The Eureka Years

Adam Hart-davis explores spectacular years in the long history of science, when brilliant ideas emerged from the maelstrom of mad, bad and dangerous thinking.

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Episodes

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0101166520041009

Plague is sweeping across England, and a young Isaac Newton retreats to the isolation of Lincolnshire.

Sitting in the family garden he watches an apple fall, and unlocks the secrets of gravity - or does he? Adam explores the truth behind this famous moment in the history of science, and discovers that Newton wrote his own account over forty years after the supposed event.

0102190720041016

In this year Ernest Shackleton led the first British Antarctic expedition to be free of scurvy, the curse of seafarers for centuries.

But the cause of scurvy, Vitamin C deficiency, was discovered by two scientists in Norway some months after Shackleton's departure for the pole.

So how did Shackleton do it?

0103176920041023

In Derbyshire, Richard Arkwright's water-driven spinning frame heralded the beginnings of the factory system, and a hissing, clanking monster of a steam engine offered power never seen before in the Wiltshire countryside.

So how were these two industrial breakthroughs connected with a robot that could apparently play chess?

0104 LAST193820041030

In a year that gave the world nuclear fission, nylon and LSD, how did the shadow of war shape their development?

020117992006011420060822

A young Humphrey Davy wanders the streets of Bristol breathing laughing gas from a green silk bag, getting mildly hysterical, and encouraging his literary friends to do likewise.

Meanwhile the gas lamp revolutionizes the length of the working day, Alessandro Volta invents his battery, income tax is introduced in Britain, and the Rosetta Stone is discovered in Egypt, inscribed with information - on how to pay your taxes!.

020219012006012120060823

Tarmac, the electrocardiogram, and the Texas oil industry all made a splash in 1901, as did the first Royal Navy submarine, built with every secrecy at Barrow and launched 'as an experiment' without ceremony on October 2.

But why did the navy consider the submarine an un-British way to wage war, and how did the sanitary arrangements threaten to undermine the superiority of the officer class?

0203 LAST550bc2006012820060824

Did Pythagoras really come up with the mathematical theorem that carries his name? How did Thales, the first of the philosophers, demonstrate the worth of science and learning with a little help from some olives? And how do you prove that air isn't nothing?

0301196520070829

The Cold War saw huge advances in military technology which would later fuel the race to the moon and early versions of the internet.

03021866 *2007090520090519

Charles Darwin is an international celebrity following the publication of On the Origin of Species.

Growing peas in a monastic garden a thousand miles away, however, Austrian priest Gregor Mendel holds the key to the process of heredity, the missing link in Darwin's theory.

Adam Hart-davis explores spectacular years in the history of science.

Charles Darwin is an international celebrity, but Gregor Mendel holds the key to heredity.

0303162820070912

Royal Physician William Harvey demonstrates that the heart is just a pump and that blood circulates around the body.

He is quickly ridiculed by the traditionalists.

0304 LAST19052007091920090602

Adam Hart-davis explores spectacular years in the history of science.

Albert Einstein develops a theory of relativity with some help from his shaving mirror and a passing train.

04011650 - Coffee, Cosmology And The Civil War2008071120091118

Adam Hart-davis explores spectacular years in the history of science.

The first coffeehouse opens in Oxford and signals the beginning of a new age of reason.

A coffee-powered network of scientists, theologians, politicians and traders swap ideas and information over a steaming dish of coffee, and the true nature of gravity is revealed after a coffeehouse argument.

The country is still reeling after the execution of King Charles I as a small coffee-house opens in Oxford, the first on English soil.

In the years that follow, coffee will become the preferred drink of businessmen, scientists and politicians, and fuel the discoveries of the new Age of Reason.

04021923 - Traffic Lights And Frozen Food *2008071820090609

Clarence Birdseye's observation that the Inuit could freeze the fish they caught and keep it fresh led to an invention which transformed both diets and economies across the world.

Garrett A Morgan came up with an idea which would stop traffic.

Adam Hart-davis explores spectacular years in the history of science.

Key inventions from 1923 include a crucial part of a TV set, a packet of frozen peas, a device for separating molecules and the story of the man who made us all stop for a moment of peace at traffic lights.

The story of the man who made us all stop for a moment of peace at traffic lights.

04031893 - The Internal Combustion Engine2008072520091125

Henry Ford builds his first car, Karl Benz constructs his first four-wheeler and Gottlieb Daimler succeeds in putting his new engines in horseless carriages.

The internal combustion engine, hailed as the answer to London's pollution problem, is born.

Adam Hart-davis explores spectacular years in the history of science.

The internal combustion engine, hailed as the answer to pollution in London, is born.

0404 LAST1879 - The Light Bulb And Moving Pictures. * *2008080120090526

Adam Hart-davis explores spectacular years in the history of science.

The light bulb and the first moving pictures appeared, and a scientist did a great service to dieters when he forgot to wash his hands before eating his sandwiches.

The light bulb and the first moving pictures appeared.

04XMAS2008122620091230

Adam Hart-davis explores the history of the technology of Christmas, with balloons, stars and a stockingful of toys.

He travels to the town of Lauscha in Germany, where glass baubles are still blown by hand, a tradition which goes back to the mid 1830s.

Adam finds a dizzying description of the first Christmas tree lit by electric light bulbs, looks at X-rays of teddy bear skeletons and pulls a cracker in the name of scientific investigation.

He travels to the town of Lauscha in Germany, where glass baubles are still blown by hand, a tradition that goes back to the mid-1830s.

Adam Hart-Davis explores the history of the technology of Christmas.