Please note: the Science History Institute Museum will close at 4pm on Friday, September 22 and reopen at 5pm for Vibrant, Dazzling, BOLD: An Opening Celebration.

Distillations magazine

Unexpected Stories from Science’s Past

Inventions & Discoveries

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

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.

preserved body with head on mat of peat moss
Inventions & Discoveries

Bodies in the Bog: The Lindow Mysteries

In the 1980s workers in an English peat bog started unearthing bodies, the apparent victims of violence.