Science and Technology

Shifting Sands

Player Guide

The 19th century was a period of rapid scientific and technological progress.


Electricity and the "War of Currents"

After devising a commercially viable electric light bulb on October 21, 1879, Thomas Edison went on to develop an electric "utility" designed to compete with the then existent gas lighting utilities. On December 17, 1880, he founded the Edison Illuminating Company and on September 4, 1882, Edison switched on his Pearl Street generating station's electrical power distribution system, which provided 110 volts direct current (DC) to 59 customers in lower Manhattan.

Earlier in the year, in January 1882, he had switched on the first steam-generating power station at Holborn Viaduct in London. The DC supply system provided electricity supplies to street lamps and several private dwellings within a short distance of the station. On January 19, 1883, the first standardized incandescent electric lighting system employing overhead wires began service in Roselle, New Jersey.

Nikola Tesla emigrated from the Austrian Empire to the United States in 1884 to work for Thomas Edison in New York City. He soon struck out on his own with financial backers, setting up laboratories and companies to develop a range of electrical devices. His patented AC induction motor and transformer were licensed by George Westinghouse, who also hired Tesla for a short time as a consultant. His work in the formative years of electric power development was involved in a corporate alternating current/direct current "War of Currents" as well as various patent battles.

Tesla's demonstration of his induction motor and Westinghouse's subsequent licensing of the patent, both in 1888, put Tesla firmly on the "AC" side of the so-called "War of Currents," an electrical distribution battle being waged between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse that had been simmering since Westinghouse's first AC system in 1886 and had reached the point of all-out warfare by 1888. This started out as a competition between rival lighting systems with Edison holding all the patents for DC and the incandescent light and Westinghouse using his own patented AC system to power arc lights as well as incandescent lamps of a slightly different design to get around the Edison patent. The acquisition of a feasible AC motor gave Westinghouse a key patent in building a completely integrated AC system, but the financial strain of buying up patents and hiring the engineers needed to build it meant development of Tesla's motor had to be put on hold for a while.

Telegraphs and Heliographs

The first commercial electrical telegraph was co-developed by Sir William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone. In May 1837 they patented the Cooke and Wheatstone system, which used a number of needles on a board that could be moved to point to letters of the alphabet. The patent recommended a five-needle system, but any number of needles could be used depending on the number of characters it was required to code. A four-needle system was installed between Euston and Camden Town in London on a rail line being constructed by Robert Stephenson between London and Birmingham in 1837. The cables were originally installed underground in a steel conduit. However, the cables soon began to fail as a result of deteriorating insulation and were replaced with uninsulated wires on poles. A one-needle telegraph proved highly successful on British railways, and 15,000 sets were still in use at the end of the nineteenth century. In September 1845 the financier John Lewis Ricardo and Cooke formed the Electric Telegraph Company, the first public telegraphy company in the world. This company bought out the Cooke and Wheatstone patents and solidly established the telegraph business. An electrical telegraph was independently developed and patented in the United States in 1837 by Samuel Morse.

As well as the rapid expansion of the use of the telegraphs along the railways, they soon spread into the field of mass communication with the instruments being installed in post offices across the country. The era of mass personal communication had begun.

The late 1880s through the 1890s saw the discovery and then development of a newly understood phenomenon into a form of wireless telegraphy, called Hertzian wave wireless telegraphy, radiotelegraphy, or (later) simply "radio". Between 1886 and 1888 Heinrich Rudolf Hertz published the results of his experiments where he was able to transmit electromagnetic waves (radio waves) through the air, proving James Clerk Maxwell's 1873 theory of electromagnetic radiation. From his work, the Heliograph, that allowed communication between planets, was invented.


Travel and Exploration

Steam Locomotives

The first full-scale working railway steam locomotive was built by Richard Trevithick, called the 'Puffing Devil,' in the United Kingdom and, on 21 February 1804, the world's first railway journey took place as Trevithick's unnamed steam locomotive hauled a train along the tramway from the Pen-y-darren ironworks, near Merthyr Tydfil, to Abercynon in South Wales. The design incorporated high-pressure steam which reduced the weight of the engine and increased its efficiency. Trevithick visited the Newcastle area in 1804 and he had a ready audience of colliery owners and engineers. The visit was so successful that the colliery railways in north-east England became the leading centre for experimentation and development of the steam locomotive. George Stephenson built the Locomotion for the Stockton and Darlington Railway, north-east England, which was the first public steam railway in the world. In 1829, his son Robert built in Newcastle The Rocket which was entered in and won the Rainhill Trials. This success led to the company emerging as the pre-eminent builder of steam locomotives used on railways in the UK, US and much of Europe. The Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened a year later making exclusive use of steam power for passenger and goods trains.


Practical aether travel in 1889 all began with Professor Etienne Moreau, who in 1860 hypothesised that the aether, like the matter and energy throughout the universe, was not evenly distributed. If it was instead affected by its interaction with matter, it might be distributed in vortices, thin patches, and even compacted clumps. He also theorised that interaction of matter, energy and aether indicated that it was possible for each to be used to manipulate the other. Just as matter could be burned to release energy, and energy expended to move matter, so could matter be used to grip or grasp the aether, and energy used to manipulate it. Thomas Edison, an American inventor, fell into discussions with Moreau about his theories, and through these discussions it was Edison who devised a practical use for the luminiferous aether. Its nature suggested to Edison a device which could sail at speeds unimaginable up to this point. But this prototype hit a problem; it could not overcome the atmosphere so Edison communicated this problem to Moreau, and further tests with small models showed that the device would only operate properly at an altitude of 24,000 feet or higher. In 1868 Edison perfected his prototype and called it an aether propeller, a device that manipulated the aether by generating an electromagnetic field. He manned the first voyage himself, accompanied by Jack Armstrong. Together they piloted their craft via hydrogen balloon high enough to enable the propeller to work, and from there they sailed the aether all the way to Mars. Unfortunately their landing on Mars was not smooth and their flyer was damaged, but fortunately the planet was inhabited. The two men spent over a year on Mars, learning the language of the natives, and were eventually provided with material to repair the flyer. They returned to Earth on August 7, 1870. Edison and Armstrong received fame and fortune, and within a year there was several dozen companies manufacturing Edison flyers, and flyers of several other nationalities were soon making frequent trips to Mars.

Since then mankind has spread out among the inner planets, but due to the mechanics of aether travel they have not been able to find a way to travel beyond the asteroid belt and thus explore the outer planets. After all, it is by garnering the heat of the sun that enables the water to boil and thus produce the steam that powers the aether propeller.

Aether Flyers

The primary mode of travel through the Inner Solar System are Aether Flyers, large vessels that ride the Aether currents to the various planets. There is no oxygen in space, so these Aether Flyers are sealed and contain greenhouses to generate their own oxygen supply.

Since the discovery of Liftwood on Mars, Britain has capitalized on the gravity-defying properties of the wood to assist in getting the Aether Flyers off the ground and land on planets.

Aether Zeppelin

The Germans have perfected an alternative technology, the Aether Zeppelin, a hydrogen dirigible, that maneuvers much more clumsily, but which is ideal for conditions on Venus. While the British have prevented Germany from gaining much of a foothold on Mars and gaining access to the large quantities of liftwood needed to build liftwood ships, the use of Zeppelins gave Germany the upper hand on Venus. The effect that the Venusian magnetic field causes liftwood to rapidly lose its anti-gravity properties. In fact, the first three British expeditions to the planet failed to return when their flyers were unable to reach flight altitude. It was not until the German expedition of 1879-80, which used hydrogen gas for lift, that the truth was learned from the few survivors of the earlier expeditions.

Combustion Engine and Automobiles

In 1879, Karl Friedrich Benz gained his first engine patent, beating out his competetors, and in 1886, Benz was granted a patent for his first automobile to run on internal- combustion engine. The Motorwagen was then patented on January 29, 1886 as DRP-37435: "automobile fueled by gas". The 1885 version was difficult to control, leading to a collision with a wall during a public demonstration. The first successful tests on public roads were carried out in the early summer of 1886. The next year Benz created the Motorwagen Model 2, which had several modifications, and in 1887, the definitive Model 3 with wooden wheels was introduced, showing at the Paris Expo the same year.

Benz began to sell the vehicle (advertising it as the Benz Patent Motorwagen) in the late summer of 1888, making it the first commercially available automobile in history. The second customer of the Motorwagen was a Parisian bicycle manufacturer Emile Roger, who had already been building Benz engines under license from Karl Benz for several years. Roger added the Benz automobiles (many built in France) to the line he carried in Paris and initially most were sold there.



Single Shot Bolt Action Rifles

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The Machine Gun

The Maxim gun was invented by Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim in 1883, and was the first recoil-operated machine gun. It has been called "the weapon most associated with the British imperial conquest". Maxim invents the machine gun, making possible mass slaughter and beginning the mechanization of warfare. A prototype of the Maxim gun was given by Hiram Maxim to the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition in 1886, under the leadership of Henry Morton Stanley. More a publicity stunt than a serious military contribution, in view of the main financier of the expedition, William Mackinnon, "merely exhibiting" the gun was likely to "prove a great peace-preserver". And in fact the gun was used on several occasions, especially during the expedition's retreat from central Africa, not because of its devastating effects, but as an effective means to scare off native attackers. The same prototype was brought back to central Africa by Frederick Lugard, where it played an instrumental role in the establishment of a British protectorate over present-day Uganda (then Buganda), which is a strong testament to the sturdiness and reliability of the weapon and its prototype.

The first unit in the world to receive the Maxim was the Singapore Volunteer Corps in 1889. This was a civilian volunteer defense unit on the British island.


The first gunpowder-powered rockets were developed in Song China, by the 13th century. The technology spread throughout the Asia and Western Europe in the wake of the Mongol invasions of the mid-13th century. Medieval and early modern rockets were used militarily as incendiary weapons in sieges. The Book of Military Horsemanship and Ingenious War Devices, written by the Chinese artillery officer Jiao Yu in the mid-14th century included 107 gunpowder recipes, 22 of which are for rockets.

The first iron-cased rockets were developed in the late 18th century in the Kingdom of Mysore, adopted and improved as the Congreve rocket and used in the Napoleonic Wars. The first mathematical treatment of the dynamics of rocket propulsion is due to William Moore's work in 1813. In 1815, Alexander Dmitrievich Zasyadko constructed rocket-launching platforms, which allowed rockets to be fired in salvos (6 rockets at a time), and gun-laying devices. William Hale in 1844 greatly increased the accuracy of rocket artillery. The Congreve rocket was further improved by Edward Mounier Boxer in 1865.


Tuberculosis, Cholera, and Anthrax

Robert Heinrich Herman Koch is a celebrated German physician and pioneering microbiologist. He is best known for his role in identifying the specific causative agents of tuberculosis, cholera, and anthrax and for giving experimental support for the concept of infectious disease. In 1876 Robert Koch discovered the anthrax-causing micro-organism, demonstrates its life cycle and explains how it causes disease after long dormancy. Then, in 1882 Koch isolated tuberculosis bacillus. Two years later, in 1884 Koch managed to isolate the cholera bacillus.

Cocaine and Anesthetics

When the Spanish arrived in South America, most at first ignored aboriginal claims that the coca leaf gave them strength and energy, and declared the practice of chewing it the work of the Devil. But after discovering that these claims were true, they legalized and taxed the leaf, taking 10% off the value of each crop. With the discovery of this new alkaloid, Western medicine was quick to exploit the possible uses of this plant.

Karl Koller experimented with cocaine for ophthalmic usage. In an infamous experiment in 1884, he experimented upon himself by applying a cocaine solution to his own eye and then pricking it with pins. His findings were presented to the Heidelberg Ophthalmological Society and many others quickly took to using cocaine as an anesthetic. Also in 1884, Jellinek demonstrated the effects of cocaine as a respiratory system anesthetic. In 1885, William Halsted demonstrated nerve-block anesthesia, and James Leonard Corning demonstrated epidural anesthesia.

Doctors and Medical Practitioners

Regulation of medical practice had begun with the establishment of the British Medical Association in 1856 and the General Medical Council in 1858. Medical training became more formalized with the establishment of medical schools, and the number of doctors rose considerably. Because of this, there was increasing specialization within the medical profession. This had happened in Germany for some time, but had been resisted by many in Britain as 'unnatural'. The growth of psychiatry in particular proved very controversial, with many labelled as 'mad doctors'.


Phrenology is a medical specialization primarily focused on measurements of the human skull, based on the concept that the brain is the organ of the mind, and that certain brain areas have localized, specific functions or modules. Developed by German physician Franz Joseph Gall in 1796, the discipline gained popularity in the 19th century.

Gall believed that the brain was made up of 27 individual organs that determined personality, the first 19 of these 'organs' exist in other animal species. Phrenologists run their fingertips and palms over the skulls of their patients to feel for enlargements or indentations. The phrenologist would often take measurements with a tape measure of the overall head size or rarely employ a craniometer, a special version of a caliper. Phrenologists put emphasis on using drawings of individuals with particular traits, to determine the character of the person and thus many phrenology books show pictures of subjects. From absolute and relative sizes of the skull the phrenologist would assess the character and temperament of the patient.


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