|Science Tech Chronology: In the year 1983|
In Kenya, Dr. Meave Epps Leakey [b. 1942] finds a fossil jaw tentatively dated between 16,000,000 and 18,000,000 years ago and identified as Sivapithecus, an ape that later will be identified as the ancestor of the orangutan. See also 1993 Anthropology.
Peat cutters in the Lindow Moss in Cheshire, England, find what appears to be a woman's skull. Although a local man confesses that it is the skull of his murdered wife, the bone will later be dated as at least 1700 years old. See also 1984 Archaeology.
Scientists develop a method for dating ancient objects based on chemical changes in obsidian. See also 1957 Earth science.
The Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), designed to detect infrared radiation from objects in space, is launched on January 25. It completes its mission in November. In the course of its mission, it will discover evidence of planet formation around stars outside the solar system. See also 1995 Astronomy.
Andrei Linde develops a model for a chaotic inflationary universe (different from his new inflationary universe of the previous year). See also 1981 Astronomy.
In April Kary Banks Mullis [b. Lenoir, North Carolina, December 28, 1944] conceives of the idea of polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a method of multiplying copies of parts of a DNA molecule. It will become the basis of genetic fingerprinting and one of the key tools for all sorts of work with genetics. See also 1984 Biology; 1993 Chemistry. (See essay.)
Andrew W. Murray and Jack Szostak, working with yeast, create the first artificial chromosome. See also 1997 Biology.
Walter Jakob Gehring [b. Zürich, Switzerland, March 20, 1939] and coworkers discover the homeobox, a common sequence of genes in a wide variety of organisms that directs development of the organism; all of the organisms containing the homeobox -- insects, annelid worms, vertebrates, and so forth -- are segmented, suggesting that the homeobox directs segmentation.
Barbara McClintock of the United States wins the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for her discovery of mobile genes in the chromosomes of corn. See also 1950 Biology.
Henry Taube of the United States -- although Canada considers him to be the first Canadian to win a Nobel -- wins the Nobel Prize in chemistry for new discoveries in the basic mechanism of chemical reactions. See also 1953 Chemistry.
The first regular U.S. cellular telephone system goes into operation. By 1987 there will be 312 cellular systems operating in 205 cities. See also 1979 Communication; 1992 Communication.
Kurzweil Music Systems introduces a portable, digital, music keyboard that can store the sounds of 30 different musical instruments. See also 1969 Communication.
On October 20 an international agreement goes into effect that defines the meter as the distance that light travels through a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 second; thus, the speed of light is exactly 299,792,458 m per second. See also 1967 Physics; 1990 Physics.
Apple's Lisa computer brings the mouse and pull-down menus to the personal computer. A computer mouse is a device that moves the cursor on the screen as a result of moving the mouse on a hard surface. Pressing a button on the mouse sends a command to the computer, depending on where the cursor is located. Pull-down menus are choices that appear when the menu is summoned with a push of the mouse button. Lisa is too expensive and clumsy to be commercially successful, but it leads to the very popular Macintosh, which has the same features. See also 1968 Communication.
Fred Cohen coins the term "computer virus" to describe programs that can insert copies of themselves into other programs. He is also the first to write such a program as part of his research into computer security. See also 1988 Computers.
Radio Shack introduces Model 100, the first version of a computer small enough to hold on one's lap. The display is an 8-row, 40-column LCD. The computer runs for several hours on four AA batteries. It is much less sophisticated than the personal computers available in desktop versions.
The British firm Immos develops the transputer, a parallel computer in which several processors work simultaneously, each on a different part of a problem, thus speeding up processing considerably. See also 1965 Computers; 1985 Computers.
IBM's PC-XT, introduced in February, is the first personal computer with a hard-disk drive built into it. The hard disk is a memory device capable of storing a large amount of information even when the machine is turned off (thus replacing many floppy diskettes). In the first XTs, the hard disk contains 10 megabytes of information. See also 1981 Computers.
The world's largest thin-arch dam -- 209 m (685 ft) high and 1265 m (4150 ft) long -- spans the American River near Auburn, California. See also 1979 Construction.
Ecology & the environment
Carl Sagan and an interdisciplinary group of scientists publish a report on the consequences of nuclear war, showing that even a limited nuclear war would have grave consequences; smoke and dust injected into the atmosphere would result in severe climatic changes (termed a nuclear winter) that would destroy most living creatures. Their work is based on a theory explaining the K-T mass extinction. See also 1980 Earth science.
Medicine & health
Luc Montagnier [b. Chabris, France, August 18, 1932] isolates the first virus known to cause AIDS, which he calls LAV (for lymphadenopathy-associated virus). The virus will become known as human immunodeficiency virus, type 1, or HIV-1, in 1987, after a compromise between French and American teams that both investigated the virus and after the discovery of a second virus, HIV-2, by Montagnier's team. See also 1984 Medicine & health. (See essay.)
Barry J. Marshall [b. Kalgoorlie, Australia, September 30, 1951] and J. Robin Warren [b. Adelaide, Australia, June 11, 1937] at Royal Perth Hospital in Australia discover that a bacterium -- initially identified as Campylobacter pylori but later known as Helicobacter pylori -- causes gastritis and may cause ulcers of the stomach and small intestine. Later research will show that the bacterium is definitely implicated not only in ulcers but also in stomach cancer.
Marc Cantin, Jacques Genest, and coworkers locate in June the hormone produced by the heart that regulates blood pressure. It is synthesized two months later by a group headed by Ruth F. Nutt. See also 1981 Medicine & health.
James F. Gusella finds a gene marker for Huntington's disease. At Oxford Kay Davies and Robert Williamson find a gene marker for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. See also 1978 Medicine & health; 1986 Medicine & health.
Fernand Daffos is the first doctor to use fetal blood taken by a needle through the umbilical cord for diagnosis of disease in the fetus. See also 1952 Medicine & health; 1984 Medicine & health.
John Buster and Maria Bustillo of the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California, perform the first successful human embryo transfers. See also 1951 Food & agriculture.
The immunosuppressant cyclosporine is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, making transplants of organs much safer than previously. See also 1953 Medicine & health; 1963 Medicine & health.
A team headed by Carlo Rubbia [b. Gorizia, Italy, March 31, 1934] at CERN discovers the charged W particles and the neutral Z particle, predicted carriers of the weak force according to the electroweak theory that unifies the weak force with electric charge. This, along with the earlier discovery of neutral currents, confirms the electroweak theory. See also 1967 Physics; 1984 Physics.
William Fowler and Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar [b. Lahore, India (Pakistan), October 19, 1910, d. Chicago, August 1995] of the United States win the Nobel Prize in physics for their investigations into the aging and ultimate collapse of stars.
U.S. president Ronald Reagan [b. Tampico, Illinois, February 6, 1911] announces the start of a Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), soon known as the Star Wars program. The plan is to build a satellite-based system for intercepting intercontinental ballistic missiles using interceptor missiles and laser beams. See also 1944 Transportation.
On July 3 the Tevatron particle accelerator at Fermilab is tested for the first time and immediately sets a new record of 412 GeV (billion electron volts) for energy produced by collisions of subatomic particles. See also 1972 Tools.
The second U.S. space shuttle, Challenger, is successfully launched on April 4. Astronauts Paul J. Weitz, Karol J. Bobko, Donald H. Peterson, and F. Story Musgrave form the crew of the first Challenger mission. A TDRS tracking satellite is deployed and the first shuttle EVA is completed. The first five-person crew for a space shuttle, consisting of Sally K. Ride, the first U.S. woman in space, Robert L. Crippen, Frederick H. Hauck, John M. Fabian, and Norman E. Thagard, begin a second Challenger mission on June 18. The Remote Manipulating Structure ("Arm") is used to deploy and retrieve a satellite for the first time. The first night launch of a Challenger mission begins August 30 with a crew of Richard H. Truly, Daniel Brandenstein, William Thornton, Guion S. Bluford, Jr. (the first African-American in space), and Dale Gardner complete. The crew launches a weather/communications satellite for India.
U.S. astronauts John Young, Brewster Shaw, Jr., Robert Parker, Owen Garriott, Byron Lichtenberg, and Ulf Merbold are launched on a Columbia mission on November 28. The shuttle carries a laboratory called Spacelab, and the crew performs numerous experiments in astronomy and medicine.
Soviet cosmonauts Vladimir B. Titov, Gennadi M. Strekalov, and Aleksandr A. Serebrov begin the Soyuz T 8 mission on April 20 but fail in a planned rendezvous with Salyut 7. On June 27 Vladimir Lyakhov and Aleksandr Alexandrov begin a 150-day Soyuz T 9 mission. They spend 49 days in Salyut 7, but Soyuz T10 fails in a relief mission. A fire starts just as the launch begins and the flight is aborted, although the vehicle travels several kilometers. The crew escapes safely.