Genius Unrecognised

Episodes

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0101Microscopes20110227

Tony Hill, Director of Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry honours the scientists who revolutionised microscopic technology, electrical power, air navigation, gyroscopic travel and digital sound.

In their day they were dismissed as blue-sky time-wasters but now we recognise their genius.

Antony Van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723)

The story of a 17th century draper and amateur scientist from Holland who was ridiculed by some of London's finest minds when he said he had seen "animalcules" through his home-made microscope.

They laughed at his description of millions of creatures living in water.

In fact he had invented a more powerful microscope than any existing, and the creatures he was seeing were bacteria and protozoa.

Recorded at the Royal Society in London where in 1981 biologist (and broadcaster) Brian J.

Ford discovered Van Leeuwenhoek's original specimens hidden among his papers.

Tony Hill looks at the genesis of five important inventions that were ahead of their time.

Tony Hill, Director of Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry honours the scientists who revolutionised microscopic technology, electrical power, air navigation, gyroscopic travel and digital sound. In their day they were dismissed as blue-sky time-wasters but now we recognise their genius.

The story of a 17th century draper and amateur scientist from Holland who was ridiculed by some of London's finest minds when he said he had seen "animalcules" through his home-made microscope. They laughed at his description of millions of creatures living in water.

Recorded at the Royal Society in London where in 1981 biologist (and broadcaster) Brian J. Ford discovered Van Leeuwenhoek's original specimens hidden among his papers.

0102Electrical Power20110306

Tony Hill, Director of Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry honours the scientists who revolutionised microscopic technology, electrical power, air navigation, gyroscopic travel and digital sound.

In their day they were dismissed as blue-sky time-wasters but now we recognise their genius.

Michael Faraday (1791-1867)

Faraday built his electric motor in 1821 and a decade later invented the induction ring and built a rudimentary generator.

It was 50 years before electric power was practically applied, because nobody would invest in Faraday's inventions.

The story is told that a senior politician was given a demonstration of induction and asked "What good is it ?" Faraday replied "What good is a newborn baby ?"

Recorded at the Royal Institution where Faraday worked and where his inventions are on display.

Tony Hill looks at the genesis of five important inventions that were ahead of their time.

0103Aircraft20110313

Tony Hill, Director of Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry honours the scientists who revolutionised microscopic technology, electrical power, air navigation, gyroscopic travel and digital sound.

In their day they were dismissed as blue-sky time-wasters but now we recognise their genius.

George Cayley (1773-1857)

More than a century before the Wright brothers took off at Kitty Hawk, George Cayley designed a heavier-than-air flying machine.

It incorporated all the essential discoveries that make aeroplanes possible, including separate systems for lift, propulsion and control.

Alas, the internal combustion engine hadn't yet been invented, but Cayley built the first successful glider to carry a human being.

A full-size replica of this aircraft is on display at the Yorkshire Air Museum.

Tony Hill looks at the genesis of five important inventions that were ahead of their time.

0104Gyroscopic Travel20110320

Tony Hill, Director of Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry honours the scientists who revolutionised microscopic technology, electrical power, air navigation, gyroscopic travel and digital sound.

In their day they were dismissed as blue-sky time-wasters but now we recognise their genius.

Louis Brennan (1852-1932)

Louis Brennan earned £100,000 from the War Office by patenting the first steerable torpedo.

But his design for a monorail locomotive, to be kept stable by gyroscopes, was demonstrated in 1909 and promptly ignored.

If Brennan's idea had been adopted, the cost of laying rail-track would have been slashed.

During the early 1920s he designed a helicopter but the Air Ministry couldn't see the point of it and stopped funding its development in 1926.

There's a working scale-model of Brennan's monorail locomotive at the Science Museum.

Tony Hill looks at the genesis of five important inventions that were ahead of their time.

0105 LASTDigital Sound20110327

Tony Hill, Director of Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry honours the scientists who revolutionised microscopic technology, electrical power, air navigation, gyroscopic travel and digital sound.

In their day they were dismissed as blue-sky time-wasters but now we recognise their genius.

Alec Reeves (1902-1971)

Alec Reeves was part of the team of engineers responsible for the first commercial transatlantic telephone link (1927).

In 1938 he patented a system called 'pulse code modulation' to reduce background noise.

It replaced analogue transmission with a digital sequence of pulses based on a sampling rate of 8,000 bits per second.

It was PCM that was to make possible the digital recording and transmission we have today, but Reeves's invention didn't become cost-effective until after the transistor was developed in the 1950s.

During the war, Reeves developed an airborne radio navigation system that made possible highly-accurate bombing.

After the war he was part of the team that invented optical fibre transmission.

Tony Hill looks at the genesis of five important inventions that were ahead of their time.