research, science

All Excited About Worldbuilding Research

Yep, it’s true. Like so many other writers, I love me some good research. I did some yesterday on technology and such, and came away with some amazing bits of knowledge that I just have to share:

The word “Scientist” wasn’t coined until the 1840s.


  • 1801: first entire building is lit with gas
  • 1802: gas lighting is installed in a factory, letting it operate longer
  • 1807: first successful demo of street lighting, in Pall Mall in London, using coal gas
  • 1885: the incandescent gas mantle is invented. It becomes very popular and gives gas lighting an edge over the feeble illuminations of the electric light systems being introduced


  • 1826: First modern railway system (operated entirely by steam engine) in England
  • 1832: First modern streetcar is pulled by horses
  • 1852: “safety” elevator (with brakes in case of cable breakage) is introduced
  • 1895: First practical subway, in Boston, MA, is 1.5 miles long and uses trolley streetcars

In 1900:

  • Human speech was transmitted on radio waves for the first time
  • The Wright brothers are experimenting with unpiloted glider kites, as they’ve been doing since 1896
  • There are 470,000 miles of railway in the world
  • The first electric arc steelmaking furnace was used
  • Storage batteries were developed
  • An early version of a zeppelin airship is scrapped due to poor in-air controls
  • The first flashlights are created
  • Paper clips were invented

In 1901:

  • A multi-story car park eases parking problems in London.
  • The first ever trans-Atlantic wireless communication takes place–the letter “S” in Morse code! 6 years later, commercial radio telegraph service is established across the Atlantic.

Every time I look back at historic developments, I’m amazed by both how quickly some things developed, and how other things plodded along despite an “early” start. Also, how advanced our forebears really were–I mean, could you conceive of elevators before the US Civil War?

So, all this good stuff is going into the basic world building for my novel. Now that I’ve got an idea of tech development, I get to go destroy it all. More fun! 🙂 Wish me luck! And if you have any great technology dates from the mid-1800’s through 1900, feel free to share them.

2 thoughts on “All Excited About Worldbuilding Research”

  1. Wow, I never would have guessed subways originated in Boston of all cities.

    It’s very easy to project a unilateral timeline across these events. I’m having difficulty suppressing telecommunications bustling up after people developed such more convenient methods of getting to places. Now that we’ve sent you there, much easier for the operation if we can talk at you.

    But this is almost anthropomorphizing people! Bad brain!

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