John Nevil Maskelyne was a turn of the century stage magician who created the first levitation trick, built an automaton that could play whist, revealed the secrets of card sharks, and invented the pay toilet.
The Rational Dress Society, founded in 1881, fought the strictures of the Victorian corset, crinoline, and high heels.
In 1859 a geomagnetic storm from the Sun knocked out telegraph equipment in Europe and North America and sent auroras almost as far as the equator; it was the largest such event in recorded history.
The Birmingham Dribbler was one of the earliest model train toys. Powered by steam, it leaked water everywhere and caused fires when it fell over.
New Zealand entomologist George Hudson proposed modern daylight saving time so that he could catch more bugs.
Music notation gives you a record of exactly how to play a piece of music. But how do you write a record of a dance?
In 1830, nearly half of the mathematics class at Yale was expelled for refusing to use a blackboard in their exams.
Rabbits and cattle were introduced to a remote island near Antarctica as food for shipwreck survivors; they bred there in isolation for more than a century.
In 1896 Paul Otlet set up a bibliographic query service by mail: a 19th century search engine.
Although playing cards in Europe date back to the 14th century, Samuel Hart printed the first joker in 1863.
Between 1867 and 1927 the New Zealand government built, supplied, and maintained a set of supply huts on islands in the Southern Ocean so that no more castaways would starve to death while waiting for rescue.
The He-Gassen scroll of Edo period Japan depicts an epic battle… of farts.
In 1864 two ships were wrecked on the same desert island. Despite sharing the island for an entire year, the crews never met and had no idea they were not alone.
Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky composed Pictures at an Exhibition based on a journey through his late friend’s art exhibit – but what happened to the pictures?
Bir Tawil is a wedge of land between Egypt and Sudan. Neither wants to claim Bir Tawil: it is one of the only unclaimed territories in the world.
Richard Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde set the course of 20th century classical music by keeping the audience in suspense for four hours with a single unresolved chord.