Distillations magazine

Unexpected Stories from Science’s Past

Inventions & Discoveries

The tools and technology that help us understand and change the world

Hand drawn histology illustration of nerve cells
Inventions & Discoveries

A Cold Day in Stockholm

At the dawn of a new age in neuroscience, the rivalry between Camillo Golgi and Santiago Ramón y Cajal reached an icy climax.
Magazine cover showing a man wearing a translucent illustration of a gas mask with the features of his face visible beneath
Inventions & Discoveries

Like Monstrosities from Another World

The gas mask’s grip on our collective consciousness.

3-D color diagram of human chest interior
Inventions & Discoveries

A Fix for the Unfixable: Making the First Heart-Lung Machine

Seventy years ago, a group of Philadelphia scientists and a brave 18-year-old pushed surgery to its final frontier.

Inventions & Discoveries

Magnesium, from the Sea to the Stars

Dow’s gamble on magnesium helped push the boundaries of human exploration and launched an ocean of consumer products.

Inventions & Discoveries

Greenbacks, Chits, and Scrip

Alternative currencies flourish in desperate times and situations.


The Simple Usefulness of the Secchi Disk

A centuries-old sailor’s hack enters the ecologist’s toolkit.

Inventions & Discoveries

Matthew Carey Lea and the Origins of Mechanochemistry

A reclusive expert of 19th-century photography laid the foundation for green chemistry solutions emerging today.

Inventions & Discoveries

Darwin’s Barnacles

How an obsession with crustaceans guided the naturalist toward his most consequential insights.

Inventions & Discoveries

Charles Anderson Chases an Eclipse

A lucky streak sends a meteorologist on the flight of a lifetime.

Inventions & Discoveries

Bob Gore’s Cozy Revolution

Gore-Tex changed the way Americans went outside.

print of a Goya etchingq
Inventions & Discoveries

How the Elements Got Their Names

Wicked creatures and a defiant chemist make their mark on the periodic table.

Inventions & Discoveries

The Undying Appeal of Nikola Tesla’s “Death Ray”

Despite a lack of evidence, many have been captivated by the electrical whiz’s most mysterious project.

Inventions & Discoveries

Reginald Fessenden and the Invention of Sonar

How a radio pioneer transformed life at sea.

Inventions & Discoveries

The Rise and Fall of Polywater

What happens when an earth-shattering discovery runs up against the scientifically impossible?

Color photograph of a mushroom cloud
Inventions & Discoveries

Element Hunting in a Nuclear Storm

A fighter pilot’s tragic flight into a nuclear explosion leads to the discovery of two elements.

Inventions & Discoveries

How RCA Fell Flat on Flat-Screen TVs

In the 1960s RCA created the world’s first liquid-crystal displays. How did the company fail to cash in on one of the modern world’s most ubiquitous technologies?

Inventions & Discoveries

Marie Curie, Marie Meloney, and the Significance of a Gram of Radium

In the 1920s a pioneering journalist summoned the might of American women to revive a Nobelist’s career.

Inventions & Discoveries

The Death of Anton Chekhov, Told in Proteins

New forensics techniques are allowing researchers to solve historical mysteries based on the small traces we leave on everyday objects.