History of Science Quiz: 1950-2009

About the quiz

My father, a geologist (mesozoic palynology if you care), was born on 11 February 1950. In preparation for his 60th birthday party to be held on 20 February 2010, I was asked to compile a trivia quiz about the history of science within his lifetime. This was to consist of a list of events, for which teams would be challenged to name the years in which they occurred. Further details would be agreed upon as it evolved.

With the aid of various online (& some offline) resources, plus nominations from several helpful people, I selected one science-related event for every year from 1950 to 2009. Events ranged from important scientific milestones to obscure discoveries that are just fun to know about. I did all I could to avoid errors of fact, but of course, despite my best efforts, there may be some.

From these sixty events, I created six question sheets of ten events each. I did my best to ensure that each sheet represented a variety of scientific fields as well as questions of various difficulties. True equality was an impossible goal, but the quiz was never about competition so much as about generating conversation at the party, so it didn't really matter if some question sheets were a little harder than others. Each sheet contained a list of events on the left and a list of years on the right, challenging guests to match each event with the corresponding year.

Guests at the party were seated at twelve tables (constituting teams) to which two copies of each question sheet were randomly allocated. Each team worked on their question sheet over a meal, after which I handed out the answers, and they marked themselves. Not all teams attempted the quiz, and at least one cheated by looking up Wikipedia on a mobile device, but in between they managed a variety of scores. (I think the best was 6/10 on question sheet 5.)

The online version

This web page contains a php-powered version of the quiz so that people around the world can join in the fun. The question sheets will be presented in a random order, and you can complete as many or as few of them as you wish to.

Remember that no two questions have the same answer, and use intelligent guesswork to maximise your score.

Your results are private unless you decide to share them, but you're welcome to share any details about how you went (or other relevant thoughts) by posting a comment on this blog post. Private correspondence can be sent to goldhoarder@internode.on.net.

Start the quiz now.

Below: Scene from the party, showing guests in the process of sitting down before the meal.