Fairyland of Chemistry

On today’s episode we employ a Victorian era trick: using fairies to convey complicated ideas in chemistry. 

Episode 143 | March 16, 2012

Episode 143: Fairyland of Chemistry by Distillations Podcast

In the 19th century science writers created a magical universe where fairies representing the elements danced around, wings flapping, as they joined hands to make hydrochloric acid and other familiar compounds. On today’s episode we tell you why educators began using these descriptions to communicate chemistry to their students. Then we present a podcast play called The Fairyland of Chemistry, in which a young girl and her dear professor discover how “wonder-working fairies” create the world around us.

Show Clock

00:00 Opening Credits
00:35 Introduction
01:11 Fairies and Victorian Science
03:41 Podcast Play: The Fairyland of Chemistry
09:22 Closing Credits


An extended live version of the Fairyland of Chemistry is available on our YouTube channel.

Special thanks to Megan Slater and Gigi Naglak for adapting a segment of Lucy Rider Meyer’s The Fairyland of Chemistry into a radio play and Michal Meyer for researching this show.

Our theme music is composed by Dave Kaufman. Music from the Free Music Archive includes “gentle marimba,” by Alastair Cameron, “Behind The Seas,” by Possimiste, “Maher - Symphony no. 5, I. Truermarsch,” by Jason Weinberger & the WCFSO, “Terzetto in C Major, Op. 74,” by Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, “Varshaver,” by Eastern Watershed Klezmer Quartet, “Klezmer Hora,” by Ardei Iute (Moldavian string band), “Piece de Tarita,” by Eastern Watershed Klezmer Quartet, “March,” by kesson shoujo, and “Sammy's Medley,” by Eastern Watershed Klezmer Quartet.

Image from Real Fairy Folks: Explorations in the World of Atoms, by Lucy Rider Meyer, 1887.