82 episodes

DNA science. Artificial intelligence. Smartphones and 3D printers. Science and technology have transformed the world we live in. But how did we get here? It wasn’t by accident. Well, sometimes it was. It was also the result of hard work, teamwork, and competition. And incredibly surprising moments.
Hosted by bestselling author Steven Johnson (“How We Got To Now”), American Innovations uses immersive scenes to tell the stories of the scientists, engineers, and ordinary people behind the greatest discoveries of the past century. From Wondery, the network behind Business Wars, American History Tellers, and Dirty John.

American Innovations Wondery

    • Science

DNA science. Artificial intelligence. Smartphones and 3D printers. Science and technology have transformed the world we live in. But how did we get here? It wasn’t by accident. Well, sometimes it was. It was also the result of hard work, teamwork, and competition. And incredibly surprising moments.
Hosted by bestselling author Steven Johnson (“How We Got To Now”), American Innovations uses immersive scenes to tell the stories of the scientists, engineers, and ordinary people behind the greatest discoveries of the past century. From Wondery, the network behind Business Wars, American History Tellers, and Dirty John.

    Valium: The House That Leo Built | 2

    Valium: The House That Leo Built | 2

    With Miltown sweeping the nation, pharmaceutical companies around the country want in on the action and vie to create their own versions. At Hoffman La Roche, a brilliant scientist by the name of Leo Sternbach leads the charge.  

     

    While Roche executives want him to create a copycat drug, Sternbach has bigger ambitions: he wants to invent an entirely new class of tranquilizer. After Roche loses faith in his vision, Sternbach continues his work in secret – and lays the foundation for Valium, soon to become the most commonly prescribed drug in the United States.




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    • 37 min
    Valium: Miltown Magic | 1

    Valium: Miltown Magic | 1

    Anxiety. It’s something everyone experiences at some point in their lives, but for centuries doctors had no effective way to treat it. They could send patients on rest cures, order them to do nothing at all, or prescribe barbiturates that depressed the central nervous system, easily leading to overdose and death.

    Finally, in the mid-1950s, chemists discovered a new class of drugs: the minor tranquilizers. The most famous of these was Valium, which would go on to become the most prescribed drug in the United States.  

    But Valium owes its success to its lesser known predecessor Miltown, which changed the way Americans thought about anxiety.

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    • 39 min
    Electronic Television: The TVs of The Future | 3

    Electronic Television: The TVs of The Future | 3

    At this year's Consumer Electronics Show, television manufacturer LG debuted a TV set that rolls up like a poster. It's a far cry from our grandparents wooden boxes with black and white screens and bunny ear antennas. And despite impressive new television tech, many people these days are turning to phones and tablets to consume their favorite shows and moves. Today we conclude our series on the television with Susan Murray, Professor or Media, Culture and Communication at NYU. She joins us talk about the history and evolution of the television in our everyday life.

    • 27 min
    MSNBC Presents: So, You Wanna Be President? with Chris Matthews

    MSNBC Presents: So, You Wanna Be President? with Chris Matthews

    Chris Matthews and campaign veterans who have had front row seats to presidential history dive deep into the six most important lessons learned from presidential campaigns that win. Chris and his guests tap into their experience, historical insight, passion for electoral politics, and love for our country to explain why these lessons matter, and how they’ve separated winners from losers.

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    • 5 min
    Electronic Television: A Great Depression And The World's Fair | 2

    Electronic Television: A Great Depression And The World's Fair | 2

    While Philo Farnsworth was building gizmos out of a loft in San Francisco, the Radio Corporation of America was already plotting domination of the yet-to-be television industry under the leadership of a man named David Sarnoff. Sarnoff recognized television’s virtually limitless potential, and he was determined to bring it to the masses — with or without the help of Philo Farnsworth. 




    Sarnoff would rely on inventors like Vladimir Zworykin, who had also figured out how to transmit pictures electronically through his patented Iconoscope. At least, in theory. The missing piece wouldn’t fall into place until Zworykin visited Farnsworth’s lab — setting off a court battle to claim ownership of one of the most iconic inventions of the 20th century.




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    • 41 min
    Electronic Television: The Picture Radio | 1

    Electronic Television: The Picture Radio | 1

    The invention of the electronic television was uniquely complicated for its time. So complicated, in fact, that the prevailing narrative is that it couldn’t have been invented by a single person -- let alone Philo Farnsworth. 




    After all, some of the most brilliant minds in the world spent the first quarter of the 20th century working on television systems -- and some even managed to transmit images. But none of those systems were ever able to deliver the quality of images they’d need to be commercially viable. None except Philo Farnsworth, a farm boy from Utah, who got the idea for television when he was fourteen years old. 




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    • 38 min

Customer Reviews

bazcurran ,

Easy listening story telling, uses lots of artistic license and some dodgy “facts”.

I listened to this because I had listened to other Wondery pods they are generally good and easy to listen to. I was enjoying it until the Innovation Fails on John DeLorean where they said for his trips to Belfast he had bulletproof rain coat and he would take a train to London. A bullet proof raincoat doesn’t sound very practical as they need to be tight to the body to be most effective.

Worse still a train from Belfast (on the island of Ireland) to London (not on the island of Ireland) it doesn’t exist. I would understand a train to Dublin to escape from “The Troubles” of Northern Ireland at least that is possible. Makes you question all of the other “facts” and less likely to listen in the future.

Julzwat ,

Lots of science but not all American...

Love this podcast. Some really interesting topics and broad variety. I have learned so much about all sorts of topics I wouldn’t have necessarily gone out of my way to. I highly recommend this to anyone.

Only one point to make is they are not all American innovations!

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