1861 in science
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- Anton de Bary publishes his first work on fungi, describing sexual reproduction in Peronospora.
- Charles Thorp, Archdeacon of Durham (d. 1862), arranges purchase of some of the Farne Islands off the north-east coast of England and employment of a warden to protect threatened seabird species.
- March 30 – William Crookes announces his discovery of thallium.
- Rubidium is discovered by Robert Bunsen and Gustav Kirchhoff, in Heidelberg, Germany, in the mineral lepidolite through the use of their spectroscope.
- Aleksandr Butlerov is instrumental in creating the theory of chemical structure.
- Josef Loschmidt publishes Chemische Studien, proposing two-dimensional representations for over 300 molecules and recognising variations in atomic size.
- Ernest Solvay develops the Solvay process for the manufacture of soda ash (sodium carbonate).
History of science and technology
- Boulton and Watt rotative beam engine of 1788 from the makers' Soho Foundry in the west midlands of England is acquired for the Museum of Patents, predecessor of the Science Museum, London.
- First volumes of Munk's Roll published.
Medicine and physiology
- Paul Broca identifies the speech production center of the brain.
- Franciscus Donders introduces the term visual acuity.
- Guillaume Duchenne describes Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
- Prosper Ménière reports the association of vertigo with inner ear disorders.
- Ádám Politzer publishes the technique of Politzerization used in otorhinolaryngology.
- Ignaz Semmelweis publishes Etiology, Concept and Prophylaxis of Childbed Fever (Die Ätiologie, der Begriff und die Prophylaxis des Kindbettfiebers), a treatment of his theory on sanitary conditions during childbirth.
- Adolf Zsigmondy develops a dental notation system.
- August 15 – First description of Archaeopteryx, based on a feather found in Bavaria; in September the first complete identified skeleton is found near Langenaltheim in Germany.
- January 1 – First steam-powered carousel recorded, in Bolton, England.
- July 23 – The term 'drive shaft' is used in the description of the mechanism in a patent reissue for the Watkins and Bryson horse-drawn mowing machine.
- William Froude publishes the first results of his research into ship hull design.
- Dr. Richard J. Gatling invents the Gatling gun.
- James Clerk Maxwell demonstrates the principle of permanent three-colour photography.
- German scientist Philipp Reis succeeds in creating a device that captures sound and converts it to electrical impulses which are transmitted via electrical wires to another device that transforms these pulses into recognizable sounds similar to the original acoustical source. Reis coins the term telephone to describe his device, the Reis telephone.
- Michael Faraday's Royal Institution Christmas Lectures published as The Chemical History of a Candle.
- February 12 – Lou Andreas-Salomé, born Luíza von Salomé (died 1937), Russian-born psychoanalyst.
- February 15
- April 24 – Hedda Andersson (died 1950), Swedish physician.
- May 5 – Peter Cooper Hewitt (died 1921), American electrical engineer and inventor.
- May 20 – Henry Gantt (died 1919), American project engineer.
- June 9 – Pierre Duhem (died 1916), French philosopher of science.
- June 20 – Frederick Hopkins (died 1947), British biochemist, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.
- July 7 – Nettie Stevens (died 1912), American geneticist.
- July 18 – Kadambini Ganguly (died 1923), Indian physician.
- July 26 – Ægidius Elling (died 1949), Norwegian gas turbine pioneer.
- August 4 – Henry Head (died 1940), English neurologist.
- August 9 – Dorothea Klumpke (died 1942), American astronomer.
- August 10 – Almroth Wright (died 1947), English bacteriologist and immunologist.
- October 11 – John Bell Hatcher (died 1904), American paleontologist.
- December 17 – Arthur E. Kennelly (died 1939), Irish American electrical engineer.
- January 3 – Arnold Adolph Berthold (born 1803), German physiologist.
- May 16 – John Stevens Henslow (born 1796), English botanist.
- June 13 – Henry Gray (born 1827), English anatomist (smallpox).
- June 18 – Eaton Hodgkinson (born 1789), English structural engineer.
- November 10 – Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (born 1805), French zoologist.
- November 13 – Sir John Forbes (born 1787), Scottish-born royal physician.
- December 10 – Thomas Southwood Smith (born 1788), English physician and sanitary reformer.
- Ferdinand Deppe (born 1794), German naturalist, explorer and painter.
- Kirchhoff, G.; Bunsen, R. (1861). "Chemische Analyse durch Spectralbeobachtungen" (PDF). Annalen der Physik und Chemie. 189 (7): 337–381. Bibcode:1861AnP...189..337K. doi:10.1002/andp.18611890702. hdl:2027/hvd.32044080591324.
- Weeks, Mary Elvira (1932). "The discovery of the elements. XIII. Some spectroscopic discoveries". Journal of Chemical Education. 9 (8): 1413–1434. Bibcode:1932JChEd...9.1413W. doi:10.1021/ed009p1413.
- Kazansky, B.; Bykov, G. V., eds. (1961). Centenary of the Theory of Chemical Structure: collection of papers by A. M. Butlerov. Moscow: Publishing House of the USSR Academy of Sciences.
- Rzepa, Henry S. (2005). "Joseph Loschmidt: Structural formulae, 1861". Archived from the original on 16 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- "Rotative steam engine by Boulton and Watt, 1788". Collection. Science Museum Group. Retrieved 2021-02-28.
- "Guillaume Benjamin Amand Duchenne de Boulogne". WhoNamedIt?. Archived from the original on 2011-05-25. Retrieved 2011-05-27.
- Meyer, Hermann von (1861-08-15). "Vogel-Federn und Palpipes priscus von Solenhofen" [Bird feathers and Palpipes priscus [a crustacean] from Solenhofen]. Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie, Geognosie, Geologie und Petrefaktenkunde (in German): 561.
Aus dem lithographischen Schiefer der Brüche von Solenhofen in Bayern ist mir in den beiden Gegenplatten eine auf der Ablösungs- oder Spaltungs-Fläche des Gesteins liegende Versteinerung mitgetheilt worden, die mit grosser Deutlichkeit eine Feder erkennen lässt, welche von den Vogel-Federn nicht zu unterscheiden ist. (From the lithographic slates of the faults of Solenhofen in Bavaria, there has been reported to me a fossil lying on the stone's surface of detachment or cleavage, in both opposing slabs, which can be recognized with great clarity [to be] a feather, which is indistinguishable from a bird's feather.)
- Natural History Museum, London BMNH 37001. Chiappe, Luis M. (2007). Glorified Dinosaurs. Sydney: UNSW Press. pp. 118–146. ISBN 978-0-471-24723-4.
- "Fairground Rides – A Chronological Development". National Fairground Archive. University of Sheffield. 2007. Archived from the original on 2011-08-11. Retrieved 2011-08-24.
- John DeLancy Watkins and Robert Bryson, Mowing Machines, U.S. Patent Reissue 1,904.
- "On the rolling of ships." Transactions of the Institution of Naval Architects 2 (1861): pp. 180–227; 3 (1862): pp. 45–62.
- Greeley, Horace; Case, Leon (1872). The Great Industries of the United States. Hartford: J.B. Burr & Hyde. p. 944.
- The Hutchinson Factfinder. Helicon. 1999. ISBN 978-1-85986-000-7.
- "Copley Medal | British scientific award". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 23 July 2020.