1881 in science
- 22 May – John Tebbutt discover the long-period comet, C/1881 K1 (also known as the Great Comet of 1881, Comet Tebbutt, 1881 III, 1881b).
- October – Charles Darwin publishes his last scientific book The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms.
- L. S. Poliakov describes the wild horse discovered by Nikolai Przhevalsky in Mongolia in 1879 as a new species, Przewalski's Horse (Equus przewalski poliakov).
- The first systematic study in forensic entomology is conducted by physician and entomologist Hermann Reinhard in Germany.
History of science and technology
- The birch bark Bakhshali manuscript, incorporating perhaps the earliest known use of mathematical zero, is unearthed near Bakhshali in British India.
- Publication in England of a pioneering study in industrial archaeology, H. A. Fletcher's "The archaeology of the west Cumberland iron trade".
- July 13 – Dr. George Goodfellow performs the first laparotomy to remove a bullet.
- September 25 – The first modern Caesarean section is performed successfully by German gynecologist Ferdinand Adolf Kehrer in Meckesheim using the transverse incision technique.
- December – Eduard von Hofmann carries out autopsy studies of the nearly 400 victims of the Vienna Ringtheater fire, carbon monoxide poisoning being held an underlying cause of death.
- Louis Pasteur discovers a vaccine for anthrax.
- Carlos Finlay, a Cuban doctor, first proposes that yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitoes rather than direct human contact.
- French obstetrician Étienne Stéphane Tarnier introduces a form of neonatal incubator (couveuse) for routine care of premature infants at the Paris Maternité.
- English ophthalmologist Waren Tay publishes the first description of the genetic disorder which will become known as Tay–Sachs disease.
- approx. date – The non-invasive sphygmomanometer, for the measurement of blood pressure, is invented by Samuel Siegfried Karl von Basch.
- March 1 – The Cunard Line's SS Servia, the first steel transatlantic liner, is launched at J. & G. Thomson's yard at Clydebank in Scotland.
- May 16 – The Gross-Lichterfelde Tramway, the world's first electric tramway, is opened in Berlin by Siemens & Halske.
- June – The positive-buoyancy powered submarine "Fenian Ram" (Holland Boat No. II), designed by John Philip Holland, is first submersion-tested in New York City.
- September 26 – Godalming in England becomes the first town to have its streets illuminated by electric light (hydroelectrically generated).
- October 10 – Richard D'Oyly Carte's Savoy Theatre opens in London, the world's first public building to be fully lit by electricity, using Joseph Swan's incandescent light bulbs. The stage is first lit electrically on December 28.
- Peter Herdic patents the Herdic horse-drawn cab in the United States.
- January 31 – Irving Langmuir (died 1957), American chemist.
- April 28 – Edith A. Roberts (died 1977), American plant ecologist.
- May 1 – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (died 1955), French paleontologist and philosopher.
- August 6 – Alexander Fleming (died 1955), British bacteriologist.
- September 18 – Vera Lebedeva (died 1968), Soviet Russian pediatrician.
- October 11 – Lewis Fry Richardson (died 1953), British mathematical physicist.
- October 22 – Clinton Davisson (died 1958), American physicist.
- November 9 – Margaret Reed Lewis (died 1970), American cell biologist.
- November 13 – Ludwig Koch (died 1974), German Jewish animal sound recordist.
- February 3 – John Gould (born 1804), English zoologist.
- March 26 – Lovisa Åhrberg (born 1801), Swedish surgeon.
- May 14 – Mary Seacole (born 1805), Jamaican-born nurse.
- May 26 – Jakob Bernays (born 1824), German philologist.
- June 23 – Matthias Jakob Schleiden (born 1804), German biologist.
- June 29 – Maurice Raynaud (born 1834), French physician.
- July 27 – Hewett Watson (born 1804), English biologist.
- October 31 – George W. DeLong (born 1844), American Arctic explorer.
- "THE GREAT COMET OF 1881". The South Australian Advertiser ( Adelaide, South Australia). 8 June 1881. letter from C. Todd
- "Przewalski's horse". TAKH. 2009. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
- Hellemans, Alexander; Bunch, Bryan (1988). The Timetables of Science. Simon & Schuster. p. 304. ISBN 0671621300.
- with Friedrich Moritz Brauer (1882). "Beiträge zur Gräberfauna" ["Contributions on the fauna of graves"]. Verh. k. & k. zool.-bot. Ges. Wien 31 pp. 207–210.
- Transactions of the Cumberland & Westmorland Archaeological Society 5:5–21.
- Newcomb, Simon (1881). "Note on the frequency of use of the different digits in natural numbers". American Journal of Mathematics. 4: 39–40. doi:10.2307/2369148. JSTOR 2369148.
- Chaves, Carballo E. (2005). "Carlos Finlay and yellow fever: triumph over adversity". Military Medicine. 170: 881–5. doi:10.7205/milmed.170.10.881. PMID 16435764.
- Dunn, P. M. (2002). "Stéphane Tarnier (1828–1897), the architect of perinatology in France". Archives of Disease in Childhood: Fetal and Neonatal Edition. 86 (2): F137–9. doi:10.1136/fn.86.2.f137. PMC 1721389. PMID 11882561.
- Tay, Waren (1881). "Symmetrical changes in the region of the yellow spot in each eye of an infant". Transactions of the Ophthalmological Society. 1: 55–57.
- Booth, Jeremy (1977). "A short history of blood pressure measurement". Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine. 70 (11): 793–9. PMC 1543468. PMID 341169.
- Williams, Hywel (2005). Cassell's Chronology of World History. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. pp. 434–435. ISBN 0-304-35730-8.
- "The Siemens tram from past to present" (PDF). Siemens. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-25. Retrieved 2011-06-16.
- "Godalming Power Station". Engineering Timelines. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2010-07-06.
- "The Savoy Theatre". The Times. London. 1881-10-03. p. 7.
- Burgess, Michael (January 1975). "Richard D'Oyly Carte". The Savoyard: 7–11.
- "Savoy Theatre". The Times. 1881-12-29. p. 4. Retrieved 2012-01-30.