Science and Technology

Communication Innovators

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This Media Gallery explores the great advances in long-distance communication that resulted from the innovations of Samuel F. B. Morse, Alexander Graham Bell, and Guglielmo Marconi. Review these images and their descriptions keeping in mind how technology transformed communication over time.

Rivers, Roads, Rails, and Air | Individual Freedom

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Learn about the history of automobiles in North Dakota. The automobile age gave freedom of movement and choice for passengers and freight. With more people driving cars, the push came for better roads.

Rivers, Roads, Rails, and Air | Peerless Transportation

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Learn about the role of railroads in North Dakota history. In their time, railroads had no peer in their ability to move people and goods, although shipping costs were high. The railroad companies helped increase immigration to North Dakota by actively marketing the opportunities here to foreigners, especially Scandinavians and Germans from Russia.

Rivers, Roads, Rails, and Air | Barnstorming

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Learn about early airplanes, and how they were a novelty and flying a source of entertainment for bystanders, but quickly became essential in the transportation of passengers and goods.

Edison: Boyhood and Teen Years

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Find out how young Thomas Edison’s curiosity got him into trouble, and how, during his teen years, he lost his hearing but gained confidence as an aspiring inventor, in this video adapted from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Edison. As portrayed through reenactments, we learn that Edison, who had just three months of formal schooling, grew up reading and conducting chemistry experiments. His job as a newsboy on a train inspired his fascination with the telegraph. After teaching himself Morse Code so he could send and receive messages, Edison took a job as a telegraph operator at the age of 15. Through his work, and despite premature hearing loss, he developed an understanding of how the telegraph system operated and how he might improve it. He began to think of himself as an inventor. This resource is part of the Thomas Edison Collection.

Click on the links below to download a customizable Student Handout, Student Reading and transcript for this resource.

Student Handout | Student Reading | Transcript

Edison: Impact of Technology on Society

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Imagine the world when electric light was first introduced, and reflect on the impact that new inventions have on ordinary people in this video adapted from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Edison. In late 19th-century America, machines were ushering the country into the modern world. But with the awe and wonder that radical change provoked, technology also brought a certain amount of anxiety to ordinary people. This resource is part of the Thomas Edison CollectionCaution: This video includes the use of the word "hell."

Click on the links below to download a customizable Student Handout, Student Reading, and transcript for this resource.

Student Handout | Student Reading | Transcript

Edison: Invention Laboratory at Menlo Park

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Discover how Thomas Edison’s invention laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, and the team he hired to work with him, all fit into his vision of how he would become a great inventor in this video adapted from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Edison. In late 1876, Edison opened a fully equipped 5,000 square foot innovation laboratory that would provide him and a small group of experimental assistants and skilled machinists a place to invent. With all kinds of chemicals, organic materials, scientific instruments, and shop tools available to them, the men worked day and night, intent on figuring out things that nobody had yet thought of. This resource is part of the Thomas Edison Collection.

Click on the links below to download a customizable Student Handout and transcript for this resource.

Student Handout | Transcript

Inventions and Science: Movable Type | The Story of China

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Learn about the early practices of printing in China during the Tang and Song dynasties with this clip from The Story of China. Books were primarily published with woodblocks, with entire pages carved into separate pieces of wood. The Chinese first invented movable type during the Song Dynasty, but the complexity of the Chinese language made it cumbersome and not cost efficient. However, publishers continued to use woodblocks.

Edison: Electric Light

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Discover how Thomas Edison’s team built on past innovations to develop the first successful electric light bulb in this video adapted from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Edison. Edison announced he would start work on electric light in 1878, to address the problems with existing lighting options, which included gaslights and arc lighting. While many inventors had patented versions of the most promising technology, an incandescent bulb, no bulb could yet produce light for more than 15 seconds, let alone several hours. Edison used his fame to attract the funding needed for his team to test and prototype a solution. Their efforts eventually paid off. On October 22, 1879, a bulb fitted with a filament of carbonized cotton thread burned in Edison’s laboratory for more than 13.5 hours. This resource is part of the Thomas Edison Collection.

Click on the links below to download a customizable Student Handout, Student Reading, and transcript for this resource.

Student Handout | Student ReadingTranscript

Inventions and Science: Astronomical Clock and Other Advancements | The Story of China

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Explore the work and legacy of Su Song in this clip from The Story of China. Song was a scholar, civil servant and expert on a wide range of technical subjects including pharmaceutical botany, zoology and minerals, as well as calendar science and astronomy. He invented an astronomical clock for the emperor of China featuring a design involving a chain-drive mechanism added to a water-powered clock. It told the time of day, as well as the day of the month, and the phases of the moon.

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