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Science and Technology Milestones in 1969

Science and technology milestones in 1969 were historic and world-changing


People often remember 1969 as the year of Woodstock, the Beatles breakup, and other music milestones. Or they recall political events such as the start of the draft lottery for the Vietnam War or the trial of the Chicago Seven. Or they remember the horror of the Manson Family murders in California.

But 1969 was also a year of groundbreaking science and technology milestones, including two that laid the foundations for a new global industry that would change the world in ways few could have imagined.

Man Walks on the Moon

On July 21, 1969, Astronaut Neil Armstrong, mission commander of Apollo 11, created a headline-making 1969 milestone by becoming the first person to walk on the moon. As Armstrong began his historic walk, he uttered his now-famous declaration: "That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." The Apollo 11 moon landing also fulfilled the challenge issued eight years earlier by President John F. Kennedy in a speech to a joint session of Congress, which committed the United States to "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" before the end of the 1960s.

The Internet is Born

The first computer-to-computer message was sent in 1969, over ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), the world’s first packet switching network and the precursor of the Internet. The message was sent from a computer at BBN Corp. (Bolt Beranek and Newman), a defense contractor, to one at UCLA. ARPANET was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense.

First Artificial Heart Transplant Performed

On April 4, 1969, Dr. Denton Cooley, a Houston heart surgeon, performed the first successful artificial heart implant on a human patient. The artificial heart was actually developed by Cooley's cross-town rival and former colleague, Dr. Michael DeBakey, and his team. Cooley's implant operation turned the rivalry with DeBakey into a full-fledged feud that lasted for the next 40 years. DeBakey considered it a betrayal and a theft of his technology.

The Personal Computer Revolution Begins

The first microprocessor was invented in 1969 at a startup company called Intel, paving the way for the personal computer revolution. A potential Japanese client wanted 12 custom chips designed to perform a variety of functions—from keyboard scanning to printer control. Intel didn't have the manpower to fulfill the order, so their engineers came up with a better idea: to build one chip that would do the work of all 12. It was the first single-chip microprocessor or, put another way, the first computer on a chip.

First Human Eye Transplant Performed

On April 22, 1969, doctors at Methodist Hospital in Houston performed what was billed as the first human eye transplant on John Madden, 54, owner of a photography studio. The donor eye was taken from a man who had died of a brain tumor and the donor cornea,lens and iris were given to Madden. Although the transplant failed to restore Madden's sight--it has been reported that the donor eye was not preserved enough to keep it viable--the historic procedure was considered a medical miracle.

World's Largest Airplane Takes Flight

On February 9, 1969, the Boeing 747-100, at that time the world's largest airplane, made its first flight. By late December, the Federal Aviation Administration had certified the 747-100 for commercial service, and Pan American Airlines was preparing to accept delivery on the first of the 25 planes it had ordered in April 1966, effectively launching the 747 program.

First In Vitro Fertilization of a Human Ovum

British scientist Robert Edwards and gynecologist Patrick Steptoe teamed up in 1968 to work on in vitro fertilization—the science of fertilizing human eggs in a test tube and then implanting them into a woman's uterus. In February 1969, they published proof that they could fertilize a human ovum in vitro (in a laboratory environment outside the human body). It took a few more years of trial and error, but eventually this breakthrough led to the birth of the world's first "test-tube baby," Louise Joy Brown, on July 25, 1978, and the relief of many childless couples worldwide.

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