So, what were your ancestors doing in the 1840s? Despite being a seemingly quiet decade, there was actually quite a lot going on in the world, particularly in the spheres of discoveries and inventions. Many of these things would have had an impact on the daily lives of your ancestors, and at the very least, they almost certainly would have heard about most of these things and noted them, discussed them, or even celebrated them. These are some of the highlights of the 1840s.
The outer planet Neptune was discovered in 1846. It was noticed for the first time by a German astronomer named Johann Gottfried Galle and his partner, Heinrich Louis d’Arrest. The existence and location of Neptune was first predicted by British astronomer John Couch Adams, and the German astronomers verified its existence by observing it in the sky.
Also, one of Saturn’s many moons, Hyperion, was discovered in 1848 by astronomers William Cranch Bond and William Lasseli.
One of the coolest things to come out of the 1840s was the commercial adaptation of the new technology of photography. Permanent photographs had only been invented a few years prior, in the 1830s (previous attempts at photography from the late 1700s produced images that quickly faded). Because photography had been perfected by the 1840s, it was able to be used commercially, with the first photography studios opening. Many people of historical prominence were able to be photographed in their elder years thanks to this. That is why we have photographs today of such well-known historic people as Dolly Madison and John Quincy Adams.
Telecommunications was introduced to the world with the 1844 invention of the telegraph. This was the year the first electrical telegraph signal was sent from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. by Samuel Morse.
Computers (Yes, Really!)
Believe it or not, the world’s first computer program was created in the 1840s, for a machine that no one knew would even exist for another century. In 1843, Ada Lovelace translated and expanded the notes of other scientists on the analytical engine of Charles Babbage. Lovelace’s translation included an algorithm to calculate a sequence of Bernoulli numbers. This translation and algorithm are considered to be the world’s first computer program.
The new transportation technology of the railroad became a popular investment vehicle for financial speculators in the United States and Great Britain. Some companies flopped, but others thrived, and the rails were built. The age of railroads had started in earnest.
Other Important Items of Interest
The large, flightless bird, the Great Auk, became extinct after the last recorded pair of them were killed in Iceland. Anesthesia was discovered and used in surgeries, as well as in childbirth, for the first time. Queen Victoria is a well-known early user of this technology for childbirth. Also, the continent of Antarctica was discovered, in pieces, by different countries, and was eventually confirmed to be a new continent.