1921 in science
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- Winkel tripel projection proposed.
- Étienne Biéler and James Chadwick publish a key paper on the strong interaction.
- Thomas Midgley discovers the effective anti-knocking properties of tetraethyllead, which is used in "leaded" gasoline (petrol).
- Danish explorer Lauge Koch first sets foot on and names Kaffeklubben Island, the northernmost point of land on Earth.
- John Maynard Keynes publishes A Treatise on Probability.
- Marston Morse applies the Thue–Morse sequence to differential geometry.
- Emmy Noether publishes Idealtheorie in Ringbereichen, developing ideal ring theory, an important text in the field of abstract algebra.
- First publication of Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, as "Logisch-Philosophische Abhandlung" in Annalen der Naturphilosophie.
- July 18 – The first BCG vaccination against tuberculosis.
- July 27 – Researchers at the University of Toronto led by biochemist Frederick Banting announce the discovery of the hormone insulin.
- American biochemist Elmer McCollum identifies the presence of a component in cod liver oil which cures rickets, which he calls vitamin D.
- Fidel Pagés pioneers epidural anesthesia.
- July – Wolfgang Pauli is awarded his Doctor of Philosophy at Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich for his thesis Über das Modell des Wasserstoff-Molekülions ("About the Hydrogen Molecular Ion Model").
- T. Kaluza demonstrates that a five-dimensional version of Albert Einstein's equations unifies gravitation and electromagnetism.
- Hermann Rorschach publishes Psychodiagnostik, proposing the inkblot test.
- Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault publishes Les Psychoses passionelles, a comprehensive review of erotomania.
- October 20 – Charles Strite is granted a patent for the pop-up electric bread toaster.
- October 25 – Hugo A. F. Abt is granted a patent for his design of bascule bridge.
- The vibraphone in its original form is invented in the United States.
- Journalist E. W. Scripps and biologist William Emerson Ritter found Science Service, later renamed Society for Science and the Public, in the United States with the goal of keeping the public informed of scientific developments.
- Nobel Prize
- January 18 – Yoichiro Nambu (died 2015), Japanese-American nuclear physicist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics.
- March 11 – Léopold Reichling (died 2009), Luxembourg biologist and naturalist.
- April 21 – John R. Huizenga (died 2014), American nuclear physicist.
- April 30 – Ralph A. Lewin (died 2008), Anglo-American biologist, "the father of green algae genetics".
- May 18 – Olgierd Zienkiewicz (died 2009), British civil engineer.
- June 1 – Giuliana Tesoro (died 2002), Italian-American organic chemist.
- June 9 – Forrest Bird (died 2015), American biomedical engineer.
- June 14 – George Rédei (died 2008), Hungarian biologist.
- June 15 – Gavriil Ilizarov (died 1992), Polish-born orthopedic surgeon.
- June 26 – Anne Beloff-Chain (died 1991), British biochemist.
- July 4 – Aron Arthur Moscona (died 2009), American developmental biologist.
- July 18 – John Glenn (died 2016), American astronaut.
- August 16 – Rudolf Trümpy (died 2009), Swiss geologist.
- October 5 – Mahlon Hoagland (died 2009), American biochemist, discoverer of transfer RNA (tRNA).
- October 18 – Beatrice Helen Worsley (died 1972), Mexican-born Canadian computer scientist.
- October 21 – Victor A. McKusick (died 2008), American "father of genetic medicine".
- December 2 – Isabella Karle, American physical chemist.
- March 29 – John Burroughs (born 1837), American naturalist.
- October 23 – John Boyd Dunlop (born 1840), British inventor.
- December 12 – Henrietta Swan Leavitt (born 1868), American astronomer.
- "The Collisions of Particles with Hydrogen Nuclei" (PDF). Philosophical Magazine. 42 (252): 923–940. 1921.
- Crilly, Tony (2007). 50 Mathematical Ideas You Really Need to Know. London: Quercus. p. 57. ISBN 978-1-84724-008-8.
- Weyl, Hermann (1935). "Emmy Noether". Scripta Mathematica. 3: 201–220.
- Carere, Suzanne (2007-07-25). "Age-old children's disease back in force". thestar.com. Toronto. Archived from the original on 2008-05-17. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
- Conis, Elena (2006-07-24). "Fortified foods took out rickets". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
- McClean, Franklin C.; Budy, Ann M. (1963). "Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Cartilage, Bones, and Teeth". In Harris, Robert S. Vitamins and Hormones. 21. New York; London: Academic Press. pp. 51–52.
- United States Patent #1,394,450.
- United States Patent #1,394,519.