April 12 seems to be an active day for scientific advancement! Let's take today's Google Doodle one step further and look through a few of the date's historical moments:
April 12, 1888:
A french newspaper mistakenly reported, "Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday." But Alfred wasn't dead... his brother was! The erroneous article that insulted him for the invention of dynamite made him wonder how his name would be remembered for the rest of civilization - thus, the birth of the Nobel Prize.
April 12, 1955
Dr. Thomas Francis, Jr. announced that Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio was verified to be "safe, effective, and potent." The statement was made at a University of Michigan press conference, to highlight the 10th anniversary of Franklin Roosevelt's death from the disease. Salk, however, stole the stage by defying Dr. Francis's description of testing problems and insisted that he had created nothing less than the perfect vaccine. There's an accurate write-up of the incident in the U of M history files.
April 12, 1961
Russian pilot Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. He orbited the Earth in 108 minutes aboard the Vostok 1, a completely automated spacecraft. (The controls ran on automatic for the duration of the flight, though there was a sealed envelope containing a key in case of an emergency.) Instead of landing "the normal way," Gagarin made a pre-planned descent by ejecting the spacecraft and floating down to land via parachute. The vessel was spherical and not designed to safely land with a human still on board. The Soviet Union denied this action for several years in order to evade the FAI world records rules, which states that a pilot must accompany his craft to a landing.
“I could have gone on flying through space forever.” - Yuri Gagarin
April 12, 1981
American Space Shuttle Columbia was launched. This was the first successful reusable spacecraft developed by NASA. It went on to complete a total of 28 flights, spent 300.74 days in space, completed 4, 808 orbits, and flew over 200,000,000 km.
April 12, 1994
Attourney Laurence Canter created the first commercial internet spamming program to solicit business for his law firm on a message board. Need I say more? Read more about how this annoying sludge got started on Wired.
Interesting Fact: The term "spam" is from the BBC television series Monty Python's Flying Circus. There is a sketch in the show where a waitress offers an unwilling patron a menu with nothing but variations of spam on it.