50 and 100 years ago

    50 YEARS AGO

    ‘Automation’ was defined by R. K. Geiser at a conference on automation and industrial development at Syracuse, New York, in May 1954, as “the accomplishment of a job by an integrated mechanism with a minimum of assistance of any kind”. Full automation, in this sense, does not yet exist, though it may be achieved in a suitable industry before the end of this century. Any technical development that enables a machine or instrument to dispense with labour is a step in this direction; but whereas mechanization has largely displaced physical effort, the new developments are making automatic some of the work that was formerly done by human brains... the implications in respect of leisure and its use [should not] be overlooked... increased productivity is likely to be accompanied by an increase in leisure, and this can only be detrimental to a community that is unprepared or unable to make profitable use of that leisure.

    From Nature 23 July 1955.

    100 YEARS AGO

    Commander Peary sailed on Sunday last to make a further attempt to reach the North Pole. Before leaving, he communicated various particulars respecting his expedition to Reuter's Agency. His plan is based upon the Smith Sound, or “American” route to the Pole, and his object is to force his ship to a base within 500 miles of the Pole itself, and then to sledge across the Polar pack. The Arctic ship Roosevelt, which has been specially built for this expedition, has been constructed so as to withstand the heavy ice pressure and is so shaped that the pressure of the ice pack will have the effect of raising the vessel out of the water. The ship will carry a wireless telegraphic outfit, which, with one or two relay stations in Greenland, will keep her in communication with the permanent telegraph station at Chateau Bay, Labrador, and thence by existing lines with New York.

    From Nature 20 July 1905.

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    50 and 100 years ago. Nature 436, 336 (2005) doi:10.1038/436336a

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