100 and 50 years ago

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    100 YEARS AGO

    A simple method of recording the speed of motor cars and other vehicles has been devised by M. L. Gaumont, and accounts of the device appear in Cosmos and La Nature of November 3. The instrument consists simply of a camera with a double shutter, by which two exposures are made of the same plate, separated by a known interval of time. On developing the photograph, two images are obtained of the moving object, and, by measuring the distance between them, the dimensions of the car being supposed known and also measured on the plate, it is easy to calculate the speed of the car at the instant when the photograph was taken. The object is to assist the authorities in regulating the speed of these vehicles and checking furious driving.

    From Nature 15 November 1900.

    50 YEARS AGO

    In 1925, Prof. Dart announced the discovery of a new type of higher primate that seemed to be somewhat intermediate between ape and man. This was the skull of the Taungs child which he called Australopithecus africanus. For some years there was considerable dispute between those of us who regarded the little skull as that of a being closely allied to the ancestor of man, and those who considered it only a variety of ape, allied to the chimpanzee, which by parallelism had come to resemble man in many characters. Since 1936 we have made a large number of new discoveries, and this group of higher primates is now known by many skulls and skeletal remains of adults of a considerable variety of forms which we think should be placed in different genera and species. In the past two years we have discovered a number of nearly complete skulls which give us a new picture of the origin of man. When the only known skulls of our so-called 'ape-men' had brains of between 450 and 650 c.c., those who said they were only apes and had no close relationship to man seemed to have some case. But now that we have skulls with brains of 750, 800 and possibly 1,000 c.c, we seem to be dealing with beings that have some claim to be human...Possibly we are correct in assuming that there lived in South Africa a million or perhaps two million years ago a family of higher primates, not closely related to the living anthropoids, but perhaps evolved from a very early anthropoid or even a pre-anthropoid by a different line...

    From Nature 18 November 1950.

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