Momentous or Merely Memorable
10 YEARS AGO: Hello, Dolly
British scientists announce the birth of Dolly, the first mammal cloned from an adult cell, February 22, 1997. Although she's a Finn Dorset sheep, Dolly triggers vigorous debate about the ethics of human cloning. Scientists will go on to clone cattle, goats and mice among other species, while Dolly, arthritic at a young age—perhaps due to her origins—is put down in 2003.
60 YEARS AGO: Make It Snappy
Edwin Land, 37, shows his face—and the camera that caught it—at an Optical Society meeting in New York on February 21, 1947. His Polaroid Land camera makes its own prints using paper that contains developer and fixer. On sale in 1948 for $89.75, the cameras are an instant success. Land dies in 1991, at age 81.
70 YEARS AGO: Sexy Science
As U.S. relations with Japan grow touchy—making silk scarce—DuPont chemist Wallace Hume Carothers patents a "pliable, strong and elastic" substitute on February 16, 1937. With subsequent tinkering, his "linear condensation superpolymers" had become nylon, the first commercial synthetic fiber. Although it starts out in toothbrushes, nylon becomes synonymous with stockings after synthetic hose hits the market in 1940. Carothers commits suicide in 1937, at age 41.
75 YEARS AGO: Atomic Bombshell
English physicist James Chadwick announces his discovery of a basic atomic building block in the journal Nature on February 17, 1932. Theorized since 1920, neutrons, as the new particles are dubbed for their lack of electric charge, have a mass roughly the same as protons, and are found, along with protons and electrons, in every atom except hydrogen. Chadwick wins the Nobel Prize for the discovery in 1935, and dies in 1974, at age 82.
140 YEARS AGO: Little House Laura
Laura Ingalls is born on February 7, 1867, near Pepin, Wisconsin. Her stories of the pioneer West of her childhood and marriage to Almanzo Wilder—beginning, in 1932, with Little House in the Big Woods—bring Pa, Ma and the girls to readers of more than 40 languages, inspire a TV series and draw sunbonneted fans to seven "Laura homesite" museums. She dies in 1957, at age 90.
420 YEARS AGO: Family Matters
After 19 years under house arrest, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, a Catholic accused of plotting to overthrow the Protestant monarchy of her cousin, England's Elizabeth I, is beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle, February 8, 1587. Calling for her maids to "rejoice, and not weep" at the end of her woes, Mary dies, age 44, never having met Elizabeth.