Category Archives: History

Emily Warren Roebling and the Brooklyn Bridge


To this day, the Brooklyn Bridge remains a monumental civil engineering feat. Connecting the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn and extending across the East River, the bridge is a New York City icon. When finally finished in 1883, it was the first steel-wire suspension bridge ever constructed. It is said that today over 125,000 motor vehicles cross the 130 year […]

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What Killed Mozart?


Karly N. asks: What did Mozart die from? In 35 short years, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart produced over 600 works for symphony, concert, chamber, opera and choir, including Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute and The Marriage of Figaro (and some less than family friendly works that few speak of today) before suddenly dying in 1791. Despite 200 years and countless theories, […]

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The Invention of Morphine


Justin V. asks: Who invented morphine? Derived from opium but far more reliable and powerful, the invention of morphine changed pharmacology and pain relief. A (Very) Short History of Opium  Derived from the seedpods of the poppy, Papaver somniferum (opium) has been used since early civilizations first cultivated it from a wild strain, Papaver setigerum. A 6,000 year old Sumerian […]

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That Time About Two-Thirds of China’s Population, and then a Decade Later About Half of Europe’s, Up and Died


Pandemics have been the bane of humanity throughout history. Although the past few centuries have witnessed numerous epidemics, and even a handful of pandemics, none compare to the Black Death of the 14th century in terms of percentage of the Earth’s human population killed in a very brief period of time. The Bubonic Plague Caused by the bacteria, Yersinia Pestis, […]

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A Brief History of the Ballpoint Pen and Whether NASA Really Spent Millions Developing a Pressurized Version Instead of Just Using Pencils


Kyle S. asks: There’s a story circulating around that NASA found out pens didn’t work in space, but still needed a writing device that would work there, so they spent millions of tax payer dollars developing a ball point pen that could be used in space. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, just used pencils. Is this true? Thanks! […]

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The Bum Brigade


On October 29, 1929, on what would become known as “Black Tuesday,” the stock market crashed. In one terrible day, the market lost fourteen billion dollars (about $188B today), signaling the beginning of the (roughly) ten-year-long Great Depression, with most of the last vestiges of the downturn only ceasing around 1939 due to the onset of World War II. Just […]

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