, shelling Leningrad into submission.  Germany’s Luftwaffe air force conducted regular bombing raids on the city. An incendiary attack took place on September 8th, causing many fires and destruction of oil and food supplies.  On September 19th 2,500 high explosive and incendiary bombs were dropped on Leningrad.

Enemy fire would be responsible for the killing or wounding some 50,000 civilians during the siege.  Leningrad faced a most serious problem; 600,000 evacuated before Germans had sealed city off, with a further 2.5 million still remaining in the city.  Soviets had no choice, but to bring in fresh food supplies across Lake Ladoga.  Food and fuel arrived by barge until the lake froze, when trucks were used.  By November, food shortages saw the city rations cut to 250 grams, and children and elderly reduced to 125 grams per person.  It is believed as much as 100,000 starved each and every month of the siege.

The city of Leningrad held out against the Nazi siege, and in 1942, the Soviets evacuated 500,000 civilians across the lake.  By January of 1943, the Red Army had built a special railway link, and by the end of the year, close to 500 million tons of food had been shuttled into Leningrad.

The long-awaited breakthrough came in early 1944, as 1.25 million men and 1600 tanks over ran German lines.  On the 27th January 1944, Leningrad was free.

The Soviet’s counter-offensive carried them to the west, meeting the Anglo-American troops who had landed in Normandy in the June of 1944.

By the April of 1945, the Russians were in Berlin and Hitler’s Third Reich was destroyed and the Second World War came to an end on the 7th May 1945, and came into effect at midnight on the 8th May 1945.

The State of Israel

In the 1930’s, European Jews fled Nazi Germany and made Palestine their new home.  The Holocaust quickened the demand for a fully independent Jewish State.  Much of the Muslim population of Palestine, opposed such an idea.

In 1947, Britain surrendered its interest in Palestine to the United Nations, which partitioned the lands, thus creating the state of Israel.

The new stated came under constant attack by Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine guerrillas.  Israel survived the attacks, and in the 1950’s immigrants poured into Israel.  A second Arab – Israel war took place in 1956, but changed little.  In 1967, Israel acquired secure borders.  Her victories in the Six-Day War against Egypt, Jordan and Syria, gained them East Jerusalem, Jordan’s west bank and the Golan Heights.

Space Mission: Apollo 11

The primary objective of Apollo 11’s mission was to perform a crewed lunar landing on the Moon and return to Earth.

Additional flight objectives included scientific exploration by the lunar module, or LM, deployment of a television camera to transmit signals to Earth, deployment of a solar wind composition experiment, seismic experiment package and a Laser Ranging Retroreflector. During the exploration, two astronauts were to gather samples of lunar-surface materials for return to Earth. They also were to photograph the lunar terrain, scientific equipment, and each other.

Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969, carrying Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin into an initial Earth-orbit of 114 by 116 miles.

A televised image witnessed by millions, heard Armstrong’s describe the event as he took “…one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” on July 20, 1969.

Neil Armstrong, Commander
Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., Lunar Module Pilot
Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot

July 24, 1969; 12:50 p.m.
Pacific Ocean
Recovery Ship: USS Hornet

My Achievements: Marie Curie

Maria Sklodowska was born on the 7th November 1867 in Warsaw, to parents; Ladislas and Bronsitwa, who were both teachers.  Disaster struck the family when she was eleven, her mother Bronsitwa died from tuberculosis.

Marie worked as a tutor and governess, and studied physics, chemistry and maths alongside her job.  In 1891 she moved to Paris to study at the Sorbonne.

In 1893, she had attained her master’s degree in Physics, and Mathematics in 1894, and received a commission to study steel and their magnetic properties.

She shared a lab with French Physicist Pierre Curie, their work complimented each other, and they married.

Marie Curie became fascinated by Henri Becquerel, and his work with uranium in relation to X-Rays by Wilhelm Roentgen.  Curie started experiments herself with uranium, taking Becquerel’s thoughts a stage further.  She discovered rays from uranium, always remained constant, based on the element’s atomic structure.  So the word radioactivity was born to describe the phenomena.

In 1898, with the assistance of her husband, Marie and Pierre Curie had discovered a radioactive element: Polonium  along with that of Radium.  In 1902, they announced they had produced a decigram of radium.

In 1903 Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize for her work in Physics, along with her husband Pierre and Henri Becquerel for studies in the field of radioactivity.

In 1906 Pierre Curie died in Paris.  Despite her grief, she continued his works alongside her own, becoming a Professor at the Sorbonne.  

In 1911, Marie Curie won her second Nobel Prize for her works in the field of Chemistry.

At the outbreak of World War One, she championed the use of her portable X-Ray machines for use in the field.

On the 4th July 1934, Marie Curie died at the Sancellemoz Sanatorium in Passy, France from aplastic anemia, caused by prolonged exposure to radium.

Marie Curie made many scientific discoveries in her lifetime, which would benefit man’s future development.

In 1995, Marie and Pierre Curie were interred in the Pantheon in Paris, reserved for France’s greatest minds.

Marie and Pierre achievements continued with their daughter Irene Joliot-Curie born in 1897, who won a Nobel Prize for her work in the field of Chemistry, and shared the honour with husband Frederick Joliot on the study of Synthesis of Radioactive Elements.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge: was built between 1886-1894 to straddle the River Thames.  Its design was revolutionary at the time, allowing pedestrians and vehicles across the river, and shipping pass through, using a Bascule (see-saw action) Bridge.  With its steam powered pump engines controlling the hydraulics, giving instant power to raise the bridge.

The bridge consists of two pillars, weighing some 70,000 tons sunk into the river bed, with which to hold the 11,000 tons of steel framework.  The bridge is clad in Cornish granite and Portland stone with a Victorian Gothic style facade to fit in with the Tower of London.

The bridge is 800 feet in length, with two towers, 213 feet high and built upon piers.  The central span measures 200 feet, split in two equal bascules, each weighing in excess of 1,000 tons, which can be raised to allow river traffic to pass.

The two side sections are of suspension bridge design, measuring 270 feet each with suspension rods.  The pedestrian walkways are 143 feet above the river, when viewed at high tide.

Penicillin -A landmark discovery that saved millions of lives — BiotechTrends

The world has never before witnessed the colossal spending of time and money for research and technology development as it does in the current scenario. It is the consequence of the instrumental research of the 19th and 20th centuries that eventually paved the way for modern science, which now employs more than half a million […]

Penicillin -A landmark discovery that saved millions of lives — BiotechTrends

Alexander Fleming: Penicillin

Alexander Fleming was born on the 6th August 1881 in Lochfield, Ayrshire, Scotland.  In 1901 studied at St.Mary’s Hospital Medical School, and in 1908 received a gold medal for achieving the status of top medical student.

His career plan was to become a surgeon, but a temporary position showed itself at St.Mary’s Inoculation Department in the field of Bacteriology.  He worked under Sir Almroth Edward Wright, understanding the field of vaccine therapy.

From 1914-1918, he served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, as a bacteriologist with Almroth Wright in Boulogne, France.  His research revealed that antiseptics did more harm than good, as the body’s lack of immunity to break down bacteria reduced.  He concluded soldiers were dying from antiseptic treatment, and put forward the idea, it would be more effective to keep wounds dry and clean … his suggestions were mostly ignored.

In 1918 Fleming became assistant director of St.Mary’s Inoculation Department.

In 1921, Fleming discovered Lysozyme an antiseptic enzyme be present in body fluids.  When a drop was added with bacteria, it had been dissolved.  This was the first step in breaking down mild bacteria and the understanding of the human immune system.

In September of 1928, he discovered a culture; Staphylococcus aureus, had been contaminated with mould, when left out under normal conditions (Penicillium Notatum) and colonies of Staphylococci around the mould had been destroyed.

Further development, with Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, scientists from the University of Oxford, isolated and purified Penicillin.

During World War Two, Penicillin came into use on the battlefield in the field of infection control.

In 1945, Alexander Fleming, Howard Florey and Ernst Chain received the Nobel Prize for their work in the field of Physiology and Medicine.

In 1946 Fleming was appointed head of St.Mary’s Inoculation department, served as President of the Society for General Microbiology.

Alexander Fleming died of a heart-attack on the 11th March 1955 in London.

He left the world with a discovery which would save lives…

Einstein’s Theory of Gravity

One of the more exciting results of Einstein’s theory of gravity – the so-called general theory of relativity – is the possibility of gravity waves. The force of gravity is in some respects like the force of electricity between charged particles, or the attraction between magnets, but with mass playing the role of charge. When electric charges are violently disturbed, such as in a radio transmitter, electromagnetic waves are generated. The reason for this can readily be visualized. If an electric charge is pictured as surrounded by a field, then when the charge is moved the field must also adjust itself to the new position. However, it cannot do this instantaneously: the theory of relativity forbids information to travel faster than light, so the outlying regions of the field do not know that the charge has moved until at least the light-travel time from the charge. It follows that the field becomes buckled, or distorted, because when the charge first moves the remote regions of the field do not change whereas the field in the proximity of the charge is quick to respond. The effect is to send a kink of electric and magnetic force travelling outward through the field at the speed of light. This electromagnetic radiation transports energy away from the charge into the surrounding space. If the charge is wobbled to and fro in a systematic way, the field distortion wobbles likewise, and the spreading kink takes on the features of a wave. Electromagnetic waves of this sort are experienced by us as visible light, radio waves, heat radiation, x-rays and so on, according to their wavelength. 

In analogy to the production of electromagnetic waves we might expect the disturbance of massive bodies to set up kinks in the surrounding gravitational field, which will also spread outwards in the form of gravity waves. In this case, though, the ripples are kinks in space itself, because in Einstein’s theory gravity is a manifestation of distorted spacetime. Gravity waves can therefore be visualized as undulations of space, radiating away from the source of disturbance.

Spaceflight: In the beginning

Planet Earth viewed from Space…

The year was 1957, and Sputnik’s Chief Designer Sergei Korolyov watched as a modified Russian missile launched into space from Kazakhstan’s lonely steppes carrying a very special payload. 

Sputnik 1 (“traveling companion” in Russian) was about the size of a basketball and weighed about 180 pounds. It was equipped with two radio transmitters and four long antennas that broadcasted a constant beep while circling the Earth for 21 days. 

Sputnik’s launch stunned the world and changed it, too. It heralded in dramatic fashion a new “space age,” created an identity crisis in the United States, led to the creation of NASA and began a flurried race between the world’s two superpowers to place a human on the moon. 

Sputnik touched all walks of life. For politicians, its launch provided a new and powerful way to stir up patriotism. Winning the space race was not only a matter of national security, they said, but of national pride. 

For engineers, the space age represented a new set of daunting technological hurdles to be overcome. The engineers were the group tasked with inventing machines capable of escaping Earth’s gravity and reaching the moon, as well as ways to keep humans alive in space and to communicate with them from the ground. 

For people of a military mindset, Sputnik represented an awesome and frightening new way of waging war. The same technology needed to loft a satellite into space could also be adapted to hurl a nuclear warhead at your enemies from half a world away.  

For environmentalists, the photographs of our planet in full that came out of the space age were a powerful propaganda tool. The “Blue Marble” image taken by the crew of Apollo 17 spoke volumes about Earth’s fragility and the interconnectedness of life and humanity. 

But all of these things would come later. Arguably the first people to fully grasp Sputnik’s significance and to exploit its technology were scientists for whom the beeping metal ball represented a radical new way of studying our planet and the universe.  

Scientists made their first major discovery of the space age a mere three months after Sputnik’s launch. American scientist James Van Allen convinced engineers to strap a Geiger counter his team had designed to the first American satellite, Explorer 1, launched on January 31, 1958. The experiment confirmed the existence of Earth’s magnetic field by detecting a doughnut-shaped region of high- energy particles encircling the planet. Scientists now know Earth has two such “Van Allen Belts” which can be hazardous to both satellites and astronauts. 

Boost for science Sputnik’s launch forced Americans to rethink the notion that they were the world’s most technologically advanced nation. “Many people were flabbergasted that the Russians, of all people, could do it,” recalled William Burrows, author of This New Ocean, a detailed chronicle of the space age.  

“The Communists bragged that they invented the airplane, radio, television, rockets and so on, so Americans made jokes that [they] probably also took credit for inventing baseball and bubble gum,” Burrows said. “We laughed and ridiculed them. Then Sputnik. POW! They really did have muscle.” 

What followed was an unprecedented push in the United States to educate the nation’s youth in science and mathematics. In 1958, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act to provide scholarships for aspiring scientists, engineers and mathematicians. 

“Sputnik made everybody think about science and technology more seriously,” said David Thompson, an astrophysicist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. 

Aspiring astronomers 

The U.S. government’s push for scientific education was made easier in many ways by Sputnik. The satellite was a technological marvel that inspired an entire generation of students—and not just aspiring engineers. Some astronomers trace their interest in space to the Sputnik-era. 

“Everybody was going out to try to see these satellites that had just been launched and I went out and said ‘You know, these other things in the sky are more interesting,'” Thompson said. “There are stars out there and planets.'” 

“I was a kid and it sounded very exciting,” said Mario Livio, a senior astronomer at the Space Science Telescope Institute in Maryland. “At the time, the first name that I remembered for this was an ‘artificial moon.’ That of course had its own feelings that went with it: ‘Humans have created their own artificial moon.'” 

Lasting legacy 

For many scientists, Sputnik’s greatest legacy is the space observatories such as Hubble that it paved the way for. 

Space telescopes “opened up new wavelength regimes or bettered the capabilities in a given regime by a factor of ten” compared to ground telescopes, Livio told

“The studies of the microwave background from space started with COBE and continued through to WMAP,” said Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics who works at the University of Texas in Austin. “That has really made cosmology into a precision science and given us our best evidence about inflation.” 

Others think Sputnik’s contributions to science are more subtle. The space age also encouraged scientists in all disciplines to entertain new ideas, said spaceflight historian Roger Launius, chair of the Division of Space History at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. 

“We had no idea in the past until we started to explore space what the potential hazards as well as opportunities there were out there,” Launius said. “When did the theory that the dinosaurs had a sudden mass extinction as a result of an asteroid emerge? Had we not flown in space, we would never have even considered that as a possibility.”

Flight History 1901-2000

Orville and Wilbur Wright stepped forward to be counted in the history of flight… or should I say powered flight.  They spent three years testing their designs on gliders, and how to control them at their base at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. 

By 1902 they had perfected their glider shape, and by 1903 perfected a twelve horsepower engine.

On the 17th December 1903 at 10.35 am in North Carolina the “Flyer” took to the air, and they proved flight was possible, but it suffered from teething problems.   On the 5th October 1905 the “Flyer III” flew for 39 minutes piloted by Wilbur Wright at Huffman Prairie, covering some 24 miles.  History had been made… man could indeed fly.

Thanks to the Wright brothers, with their perfectly designed aircraft, powered by their own twelve horsepower water-cooled, four-cylinder engine, none of this would have been possible.  They proved without doubt, that powered flight was indeed possible, and they had opened the way for a new era in flight.

On the 18th March and 19th March 1906 Traian Vuia flew his self-designed self-propelled fixed-wing aircraft in France.  On the 12th September 1906 Jacob Ellehammer flew his monoplane in Denmark and on the 13th September 1306 Alberto Santos-Dumont made a flight in Paris, and on the 12the November set the first world record.

In 1908 Wilbur Wright gave flight demonstrations in France, attracting thousands, showing why the Wright brothers were superior in the air.

Louis Bleriot (1872-1936) a former engineer, who in 1900 turned his attention to flight. On the 25th July 1909 Louis Bleriot won fame for his solo flight across the English Channel, taking 36 mins travelling at an average speed of 40mph.

It didn’t take long before the military could see practical uses for these flying machines in battle.  The leading manufacturers of fighter planes were, Britain, France, Germany and Italy, whose planes saw action in World War One (1914-1918). 

The new era between the first and second world war saw young fighter pilots eager to show off their skills, in county air shows, and air races like the “Schneider Trophy.”

In 1924 Imperial Airways offered passenger flights to exotic destinations, and in 1927 Pan-Am offered non-stop luxury trips.

In 1927 aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh made history, flying “The Spirit of St.Louis” across the Atlantic Ocean; New York to Paris in 33 hours and 30 minutes non-stop.

In 1935 Howard Hughes designed and built the “H-1” racer.  With him at the controls, his plane became the fastest plane beatinf all speed records.

On the 5th March 1936 the Spitfire underwent its maiden flight and entered service with the Royal Air Force (1938-1955).  She was joined by other planes Bristol Blenheim (1937) Mosquito (1941) Lancaster (1942) Gloster Meteor (1944) and of course the Americans B-17 Flying Fortress (1940), just to name a few.

World War Two saw the need for fighter escorts in the shape of Heinkel HE178 (1939) Heinkel HE219 (1943) and Messerschmitt ME262 (1944) to accompany Junkers JU88 (1940) and the JU388 (1944) German Bomber planes during strategic bombing raids on English soil.                                                            

Other names go down in history for their achievements in the world of flight. Amelia Mary Earhart who in 1928, joined an expedition to fly across the Atlantic Ocean with Wilmer “Bill” Stultz (pilot) and Louis E “Slim” Gordon ( co-pilot and mechanic).  They left Trepassey Harbour, Newfoundland in a Fokker F7 on June 17 1928, and arrived at Burry Port, Wales 21 hours later.  Their landmark flight made headline news. 

From then on, Earhart’s life revolved around flying.  She came third in the Cleveland’s Women’s Air Derby.

President Herbert Hoover awarded her a gold medal from the National Geographical Society, and Congress awarded her a Distinguished Flying Cross for her achievement.

In the years that followed, Earhart continued to break records, one after another…  On 11th January 1935, she flew solo across the Pacific Ocean from Honolulu to Oakland, California.  Later that year, first to solo from Mexico City to Newark.

In 1946 after World War Two the “Bell X-1” was the first plane capable of breaking the speed record by breaking the sound barrier.

In 1957 the “Boeing 707” came into service described as sleek, fast and fuel-efficient.

With speeds getting faster and faster, the safety of the pilot became an issue in planes built for combat.  In 1958 ejection seats were fitted, which thrust pilots vertically clear of the plane in seconds.

In 1966 “The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird” came into military use reaching speeds three times the speeds of sound at heights of 100,000 feet.

In 1969 the “Boeing 747” came into service capable of carrying a little over four-hundred passengers, giving the air industry what they wanted, the ability to move large numbers in a single flight.

The first test flight of Concorde 001 took place on the 2nd March 1969 from Toulouse, and supersonic flight commenced on the 1st October 1969, with scheduled flights starting on 21st January 1976 with the London to Bahrain and Paris to Rio routes.

In May 1976, London to Washington, then in 1977 Paris and London to New York in less than 3½ hours.

Concorde went on to make history by circumnavigating the world in thirty-one hours and fifty-one minutes, starting out on 1st November 1986.

In May of 1987, a 19 year-old German pilot; Mathias Rust, flew solo in his Cessna from Helsinki in Finland, eastwards to Moscow in Russia. He eluded Russia’s Soviet Air-Defence System and landed alongside Lenin’s Mausoleum in Red Square.