50 Years Ago

  1. administering a polio vaccine
    Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, polio was still circulating in the United States

    The world has never been closer to eradicating polio, but the disease could come roaring back where vaccination is spotty.

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  2. gecko underside
    Life

    50 years ago, scientists thought they knew why geckos had sticky feet

    50 years ago, scientists thought gecko feet had suction cups that allowed the animals to stick to surfaces. Today we know tiny hairs do the job.

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  3. bubble chamber
    Physics

    50 years ago, Fermilab turned to bubbles

    The National Accelerator Laboratory, now called Fermilab, used to have a bubble chamber to study particles. Today, most bubble chambers have gone flat.

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  4. thalidomide
    Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, a drug that crippled a generation found new life as a leprosy treatment

    In 1969, a drug that crippled a generation found new life as a treatment for leprosy.

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  5. two photos of fetal lambs in artificial wombs
    Tech

    50 years ago, lambs survived but didn’t thrive inside artificial wombs

    Artificial wombs to support preemie babies are closer to reality.

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  6. bulletproof vest
    Materials Science

    50 years ago, bulletproof armor was getting light enough to wear

    In 1969, bulletproof armor used boron carbide fibers. Fifty years later, bulletproof armor is drastically lighter and made from myriad materials.

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  7. solar satellite
    Astronomy

    50 years ago, scientists wanted to build solar panels on the moon

    In 1969, scientists proposed building solar panels on the moon to convert the sun’s energy into electricity that can be used on Earth.

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  8. eye profile
    Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, scientists tried to transplant part of a human eye

    In 1969, a doctor tried and failed to restore a 54-year-old man’s vision. Fifty years later, scientists are still struggling to make eye transplants work.

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  9. periodic table illustration
    Chemistry

    50 years ago, scientists fought over element 104’s discovery

    A conflict known as the Transfermium Wars marked a contentious struggle over the search for new elements beginning in the 1960s.

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  10. virus replication
    Life

    50 years ago, scientists were unlocking the secrets of bacteria-infecting viruses

    In 1969, a bacteria-infecting virus held promise for unlocking the secrets of viral replication. Fifty years later, the virus is a versatile tool for scientists.

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  11. doctor
    Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, drug abuse was higher among physicians than the public

    In 1969, physicians abused drugs at a higher rate than the general public — that’s still true today.

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  12. doctor carrying donor organ
    Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, doctors lamented a dearth of organ donors

    Fifty years ago, surgeons’ supply of heart donations was woefully low.

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