There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Car

Italian media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi began his political career in 1993, as leader of the Forza Italia party, and in 1994 he became Italy’s Prime Minister. No. In actual fact, Berlusconi had already dipped his big toe in the pool of Italian politics ten years earlier, in 1983. To ensure his election in 1984, he promised that every Italian who …

The Sound of Intoxication

The microfauna was an instrument to collect microorganisms from the air, invented by Nikola Tesla in 1879. It worked much like a mass spectrometer. When connected to a microfauna data recorder, it enabled scientists to determine the exact composition of the air. Unlike the mass spectrometer, it did so in terms of microorganisms, rather than molecules. The microfauna was, and …

Pigtails, Duckbills and Roasted Guinea Pigs

The invention of the duckbill speculum in 1845 revolutionized gynaecology. Up until then, doctors had been using the bills of actual ducks (usually dead ones). American doctor and animal rights activist J. Marion Sims felt there had to be a better way and set out to find it. After numerous experiments on volunteers (South Carolina slaves volunteered by their owners, …