History as taught in schools is mostly about wars and rich white guys who hired lawyers to clean up their reputations. The history of energy and technical innovation is no different. So join us in a discussion about what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to the legacy of dead white scientists.

When the biomass hits the wind turbine book

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The unvarnished past, present and future of energy, from 1492 to today.

Learn how early innovations in energy came largely due to man’s pursuit of beer. How Benjamin Franklin nearly killed himself electrocuting turkeys. How an Italian scientist believed he discovered the human soul while making frog leg soup for his girlfriend – which ultimately lead to the invention of the battery. And much, much more.

Dead White Scientists Podcasts…

The Man Who Invented Everything (William Murdoch)

William Murdoch (1754-1839).jpg

Probably the most important scientist that you have never heard of. 

It can be claimed (and we will claim it) that William Murdoch was involved in creating or perfecting most of the major inventions that brought us through the Industrial Revolution to the modern age. 

As a young man he made the steam engine the tool that led to the industrial revolution. He was instrumental in the invention of the to the locomotive. He created the first practical automobile. He helped Fulton build the steam boat – he even invented the pneumatic tube (that thing that delivers checks at the bank) and a way to purify beer with fish.

Oh, and by the way, he invented gas lighting – that lit the world for nearly a century until the electric light bulb came into being.

From Whale Oil to Kerosene

The search for energy has largely been a search for light.  We have evolved from huddling around campfires, to burning candles made of animal fat, to hunting whales on the oceans, to refining oil and ultimately the electric light.  This is a journey filled with adventure, fortunes, misfortunes – but mostly lies and lawyers. 

History of Electricity

Ben Franklin did not fly a kite in a rainstorm then suddenly Thomas Edison invented the light bulb (actually, neither of those things happened). 

The history of and development of electricity is much more interesting – filled with scientists trying to pull a vacuum apart with teams of horses, deciding that a kicking frog leg was the key to visualizing the human soul, Napoleon shocking soldiers for entertainment, and much more. 

The history of electricity is filled with lawyers, lawsuits and egos. Accidents, insights, genius and baffoons.

And find out what Michael Faraday (considered the father of electricity) considered his greatest achievement – and as a bit of a hint – it had absolutely nothing to do with electricity.

Battle of the Currents (Was Edison Smarter than Tesla?)

In the early days of the electric grid a battle emerged between DC electricity and AC electricity. 

Thomas Edison championed DC – Westinghouse (and Tesla) argued for AC power. 

What emerged was the “Battle of the Currents” – with engineers traveling the country electrocuting dogs and cats (and perhaps even elephants).  The bodies of technicians hung tangled in wires in front of city hall.  Spin doctors and editorials ran wild.  So what really happened and why do we use AC electricity today instead of DC?

Who Was First to Fly?

So just who was the first to fly a heavier than air craft?  And just what constitutes an “official” flight?  Was it the Wright brothers, as most Americans seem to believe?  Was it Alberto Santos- Dumont, as most of the rest of the world claims?  Or how about a German toy maker in Connecticut that may have flown two years before the Wright brothers got off the ground?

History of Oil

Black-and-white photograph of an oil gusher derrick with a gusher of oil shooting from the top

Who was the first to discover oil?  Was it in Pennsylvania, or West Virginia (museums are built claiming this), or a small well in Caldwell Ohio that is still polluting the ground water? 

Or should credit be given to the Chinese who were using it hundreds of years before Europeans even glimpsed the stuff.

Or the Native Americans who used oil for medicine and to waterproof their homes and canoes – long before white men set foot on the land. 

And just how “free” is the “free market” that the fossil fuel industry claims to hold near and dear? The history of oil is full of “colorful characters” who robbed, cheated, killed and maimed their way to riches. It has led to the overthrowing of governments, national scandals and even a World War.

Early Homes of America (the Pioneers didn’t all live in log cabins)

Early settlers of America found the most comfortable homes were often similar to those inhabited by the Native Americans who had survived in this climate for thousands of years. 

Early residents of Philadelphia built cave homes along the Delaware River – but where forced to abandon them when William Penn decided they were not “British” enough. 

Homes made of sod, grass, mud, and yes – even log cabins dotted the landscape.  So what did the early pioneers build and why?  And why did it all change?