Distillations magazine

Unexpected Stories from Science’s Past

Inventions & Discoveries

The tools and technology that help us understand and change the world

Inventions & Discoveries

Artificial Clouds and Inflammable Air: The Science and Spectacle of the First Balloon Flights, 1783

The first balloons, both hot-air and hydrogen powered, drew spectacular crowds and set off a craze—balloonomania!

Inventions & Discoveries

Chemistry’s Outer Limits

Svante Arrhenius was one of the founders of modern physical chemistry. His later work cosmological work carried him beyond the scientific limits of many of his colleagues.

John Kendrew and Max Perutz with model
Inventions & Discoveries

The Secret of Max Perutz’s Life

A personal portrait of the Nobel prize-winning crystallographer.

An early advertisement for cellophane
Inventions & Discoveries

Sealed with a Wrap

Cellophane celebrates its 100th anniversary with a comeback, after losing out to cheaper imitations in the 1970s.

Inventions & Discoveries

Scientia Vitis: Decanting the Chemistry of Wine Flavor

Scientists have only recently begun to investigate the chemical components that give wines their distinct and complex flavors.

Inventions & Discoveries

Science and Celebrity: Humphry Davy’s Rising Star

Part experimenter and part entertainer, Humphry Davy was a 19th-century icon.

Inventions & Discoveries

The First Century of Chemical Engineering

The founding of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers represented the beginning of American technological dominance in the 20th century.

Inventions & Discoveries

Nylon: A Revolution in Textiles

The invention of nylon in 1938 promised sleekness and practicality for women and soon ushered in a textile revolution for consumers and the military alike.

Inventions & Discoveries

From Nanotech to Nanoscience

Technologies using nanosized objects have been around for hundreds of years.

Inventions & Discoveries

John Dalton and the Scientific Method

Dalton proposed atomic theory in 1808; an additional century passed before the theory was universally accepted by scientists.

Inventions & Discoveries

Not Counting Chemistry: How We Misread the History of 20th-Century Science and Technology

Is chemistry’s ubiquity why we so rarely talk about its historical importance?

Inventions & Discoveries

Aluminum: Common Metal, Uncommon Past

Now ubiquitous and vital to modern life, aluminum was once more expensive than gold, locked away in its ore without a commercially viable method to release it.

Inventions & Discoveries

Patterning the World: The Rise of Chemically Amplified Photoresists

The rise of the digital age depended on integrated circuits made with new materials and techniques that could both increase performance and drive down cost.

Inventions & Discoveries

Mendeleev’s Legacy: The Periodic System

Mendeleev’s greatest achievement was not the periodic table so much as the recognition of the periodic system on which it was based.