23 episodes

Welcome to the official audio companion to the Innovation Trail, a walking tour in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts that takes you across roughly two miles of dense urban streetscape and 400 years of scientific, technical, medical, and entrepreneurial advances. With the help of guide and narrator Carmichael Roberts and a galaxy of guest experts and tech celebrities, you'll learn about the people, ideas, and inventions — from the telephone to messenger RNA vaccines — that have long set Boston and Cambridge apart as world capitals of innovation.

Most visitors start walking the Innovation Trail at 30 School Street in Boston, near the Park Street T stop. If you're accessing this guide through a podcast player, you'll see that the segments start there with "Patent Pioneer" and proceed west to Cambridge. (See http://theinnovationtrail.org for an interactive map.) But you can also begin the Trail from the Cambridge side, at 810 Main Street, and start with "The Last Candy Factory" episode and go in reverse order!

The names of each stop on this guide correspond to those on our website, so you can also start the Trail at any stop, and walk as much as you have time for. The Trail includes four museums with regular operating hours, and we encourage you to stop in and explore any of them that pique your interest.

Produced by Wade Roush: https://www.waderoush.com

The Innovation Trail The Innovation Trail of Greater Boston, Inc.

    • Society & Culture
    • 5.0 • 1 Rating

Welcome to the official audio companion to the Innovation Trail, a walking tour in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts that takes you across roughly two miles of dense urban streetscape and 400 years of scientific, technical, medical, and entrepreneurial advances. With the help of guide and narrator Carmichael Roberts and a galaxy of guest experts and tech celebrities, you'll learn about the people, ideas, and inventions — from the telephone to messenger RNA vaccines — that have long set Boston and Cambridge apart as world capitals of innovation.

Most visitors start walking the Innovation Trail at 30 School Street in Boston, near the Park Street T stop. If you're accessing this guide through a podcast player, you'll see that the segments start there with "Patent Pioneer" and proceed west to Cambridge. (See http://theinnovationtrail.org for an interactive map.) But you can also begin the Trail from the Cambridge side, at 810 Main Street, and start with "The Last Candy Factory" episode and go in reverse order!

The names of each stop on this guide correspond to those on our website, so you can also start the Trail at any stop, and walk as much as you have time for. The Trail includes four museums with regular operating hours, and we encourage you to stop in and explore any of them that pique your interest.

Produced by Wade Roush: https://www.waderoush.com

    Credits

    Credits

    The Innovation Trail Audio Guide is a production of The Innovation Trail of Greater Boston, a grassroots nonprofit based in Boston. To learn more about the Trail, visit theinnovationtrail.org. If you enjoyed this audio guide, please consider making a donation to The Innovation Trail to help support our outreach initiatives — especially to schools in the Boston area.
    The co-founders of the Innovation Trail are Scott Kirsner and Bob Krim. The executive director is Anna Dunbar.
    The narrator for the audio guide is Carmichael Roberts, founder and managing partner at the Boston-based venture capital firm Material Impact.
    Wade Roush wrote and produced the guide, with editing from Scott Kirsner. The music is from Titlecard Music and Sound.
    The guide was created with help from a grant from MeetBoston, a visitor services organization promoting tourism, meetings, and conventions in Boston and Cambridge.
    Special thanks to:
    Bob Krim
    Ron Robinson
    Shervone Neckles
    Luci Marzola
    Jim Utterback
    Gavin Kleespies
    Jazz Dottin
    Rosalyn Elder
    Charlotte Gray
    John Herman
    Sarah Alger
    Tim Rowe
    Bill Aulet
    John Durant
    Tali Sasson
    Rich Miner
    Debbie Douglas
    Namrata Sengupta
    Ruth Lehmann
    Phillip Sharp
    Walter Gilbert
    Tom Leighton
    Julia Austin
    Peter Kachmar
    Noubar Afeyan
    Victor McElheny
    Susan Benjamin

    • 4 min
    The Last Candy Factory

    The Last Candy Factory

    810 Main Street, Cambridge 
    In the early 20th century, this stretch of Main Street and nearby Massachusetts Avenue was home to so many candy companies that the neighborhood was affectionately known as Confectioner’s Row; the factories employed thousands of people and filled the air with a chocolatey aroma. The big white building at 810 Main Street is the last relic of that era. It houses a subsidiary of Tootsie Roll Industries known as Cambridge Brands, maker of beloved candies such as Junior Mints and Charleston Chews.
    Look for a mural across the street from 810 Main, toward Toscanini's Ice Cream and Central Square, that tells the story of candy manufacturing in Cambridge.
    If you are starting the tour at this stop, please refer to our website for Google Maps that can help guide you from place to place. 
    Guest speaker
    Susan Benjamin, Founder, True Treats Candy, Harper’s Ferry, WV; author, Sweet as Sin: The Unwrapped Story of How Candy Became America’s Favorite Pleasure (2016)

    • 5 min
    Instant Photos

    Instant Photos

    700 Main Street, Cambridge
    This is one of the most storied sites in Cambridge’s industrial history—a nexus for advances in everything from railroad car manufacturing to telephony to photography to biotechnology. Our audio guide focuses on just one of 700 Main Street’s tenants, Edwin Land and his company Polaroid. Working in this building in the 1940s, Land and other engineers and scientists at Polaroid figured out how to, in essence, build an entire darkroom’s worth of chemistry into a multilayered photographic medium. The first black-and-white Polaroid instant camera went on sale in 1948 and was a massive success, ultimately leading to a color version in 1972. For decades, Polaroid was one of the dominant employers in Cambridge, only to decline into bankruptcy after the development of competing technologies such as one-hour film processing, videotape camcorders, and digital cameras.
    During business hours Mon-Fri, the LabCentral lobby at the back of the building is open to the public and includes a display about the building's history. When facing the building, walk down the sidewalk on the left side. Restrooms are also available.
    Guest speaker
    Victor McElheny, Founding Director, MIT Knight Science Journalism Fellowship Program; author, Insisting on the Impossible: The Life of Edwin Land (1998)

    • 7 min
    Vaccine Breakthroughs

    Vaccine Breakthroughs

    200 Technology Square, Cambridge 
    While Moderna gained fame as one of the pharmaceutical companies that created mRNA vaccines against the COVID-19 virus in 2020, it has actually been working on mRNA therapies for a variety of health problems since 2010. The basic idea behind all of the company’s treatments is to use messenger RNA to carry coding sequences into human cells, where the cells’ own machinery follows the code to build the desired therapeutic antibodies or other proteins. The pandemic gave Moderna the opportunity to test this approach in tens thousands of test subjects and then make billions of FDA-approved vaccine doses, vastly accelerating the company’s programs. “We never anticipated this kind of an exponential increase in the possibilities,” says Noubar Afeyan, Moderna’s co-founder and chairman.
    Guest speaker
    Noubar Afeyan, Founder and CEO, Flagship Pioneering; Co-founder and Chairman, Moderna Pharmaceuticals

    • 6 min
    Getting to the Moon

    Getting to the Moon

    555 Technology Square, Cambridge
    Charles Stark Draper founded the Aeronautical Instrumentation Laboratory at MIT in 1932, and in 1973 the lab was spun out independent nonprofit under Draper’s name. For eight decades, it has played a pivotal role in the development of guidance and control systems for aircraft, spacecraft, and missiles—but its most famous exploit by far was the creation of the Apollo guidance system that helped American astronauts fly to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s. A giant model of the moon hanging in the company’s atrium commemorates the 50th anniversary of that accomplishment.
    Guest speaker
    Peter Kachmar, Systems Engineer, Draper Laboratory

    • 6 min
    Internet Accelerator

    Internet Accelerator

    145 Broadway, Cambridge
    If you started using the web in the 1990s, you may remember the “World Wide Wait,” the long loading times that plagued popular websites. Akamai, a spinout from MIT’s Lab for Computer Science and mathematics department, solved the network congestion problem by developing algorithms for distributed computing and building its own network of edge servers that could store copies of high-demand content closer to users. Even today, Akamai sends streaming video and other content to billions of people each day—and in its iconic new building at 145 Broadway, it remains one of Kendall Square’s anchor technology companies.
    Guest speakers
    Tom Leighton, Co-founder and CEO, Akamai
    Julia Austin, Senior Lecturer, Harvard Business School; former VP of Engineering, Akamai
     

    • 7 min

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