Rudjer, Nikola, Mihajlo and Milutin

First names. They are of the most importance. Not the middle ones. Not even the last ones, even though with some people family name comes with higher significance, especially if they you are part of some important heritage or well-known royalty. Even so, the first names comes, ... well, first. And not by accident. This is how you are remembered for your entire life. This is the word you turn to when you hear somebody is calling around the corner. This is you. With me is the same and while ago I decided to start a thread with first names in titles. First names that are telling connected tales, historically or with any other linked stories. So far there are two in the row: Jules, Isaac, Arthur and Carl and Giordano, Isaac, Albert and Stephen. Behind those names are, according to me, people who gave the biggest push in the worldwide literature of science fiction and science itself. These are people who fit my own interests and fascination and they will be remembered for eternity for their work and achievements.

Lords of Lightning - Tesla coils in action*

Today I like to present on the blog and this very thread new set of first names and while we are still in the realm of science and engineering, with today's post I am narrowing down the list to the geographically and anthropologically small portion of the world with similar national lineage or genealogy if you will. The very one where my own belongs as well. Surely, I am not emphasizing nationality in this post - this is not what's important, brilliant people comes from all corners of the world, but even so, history tends to localize the biographies and sometimes is easier to remember people nativity by their heritage than with anything else. Countries, borders and states varies over time and during the centuries centers of scientific realms belonged to different areas and almost by definition they were never near to your place of birth, so to speak. This was especially true with Nikola, Mihajlo and Milutin who even though born in Serbian communities of historically different states or in case of Rudjer who was born in one truly multinational city-state, they all had to move early in their lives and contribute to the scientific world within academic and financial centers of their time. So let's meet them all in chronological order. And you will learn who is my favorite.

First in line(age) is Rudjer Bošković. He was born in early 18th century in Dubrovnik, the capital city of the time well known and wealthy republic of Ragusa, one of those small maritime (city-wide) republics from the Middle Age that flourished in 15th and 16th centuries along with similar Italian republics of Venice, Genoa, Pisa and couple of others. The city was mixture of many residents of different nations with officially spoken Latin language in the very beginning among majority of people. That changed over time with domination of Dalmatian (Romance language with Illyrinan dialect in origin), Italian (Venetian and other Romance languages from across the Adriatic) and mostly Croatian (of several Slavic languages spoken within city walls with the same historical origin).

Rudjer moved to Rome early and was energetic in many disciplines, including poetry, science and catholic religiosity within Society of Jesus order who were well known for their educated members and people who contributed to the scientific world maybe even more than independent scholars of the 18th century**. Nevertheless, to me, his work in cutting-edge science of the time - astronomy, geodesy and physics is what he will be remembered the best. He was pioneering mathematical calculations of determining the orbit of planets and comets from just three observations, and gave the method of calculating position of the Sun's equator from the observation of the sunspot motion in three points. He had a hunch that Earth was not a perfect sphere which was later called Geoid - a shape of the Earth with influence of only gravity, rotation and irregular distribution of mass throughout Earth composition. He even took a trip to measure part of the meridian between Rome and Rimini in his attempt to prove meridian's uneven curvature due to irregular density and distribution of the Earth mass. In physics, his hunches were even more fascinating for his time. Perhaps his greatest contribution in physics is his book "Theory of Natural philosophy derived to the single Law of forces which exist in Nature" where he extends Newtonian gravity by identifying a force between two masses which is repulsive at small distances within elementary non-dividable primary elements of matter and attractive if those masses depart each other and creates long distance between them. He wrote that all matter was made out of particles and formed in solids or fluids only by differently arranged primary elements how he called elementary particles in his book. For example - Earth consists of particles that are not connected together by any force, Water is a liquid fluid with a strong repulsive force exerted between its particles, Air is an elastic fluid, which in all probability consists of particles of very many different sorts and its particles, however, repel one another with a fairly large force and finally Fire is also a highly elastic fluid, which is agitated by the most vigorous internal motions.***

Dubrovnik in role of King’s Landing in Game of Thrones

Niels Bohr and Michael Faraday owe a great deal of gratitude to Rudjer's work for their later research and discovery of atomic model and electromagnetism. His ways of thinking included belief that time and space is rather relative then what was thought in main scientific stream ever since Newton absolute time theory. In a way, his way of comprehending the physics of the universe was a predecessor for many of breakthrough discoveries that came later and he was truly respected for this among other scientists, including the one who is next in line(age) in this post. The man who probably left the biggest mark in the late 19th century and the dawn of 20th. The one who literally lit up the world. Nikola Tesla.

To be fair, Nikola was not scientist per se. He was never walking the scientific world. What he was and what he was doing, especially during last two decades of the 19th century was engineering. He was using cutting-edge science to create tools and machines. And he was not ordinary engineer. That would be understatement. He was, and I cannot find the better word right now, 'one hell of a' engineer. Honestly, I was up to write a separate post about Nikola Tesla ever since I started with the blog but I always wanted to do it little differently then you can read online about him. I still have some thoughts about how to do it, but until then this is my chance to write down some initial glimpse in relation to his major discoveries and inventions. Perhaps if you stopped me on the street and ask me what is his major contribution to the world I guess I would tell you that it was his work in finishing what Faraday and Pixii started some fifty or more years before in regards to practical use of alternate current. While Michael Faraday can be attributed as a 'father' of electricity I guess no one can be titled with being the inventor of alternate current. Perhaps it was due to the vast popularity of the DC or direct current in all those times. However, while even then, it was obvious that it was perfect to fill the batteries, DC is not so great when it comes to distribution over long distances - only couple of kilometers could be done without major issues and losses. However, even though the use of transformers to raise the voltage and transport the current within long distances with thin cables and almost no lost of the power in between (1.20 MV to be the highest ever built so far) it was the invention of Tesla's (and Galileo Ferraris') induction motors that started all to happen. And by all is pretty much the electrifying the world as it is today. Soon after, George Westinghouse licensed Nikola Tesla's alternating current patents and made it to be the preferred method for the transmission of electricity. After this, DC stayed out of 'heavy duty' jobs and the world started rapidly to evolve in brand new electrical history. I think I will leave everything else and all other Nikola's inventions for another time but still I can't hesitate not to mention just one in this post - Tesla coil. It's a special transformer and he made it to be used to produce high-voltage, low-current and high frequency alternating-current electricity for his experiments in Colorado Springs and his "System of Electric Lighting". All his desires to transform the current without wires over long distances in this giant experiment (and possible couple of more juicy uses) failed but the coil that is left from the time is still here and the guys from Arcadia called Lords of Lightning found their special use in their (martial?) arts:

Speaking of coils, the time is now just right to divert the story into third line(age) from the title. Mihajlo Pupin. His life story is almost the same as Tesla's. Born just two years after Nikola, he also moved to United States for searching better education and perfect opportunities in life. Unlike Tesla he earned his Ph.D. in area of physical chemistry at the University of Berlin under Hermann von Helmholtz class. After his return to the USA, Mihajlo started working within physics and astronomy labs and departments of the Columbia University. However, during his 40 years of academic life he also joined the patent war that was flaming in the USA in those years. It was not only challenging but also necessary if you wanted to be remembered by your work and study. It was also the way of achieving the financial glory as many of leading companies and corporations were literally fighting for buying new patents and opportunities to be the first in implementation of new technologies. In this field of work, Mihajlo will be alway remembered for his "Pupin coils". With transferring alternate current via long distances there was always a risk of loosing some power on the way and if some of the electrical energy is lost from the power plant to your house it was not that big of a deal. At least in those times. However, alternate current was used then and it is still using today for communications too. In telephony if you are transferring voice converted into electrical current from one point to another any loss of energy in between or any noise added would affect the audio quality at the end of the line. Pupin contribution and his coils solved this problem by adding one loading coil in the paired lines every 2 miles or so. The principle is rather simple, the problem with lines and cables is that they added further electrical resistance over distances and the resistance of the metal cable can be efficiently reduced with adding coils and inductivity to the circuit. Mihajlo patented the invention and sold it to several companies in USA and Europe, including AT&T. If you were wondering of  how 'American dream' of the 19th century looked like, this was it. Only this one was well deserved.

Finally, the last name in the line(age) is my personal favorite - a man with extraordinary and multidisciplinary talents. Milutin Milanković. Two years ago I already wrote and dedicated a post named Beth's Q&A - Ice Age vs Global Warming to Milutin and his research in climate changes in regards to entire Solar system and relative motions of planets due to insolation or solar forcing of the mother star influence to the planet surface. His insolation theory was capable to calculate approximate temperatures for a planet at any point in history and future by knowing amount of Solar radiation in particular moment of the Sun-planet system and position. His theory is today well known as Milankovitch cycles. In the previous article related to ice ages on Earth, I tried to go deeper into the science itself, especially for Earth, but in the nutshell, in this complex math, in order to calculate solar forcing Milutin considered three different planet's motions - first one is changes of Earth's orbit around the sun (eccentricity), second is the tilt of Earth's axis (obliquity) and third represents the wobble of Earth's axis (precession). He needed more than three months to manually calculate cycles for past 650.000 years and only for three chosen latitudes. Today with fast computer calculations and with included more changes in Earth's orbit and other climate related periods and even the amount of artificially produced greenhouse effect ever since industrial revolution the cycles can be calculated with much greater precision. Nevertheless, this was Milutin's lifetime work and the theory he will be remembered the most.

Milanković bridge in Svrljig Throat*****

But this amazing man in his scientific most productive years of life, especially in the first half of 20th century, had more to say. In 1923 he proposed a revision of old Julian calendar with greater precision by calculating leap years more precisely than currently Gregorian calendar in use. Basically, in the long term on average the Revised Julian Calendar (or Milankovich calendar) pulls ahead of the Gregorian calendar by one day in 3600 years****. We are still safe with inaccuracy and first difference in our current calculation of time will occur on March 1st, 2800 simply because of the fact that Gregorian calendar takes 24 seconds longer revolution of Earth around the Sun than RJC. Today we know more and the most precise atomic clocks show that a modern-day is longer by about 1.7 milliseconds than a century ago and the days are getting longer and longer. According to the Moon creation theory (Theia collision) at one time very far in the past, when our Moon was very near to the Earth the day lasted about three hours or less. The Moon is still getting away from us and its influence on Earth rotation differs over time and we have to add leap seconds from time to time to compensate the clock. On a very long periods this will affect the calendar as well. Milutin was aware of this but in his time quartz and atomic clocks were still waiting to be invented for the theory to be confirmed.

Milutin Milanković is definitely the man with the most inspiring biography of all four people and recently I learned the fact that before he found himself in climate research and astronomy, he was one great civil engineer and that back in 1915 he designed many of stone bridges in "Svrljig Throat" - a gorge very near to our mounting village and weekend house we often go. When I heard of it last summer - I tried to go and make some photos from the close range, but the gorge is very narrow, no safe road existed to get close by car and the only way to get inside was to follow the rail tracks. It was too dangerous for my taste so I decided to try again next spring when vegetation is smaller and if I succeed I will definitely update this post.

Perhaps the best way to conclude the story about these four men is to share additional images from the Moon. Or to be precise from the orbit of the Moon. Actually, beside genealogy and shared contribution to the world as we know it today, Rudjer, Nikola, Mihajlo and Milutin have one more thing in common - they all have a crater on the moon. Craters on the moon, two on the front and two on the far side are named after these four brilliant people. Milutin earned himself one more on Mars, 2000 km north from famous Olympus Mons in the Vastitas Borealis plain more than 100km in diameter and also one asteroid 32 km wide in asteroid belt.

I can't imagine a better gratitude to give a person for his achievement and lifework.

References and images sources:
**** (WCAG 2.0 compatible calendar)

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