The Eureka Years
The Eureka Years
Exploring spectacular years in the history of science
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.
Eureka Years - 1628 - William Harvey's Theory on the Heart
*****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.
Eureka Years - 1650 - Coffee, Cosmology And The Civil War
***** 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.
Eureka Years - 1665 - Newton's Gravity Theory
*****Then 1665 was the year that brought the plague. At its height, 7000 people were dying in London every week,
and thousands more fled to the countryside, hoping to avoid the deadly disease. When it reached Cambridge the
university was closed down, and one of the students went home and stay with his mum in Lincolnshire. His name was
Isaac Newton, and that time he spent at home, thinking, was the best of his life. He sorted out several mathematical
problems that had baffled other mathematicians. He investigated the colours of the rainbow, invented a reflecting
telescope, and formed a new theory of light. Finally, he claimed he saw an apple fall from a tree, had a deep insight
into gravity, and worked out the laws of motion. But as we discover in the programme, history is rarely so simple.
The apple story simply isn’t true; Newton seems to have invented it 60 years later…
Eureka Years - 1769 - Water Wheel
Eureka Years - 1799 - Napoleon and Gas Lights
*****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!
Eureka Years - 1866 - Charles Darwin's Origin of Species
*****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.
Eureka Years - 1879 - The Light Bulb and Moving Pictures
*****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.
Eureka Years - 1893 - The Internal Combustion Engine
*****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.
Eureka Years - 1901 - Age of Electricity
Eureka Years - 1905 - Einstein's Theory of Relativity
*****Albert Einstein develops a theory of relativity with some help from his shaving mirror and a passing train.
Eureka Years - 1907 - Cause of Scurvy Discovered
Eureka Years - 1923 - Traffic Lights And Frozen Food
*****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.
Eureka Years - 1938 - Nuclear Fission Accomplished
Eureka Years - 1965 - Advances in Military Technology
*****The Cold War saw huge advances in military technology which would later fuel the race
to the moon and early versions of the internet.
Eureka Years - 6th Century BC - Age of Ideas
*****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?