Scientists have incredibly advanced tools to look at the stars today, but in the era before light pollution, star-gazing was much easier and simpler for the average person—just step outside at night. Pretty early on, and in a variety of cultures, people realized that they could chart the stars and their movements for…
Fake health news can feel like an epidemic these days, but it was also rampant during the Victorian era, when bodily ailments were often a matter of life-or death. But unlike the questionable remedies you may be familiar with—vaginal steaming for your cramps, or a float tank to chill your anxiety out?—some of the…
University archives are treasure troves of historic information, but it’s not every day they produce scientific discoveries. But now, a 1917 astronomical glass plate from the Cargenie Observatory’s collection is offering the oldest evidence for a planet orbiting another star—besting the first confirmed exoplanet…
More than a thousand years before the first telescopes, Babylonian astronomers tracked the motion of planets across the night sky using simple arithmetic. But a newly translated text reveals that these ancient stargazers also used a far more advanced method, one that foreshadows the development of calculus over a…
A new study shows we’re still suckers for canny packaging of cigarette brands, especially those claiming to be slightly less bad for us than the usual variety.
In 1955, the Soviet Union tested a bomb designated RDS-37 at a missile testing site in northeast Kazakhstan. The bomb’s power had been scaled down for the test, but a relatively rare weather phenomenon gave it an unexpected, and destructive, increase in power.
Worthless natural remedies, especially when they come from “exotic” locations, have always been popular. They’ve also always been big business. Here’s one of the earliest struggles on record—when the richest man in Europe went after a medieval doctor.
When the flash on a camera goes off, we know something has made a visual record of the world. The Victorians noticed this and thought that lightning might work like a giant camera.
For centuries people with maladies of any kind could look forward to a good dose of mercury, as the medical establishment had pretty much concluded that shiny things were good for people. This shipwreck made them think again.
Alice Hamilton was one of those people who used science to shape morality. Basic concepts like sanitation, worker safety, and proper chemical disposal exist because she proved there was no other choice. She was also one of the first to speak out about the growing threat of Nazi Germany.
Today ultraviolet lamps are used during lackluster raves. But they have an impressive history: They were first regularly used during World War I to secretly monitor spies.
The latest Google Doodle celebrates Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 141st birthday with scenes from the life of her most famous creation, Anne of Green Gables. One shows Anne Shirley taste a cake and promptly turn green. Given the chemistry of the time, that may be more sinister than we imagine.
Few people have heard of Eliza Fenning today, but in 1815 she was the most famous wronged woman in England. Executed for a crime on flimsy evidence, she inspired a new age of scientific inquiry—and a character in Frankenstein.
The sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912 shocked the world and inspired countless movies. But there was one scientist who was inspired to come up with something no modern ship would be without: sonar.
Antoine Lavoisier is deservedly considered one of the great chemists in history. We might not know of his experiments if it weren’t for his wife. She became a remarkable, if unconventional, chemist herself and had one of the weirder lives in history.
Heinrich Wilhelm Dove was a meteorologist who made great contributions to his field. He wrote over 300 papers, and helped launch the science of global climate study. But today, it’s parapsychologists who bring his work up the most.
In 1721, the first known inoculation in America took place. It was conducted with the enthusiastic support of a man whose previous passion included finding, interrogating, and —if need be — hanging witches. And the backlash from the Salem Witch Trials made it difficult to convince people that inoculation worked.
The victim was a seamstress, found dead in a bean patch, strangled by her own scarf. The suspect was a local creep who insisted he had nothing to do with the crime and was far away when it occurred. How did one detective prove what really happened? With dirt.
Blood donation in the 1800s was not an easy process. Often doctors had to use whatever they had to hand during house calls — and what they had on hand, usually, was an egg-beater. Here’s how it was used.
Here’s a hint: It’s not the clock. There’s a time-keeping device in this picture that’s incredibly simple (and quite famous) but wasn’t invented until 1829.