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Joseph Priestly, Radical Inventor

Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) usually makes an appearance in histories of science as the person who isolated and described eight “airs” (gasses), including oxygen. Trivia buffs may know him as the guy who invented soda water in 1767.  Read more.

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When Ferns Were All The Rage

Every autumn, Victorians swarmed into the woods to collect ferns. From the 1850s until Queen Victoria’s demise, pteridomania (meaning “fern mania”) engulfed Victorians on both sides of the Atlantic. Almost every house had a potted fern. Those who could afford to, kept rare fern varieties “under the ample bell-glass, or in the Wardian case… to enliven the parlor window in the wintry season of the year.”  There were fern books, fern societies, and florists bulked out floral arrangements with ferns. Fern-collecting went beyond past-time to become an occupation.  Read more.