Happy Birthday, Michael Faraday

Today, Sept. 22, is the great British scientist Michael Faraday’s 226th birthday.

Faraday’s contribution to science are many, and it’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that before Faraday, electricity was batteries, and afterward, it was Edison and Tesla and all the motors, transformers, and generators they unleashed upon the world.

Faraday’s relationship to science can be summed up in two images:  First, Faraday at work at the lab bench in the basement of the Royal Institution, and second, Faraday presiding over a Christmas Lecture–specifically designed for the layman, and for children in particular.

M_Faraday_Lab_H_Moore

 

Faraday_Michael_Christmas_lecture

Professionally, I work in a field that is the direct descendant of Faraday–electrochemistry–so Faraday has always been a bit of a hero for me.  For more information of Faraday’s life and contributions, see here.  I’ve even written Professor Faraday into one of my novels as a major character, “The Secret Notebook of Michael Faraday“.

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How the Victorians Built Britain

An interesting take on popular history television shows. I wish we could get this program(me) here in the States (not absolutely sure we can–must check), but I’d probably alternate between gazing at the screen in rapture and yelling at it in frustration. Really, how hard is it to get facts straight?

London Historians' Blog

A guest review by LH member Laurence Scales, of the new Channel 5 series. 

Feeling a bit lost at present on Saturday nights without a Swedish murder to mull over I turned to Channel 5 and its series, ‘How the Victorians Built Britain’, fronted by Michael Buerk The viewer is invited to bask in the glow of beautifully restored steam engines, magnificent dams and tiled Turkish baths. Land of Hope and Glory is playing in my head even if you cannot hear it. Yes, Victorians were wonderful in many ways. We should all know, of course, that they were frightful in many others. Victorian novelist Thomas Hughes invented ‘rose tinted spectacles’ and we are definitely wearing them here.

It may be that a few more things have been restored to their original glory today, but I doubt that otherwise this series would stand much comparison with a repeat…

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Art Deco Locomotives

Right about the time that diesel locomotives were gaining ground on the older steam locomotives, some railroads redesigned their steam engines.  By streamlining their design, the railroads hoped to keep the steam engines running.  In some cases, the re-design was made so that the older steam engines would match the look of the diesel locomotives. In others, doubts about the power that could be obtained from diesel engines was the reason.  For whatever reason, the result was a collision between traditional engineering design and the leading art movement of the time, Art Deco, to create some amazing examples of railway design.

A description of all that the Art Deco Movement encompasses would take much more than a single blog post. (See the Wikipedia article for a good introduction though.) Suffice to say that Art Deco is in a way a reaction to the earlier movement, Art Nouveau.  While Art Nouveau features themes from nature and sinuous curving design elements, Art Deco encompasses more severe geometric forms.  Art Deco’s features celebrate the exuberance of the future and its new technologies. One word that is often used to describe Art Deco is streamlined, and that is the exact reason for the redesign of steam engines in the late 1930s: to make them look fast and luxurious. Ironically, little if any performance improvements were realized as the additional weight of the streamlining offset any advantage in lowering wind resistance.

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On-line Resources for Writers

On-line resources

This page is based on a talk I gave at the 2018 Clockwork Alchemy con entitled “On-Line Research for Steampunk Novels”. During the course of writing my novels, I’ve discovered a number of great on-line resources that I found extremely useful in researching the Victorian Era, its technology, society and history, and of course, its cockeyed offspring Steampunk.

This list should be helpful for writers of both historical fiction and fictional history as we all want to get the details right–except when we don’t. Because my steampunk novels revolve around Victorian Britain, this list is starting off biased in that direction–but there are plenty of other ways to write steampunk.

I’ll keep the link to this list at the top of the front page of the blog and I invite you to leave your favorite on-line resource in the comments, and I’ll add it to the list (with appropriate credit, of course!).

The Harrison Clocks

Since Google has honoured John Harrison with the Google Doodle today, I thought I’d repost this blog post from almost three years ago.

Airship Flamel

A recent post on the Two Nerdy History Girls blog prompted me to remember the wonderful book “Longitude” by Dava Sobel chronicling the history of John Harrison and his lifelong pursuit to develop an accurate chronometer.

In 1714, the Royal Navy had a problem.  Although it was a rather simple procedure to determine the latitude of a ship at sea (by sighting angle of the the sun at noon or Polaris, the North Star, at night), it was exceedingly difficult to determine a ship’s longitude.  After several maritime disasters resulting from faulty navigation, Parliament passed the Longitude Act which offered monetary rewards for methods to determine longitude at sea.

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Starting with Steampunk — Wally Smith

This first poem for the NaPoWriMo month of April ought to have been posted some hours ago, shortly after going to the Easter Sunday church service and lunch at a local hostelry. However, that is when we met a couple of steampunk enthusiasts, dressed flamboyantly in a mix of retro styles relating in the main […]

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Steampunk Road Trip – Clockwork Alchemy — Airship Ambassador

We’re back in sunny California for our next stop, chatting with Charlie, who is the head of Marketing for the Clockwork Alchemy convention. Hello Charlie! When is the convention being held this year? Charlie : This year it will be held March 23-25, 2018,at the Hyatt Regency SFO in Burlingame, California, USA. […]

via Steampunk Road Trip – Clockwork Alchemy — Airship Ambassador