|Trim Size / Pages||9 x 6 in / 400|
Airships and electric submarines, automatons and mesmerists—welcome to the wild world of steampunk. It is all speculative—or is it? Meet the intrepid souls who pushed Victorian technology to its limits and paved the way for our current age.
The gear turns, the whistle blows, the sails expand with an electro-mechanical whirring. A retro-futurist Zeppelin, shimmering with halos of steam, rises into view. Manning the helm and wearing a pair of tinted goggles is the pseudo-Victorian hero, leather top hat jauntily tipping to the side as he raises a headed cane (likely, a sword or pistol in disguise). Welcome to the world of steampunk, the science-fiction of Victoriana, strangely balanced between a 19th century that never was and a future that never will be. It’s the stuff of dreams, of nostalgia, of alternate pasts and futures that entice with the suave of James Bond and the savvy of Sherlock Holmes. And, of course, it’s fiction, not fact.
Or is it? What if the unusual collection of gadgetry so often depicted were based in the reality of scientific innovation? The answer may surprise. Goggles, specialty glasses, steam-powered engines, boiling test tubes, experiments and experimental gear make up the eclectic tool kit of some unlikely “heroes” of history. They served no secret societies and fought no super-villains, but they did solve cases, stop diseases, and take enormous risks. The science behind steampunk is as every bit extraordinary as what we might find in the stories of Jules Verne or H.G. Wells.
Dr. Brandy Schillace writes about culture, the history of medicine, and the intersections of medicine and literature. She is the Managing Editor of the international health journal Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry and teaches at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. Brandy has lectured at the New York Academy of Medicine and writes for The Huffington Post and InsideHigherEd, among other publications.
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