100 YEARS AGO
For some years a very interesting series of experiments in connection with the biological method of sewage treatment has been carried on by Dr. Dunbar, director of the Hygienisches Institut at Hamburg, and by his colleagues. Special attention has been directed to the elucidation of the sequence of changes which underlies the purification process in contact beds and percolating filters… Great importance is attached by the Hamburg workers to the role played by the process of so-called “absorption” which takes place when the liquid is in contact with the purifying medium. It has been found that sterile clinkers have the power of withdrawing from solution not only colouring matters, but also the highly complex nitrogenous bodies found in sewage… An interesting example of absorption is seen in the case of the percolating filter adopted by Dr. Dunbar. This filter is provided with a layer of fine material on the surface about six inches deep. According to Dr. Dunbar, 50 per cent. of the purification, apart from nitrification, takes place in this six inches.
From Nature 10 December 1903.
50 YEARS AGO
In case there is any lingering doubt that the Piltdown finds are in part fraudulent, we think that one other fact now brought to light should be published immediately. Suspecting that some of the so-called implements reported from the site might have been 'doctored', we asked Mr. E. T. Hall, of the Clarendon Laboratory, Oxford, to test the composition of their surface stains by means of his X-ray spectrographic method of analysis. He has reported to us that the stains on these flints are entirely ferruginous, with one notable exception. The triangular flint (Reg. No. E.606) recovered in situ from the layer immediately overlying the skull horizon is chromate stained. When this stain is removed in acid the flint appears greyish-white. It is indistinguishable from a mechanically broken piece of flint such as one might encounter on the surface of any ploughed field in 'Chalk-land'. Whereas a bone might have been dipped in a solution of potassium dichromate with the sole purpose of trying to harden it, a flint would only have been treated in that way by a forger requiring it to be of a certain colour.
From Nature 12 December 1953.
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100 and 50 years ago. Nature 426, 613 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1038/426613a
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