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Friday, 26 November, 1999, 13:06 GMT
Science: Story of the century
Hiroshima: The story of the century Hiroshima: The story of the century

By BBC News Online Science Editor Dr David Whitehouse

Scientific breakthroughs dominated the great news events of the 20th Century, according to a poll of journalists.

The top five
1. US drops atom bombs on Japan, 1945
2. Neil Armstrong walks on the moon, 1969
3. Japan bombs Pearl Harbour, 1941
4. The Wrights fly the first powered aeroplane, 1903
5. Women win the vote, 1920
Of the top 100 stories in the survey conducted by the "Newseum", an American Online exhibition of news journalism, 38 are science related.

Top of the list is the dropping of the first nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The development of the atomic bomb itself was rated as the century's 48th most important story.

The Manhattan Project, the project to build the A-bomb, ranked 64th.

Second is the first landing on the Moon in 1969, fourth is 1903's first aircraft flight of Wilbur and Orville Wright. Sputnik is 18th; Lindbergh's 1927 solo Atlantic crossing is 30th, and the development of the jet engine in 1939 comes in at 61.

Man on the Moon Man on the Moon
The list emphasizes just how much our lives have been changed by science and technology since 1900.

Medical advances are well represented, but not quite as prominently as one would have expected. The development of the first antibiotic, Penicillin, is 11th; the birth control pill is 20th; the polio vaccine 21st, and the identification of Aids ranks 25th.

Pure scientific research is high on the list as well.

Einstein's remarkable theories of relativity, dealing with the nature of space, time and gravity, rank as the century's 19th most important story - this is well above quantum theory (78th).

Surprisingly, the world's first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell, Dolly the sheep, is just 79th on the list, some 16 places above the birth of Louise Brown, the world's first "test-tube" baby in 1978.

Personal computers are at 31 followed by the Internet at 32. These are rated as being more important than radio and TV and even the development of plastic. The most recent stories to make the top 100 are Dolly (1997) and the landing of Mars Pathfinder (1997).

Next month the museum will reveal what the public thinks were the top stories of the century.

The Wright brothers take to the air The Wright brothers take to the air



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See also:
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Public distrust of science: who is to blame?
20 Jul 99 |  Sci/Tech
Apollo Moon experiment still working
24 Jun 99 |  Sci/Tech
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