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Science: The Stapp

2 minute read

Aviation medicine has long felt the need for a new unit to express the force of one G (the acceleration of gravity) acting on a body for one second. At Holloman Air Development Center, New Mexico, where men are exposed to Gs for experimental purposes, the experimenters got in the habit of calling the needed unit a “jerk” or “jolt.” A man who had taken four Gs for 20 seconds, for instance, was said to have taken 80 jolts.

The name was handy, but some men felt that they were neglecting a fine opportunity to honor Lieut. Colonel John Paul Stapp (TIME. Jan. 10), the flight-surgeon rider on Holloman’s terrifying rocket sled, who has probably taken more jolts than any other man. Now a new name for the new unit—the “stapp”—is well established. Colonel Stapp has joined the select company of men, e.g., Watt, Volta, Ampere,* whose names have been given to a physical unit of measurement.

*French Physicist André Marie Ampére (1775-1836) worked out many of the laws of electromagnetism; Italian Physicist Alessandro Volta (1745-1827) is famous chiefly for inventing the “Voltaic pile,” a primitive electric battery; Scottish Engineer James Watt (1736-1819) had little to do with electricity, but he designed the effective steam engine that would generate electricity when generators were invented.

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