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Posts Tagged ‘The Ant Farm

“Are you feeling nostalgic?” asked Tom in passing….

In 1914, American chemist John J. Porter produced the first line of chemistry sets, “Chemcraft.”  It was such a hit that a few years later, science fanatic A.C. Gilbert, maker of Erector Sets and, later, American Flyer model trains, put out his own. At the time, it was understood these kits were not just amusements but tools to groom young men– and at the time, it was “young men“– for careers in science.

Since then, budding scientists have found other encouragement on toy store shelves as well:  The Atomic Energy Lab, The Ant Farm, The Visible Man (and finally, Woman)…

But neither Porter nor Gilbert could even imagine the prospect of basement meth labs or terrorist bomb factories, nor for that matter, the explosion of product liability suits… Indeed, since the days of those earliest offers– which featured all sorts of dangerous, thus entertaining, substances– chemistry sets have been progressively denatured…  leading Collectors Weekly to ask: which are better: science toys of the past or those of the present?  (Includes a nifty shout out to our Friends at Make…)

…If you think that, in the past, there was some golden age of pleasure and plenty to which you would, if you were able, transport yourself, let me say one single word: “dentistry.”
– P.J. O’Rourke

As we slip on our protective goggles, we might wish a bite-free birthday to zoologist Marston Bates; he was born on this date in 1906.  An expert on mosquitoes, his fieldwork in Albania, Egypt, and Columbia led to the development of the effective diagnoses, treatments, and ultimately prevention of Yellow Fever.

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