writing scientific discoveries in historical fiction

Was reading a historical romance where a scientist was working on one of the early versions of a telegraph system. A lot of historical fiction with inventors makes the mistake of ‘x inventing this years before history officially said it was but it got burnt/ never recognised’.

Which… no. Scientists didn’t work in a vacuum. They were constantly corresponding with each other and publishing in journals, and a lot of them worked on similar ideas as the technology and understanding of processes advanced. Oftentimes, the ‘inventor’ whose name goes down in history is the one who made the breakthrough and got it patented/ recognised (leaving aside serial patenter Thomas Edison). F’r instance, there were a LOT of telegraph systems already around in the 1830s, and the credit for the invention is split between the UK and the US – William Cooke and Charles Wheatstone in the UK and Samuel Morse, Leonard Gale and Alfred Vail in the US. The UK team’s telegraph system was being used for railway signalling, and was based on a system of five magnetic needles that could be pointed around a panel of letters and numbers by using an electric current. Samuel Morse developed morse code and was the first to do a sentence & get the infrastructure down. He had the science ready in the late 1830s but US was cash strapped so no-one had the money for extensive pipe works so delayed to 1844.

Back to the book: satisfying as a portrayal of someone working on telegraph science and making some breakthroughs in sending electrical impulses over wires for messages but not the same ones as Morse and Cooke and Wheatstone (one important stumbling block observed in the book was that a lot of the shorting out was being caused by having too many wires, one for each letter). Most importantly it was very clear on how breakthroughs aren’t made in isolation – correspondence, applying others’ work in an unexpected way, etc.  Not to mention believed in the scientific method of repeating the experiment to see if you get the same result.


Random thoughts re: famous literary/ music/ artworks inspired by dreams and nightmares

okay, so it’s well known that a lot of Lovecraft’s work was inspired by his childhood hatreds, allergies and nightmares. (with added massive racism)

Paul McCartney was apparently convinced that he heard the first bars of Yesterday in a dream.

Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher was inspired by a dream.

Plenty of works have been inspired by dreams, nightmares, your childhood nightmares…

My mate was talking about this yesterday.

Me: ‘if I based it on mine, they’d all resemble sleep paralysis, except I always knew there was no-one in the room with me, so no incubi or aliens.’

him: ‘what are the symptoms again?’ *recounts* ‘That sounds an awful lot like what happens to Kitty Pryde and Jean Grey in Dark Phoenix Saga.‘

us: ‘Dear Chris Claremont, we have questions about your adolescent sleep patterns.’