Throughout the 1920s the Harley-Davidson Big Twin was a direct descent from the original “Model One” of 1905 and the successor 1911 V-twin model.
Then in 1930 Bill Harley introduced the first full makeover of these earlier designs with the 74 cubic inch side-valve VL model.
While an improvement over previous Big Twins, the VL didn’t fully satisfy Chief Engineer Harley. By the 1930s, the rapidly improving highway system, higher octane gasoline, and riders’ expectations were all racing ahead of what the desperately under-oiled and over-heated VL side-valve engine could deliver.
In this scenario and within the larger drama of the Great Depression Bill Harley brought forth the finest achievement of his career: the 1936 Model EL — or “61 OHV” — more commonly known today as the Knucklehead.
Of the many motorcycle engineers America had seen by the 1930s, Bill Harley’s (Pictured above) experience ran the deepest and was most sustained.
The engineering department at Harley-Davidson was his world and separated from other parts of the factory by a locked door. Even if you got through that you still had to pass under the watchful gaze of Mr. Harley’s personal secretary, Joe Geiger, who was in charge of all drawings and records and who scrutinized anyone requesting entry into this inner sanctum of American motorcycle design.
The drafting room was connected to Mr. Harley’s office and he could observe it through a large plate glass window. His office — filled with experimental parts and drawings — was likened to “a mother’s bedroom overlooking the nursery of her children.”
This was where Mr. Harley felt most content and at home in the plant. This is where he communicated with his team of engineers and draftsmen and where he appointed tasks, suggested changes, approved work, and put his own hand to the drawing board.
During the Knucklehead’s developmental stage Bill Harley was also a frequent visitor to the experimental department where he consulted with foreman Ed Kieckbusch and observed this masterpiece of design come into being with more attention and care lavished upon it than any other motorcycle in the history of the Harley-Davidson Motor Co.
On the 1936 EL model or 61 OHV Bill Harley invested the cumulative experience of a lifetime in an outstanding and even radical design. Not that he didn’t have plenty of help because by the 1930s the engineering and experimental departments included plenty of talented guys who had grown up with the motorcycle just like Bill Harley and the Davidsons had done.
But it was Mr. Harley who called the shots on the Knucklehead project and approved everything on it. Almost certainly it would not have developed like it did without him.
The extent of William S. Harley’s contributions to the 1936 EL can be seen in the three patents covering the model and that were issued in his name and assigned to the Harley-Davidson Motor Co.
These include: “Instrument Mounting” (2,091,682), “Oil Tank and Battery Assembly” (2,109,316), and recirculating “Lubrication System” (2,111,242).
These patents show the extent of Bill Harley’s creative thinking and prove that the “Sixty-One” was his baby along with its bored and stroked 74 OHV big brother that was introduced in 1941, just two years before his passing.
The Harley Legacy
From the Knucklehead’s first unveiling in late 1935, a new era in American motorcycling was born.
This, the age of performance, is still with us. With easy breathing overhead valves, a generous reliable lubrication system, and a look unmatched in mechanical beauty anywhere, the American rider discovered a motorcycle in the 61 EL Knucklehead that could go a thousand miles in a day provided the rider did his part.
In 1937, Joe Petrali’s Daytona Beach speed record and Fred Ham’s 24 hour endurance record both accomplished on 61 OHVs nailed down this reputation for performance and durability for all time.
The 61 OHV was the last completely new motorcycle designed by and under the auspices of William S. Harley and built by the original four founders of the Harley-Davidson Motor Co.
This model would be successful beyond their wildest dreams and in a stunning parallel the 1936 Knucklehead equalled and perhaps surpassed the importance of Bill Harley’s original 1905 Model One.
Research by a University of Southampton professor has revealed the story of the medieval plumbers who maintained a complex water supply system, which was centuries ahead of its time.
A unique network of subterranean tunnels, partly dating back to the 14th century, still lies beneath the streets of Exeter, Devon.
These once channeled fresh drinking-water from springs outside the town-walls to public fountains at the heart of the city.
Professor Mark Stoyle is a historian at the University of Southampton who this week publishes the first comprehensive history of the tunnels. He says: “People from all social backgrounds relied on the system to provide their drinking water, so it was vital to keep it running smoothly.
The city retained a plumber to carry out regular maintenance and he, in turn, hired in a team of workers to help with specific jobs.”
Originally, the water was carried in lead pipes buried underground, but they regularly sprang leaks and had to be dug up, so local people came up with a novel idea, building a labyrinth of stone-lined, vaulted tunnels to house the pipes.
These tunnels — now known as ‘the underground passages’ — allowed quick, direct access below ground for the plumbers to carry out repairs..
Professor Stoyle says: “The tunnels gave maintenance access to the pipes which was way ahead of its time — providing the kind of opportunity to quickly mend a fault that modern utility companies can only dream of. Imagine if today there was no more digging up the roads to mend a water main!
“Even so, conditions for the plumbers were often very difficult — they were working by candlelight and creeping along the passages in extremely cramped conditions as they tried to find and repair the leaks.”
Professor Stoyle has examined hundreds of original documents relating to the plumbers’ activities, including accounts detailing payments for supplies like lead, candles and lanterns.
He has also discovered a mass of evidence about the individual craftsmen who worked to keep the city fountains flowing.
Ada Byron was the daughter of a brief marriage between the Romantic poet Lord Byron and Anne Isabelle Milbanke, who separated from Byron just a month after Ada was born.
Four months later, Byron left England forever. Ada never met her father (who died in Greece in 1823) and was raised by her mother, Lady Byron.
Her life was an apotheosis of struggle between emotion and reason, subjectivism and objectivism, poetics and mathematics, ill health and bursts of energy.
Lady Byron wished her daughter to be unlike her poetical father, and she saw to it that Ada received tutoring in mathematics and music, as disciplines to counter dangerous poetic tendencies. But Ada’s complex inheritance became apparent as early as 1828, when she produced the design for a flying machine.
It was mathematics that gave her life its wings. Lady Byron and Ada moved in an elite London society, one in which gentlemen not members of the clergy or occupied with politics or the affairs of a regiment were quite likely to spend their time and fortunes pursuing botany, geology, or astronomy.
In the early nineteenth century there were no “professional” scientists (indeed, the word “scientist” was only coined by William Whewell in 1836)–but the participation of noblewomen in intellectual pursuits was not widely encouraged.
One of the gentlemanly scientists of the era was to become Ada’s lifelong friend. Charles Babbage, (pictured above) Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge, was known as the inventor of the Difference Engine, an elaborate calculating machine that operated by the method of finite differences.
Ada met Babbage in 1833, when she was just 17, and they began a voluminous correspondence on the topics of mathematics, logic, and ultimately all subjects.
In 1835, Ada married William King, ten years her senior, and when King inherited a noble title in 1838, they became the Earl and Countess of Lovelace. Ada had three children. The family and its fortunes were very much directed by Lady Byron, whose domineering was rarely opposed by King.
Babbage had made plans in 1834 for a new kind of calculating machine (although the Difference Engine was not finished), an Analytical Engine. His Parliamentary sponsors refused to support a second machine with the first unfinished, but Babbage found sympathy for his new project abroad.
In 1842, an Italian mathematician, Louis Menebrea, published a memoir in French on the subject of the Analytical Engine (pictured above). Babbage enlisted Ada as translator for the memoir, and during a nine-month period in 1842-43, she worked feverishly on the article and a set of Notes she appended to it.
These are the source of her enduring fame. Ada called herself “an Analyst (and Metaphysician),” and the combination was put to use in the Notes. She understood the plans for the device as well as Babbage but was better at articulating its promise. She rightly saw it as what we would call a general-purpose computer.
It was suited for “developing and tabulating any function whatever. . . the engine [is] the material expression of any indefinite function of any degree of generality and complexity.” Her Notes anticipate future developments, including computer-generated music.
Ada died of cancer in 1852, at the age of 37, and was buried beside the father she never knew.
Her contributions to science were resurrected only recently, but many new biographies* attest to the fascination of Babbage’s “Enchantress of Numbers.”
On 3rd April, 1867, William Bullock, an American inventor – whose 1863 invention of the web rotary printing press helped revolutionize the newspaper printing industry due to its great speed and efficiency – was making adjustments to one of his new presses.
Bullock tried to kick an unguarded drive belt onto a pulley.
However, his leg was crushed when it became caught in the machine.
After a few days, Bullock developed gangrene in his leg.
On 12th April, 1867, Bullock the Inventor died in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during an operation to amputate his gangrenous leg.
He joined a select company of individuals who have been killed by their own inventions.
He stood just four feet tall, his body contorted by a hump in his back and a crooked gait, and his stunted torso gave the illusion that his head, hands and feet were too big. But he was a giant among scientific thinkers, counting Albert Einstein, Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison as friends, and his contributions to mathematics and electrical engineering made him one of the most beloved and instantly recognizable men of his time.
Steinmetz and his contemporaries (Tesla, Einstein and others) at the Marconi wireless station in New Jersey. Image courtesy of Wikicommons
In the early 20th century, Charles Steinmetz could be seen pedalling his bicycle down the streets of Schenectady, New York, in a suit and top hat, or floating down the Mohawk River in a canoe, kneeling over a makeshift desktop, where he passed hours scribbling notes and equations on papers that sometimes blew into the water.
With a Blackstone panatela cigar seemingly glued to his lips, Steinmetz cringed as children scurried away upon seeing him—frightened, he believed, by the “queer, gnome-like figure” with the German accent.
Such occurrences were all the more painful for Steinmetz, as it was a family and children that he longed for most in his life. But knowing that his deformity was congenital (both his father and grandfather were afflicted with kyphosis, an abnormal curvature of the upper spine), Steinmetz chose not to marry, fearful of passing on his deformity.
Born in 1865 in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland), Carl August Rudolph Steinmetz became a brilliant student of mathematics and chemistry at the University of Breslau, but he was forced to flee the country after the authorities became interested in his involvement with the Socialist Party.
He arrived at Ellis Island in 1888 and was nearly turned away because he was a dwarf, but an American friend whom Steinmetz was traveling with convinced immigration officials that the young German Ph.D. was a genius whose presence would someday benefit all of America.
In just a few years, Steinmetz would prove his American friend right.
Soon after his arrival, he went to work for Eickemeyer and Osterheld, a company in Yonkers, New York, and he identified and explained, through a mathematical equation that later became known as the Law of Hysterisis, or Steinmetz’s Law, phenomena governing power losses, leading to breakthroughs in both alternating- and direct-current electrical systems.
America was entering a golden age of electrical engineering, and when Thomas Edison and General Electric learned what Steinmetz was doing with electric motors in Yonkers, the company bought out Eickemeyer and Osterheld in 1892, acquiring all of Steinmetz’s patents as well as his services.