Research Snapshot: Scientific American

In December of 1861, Scientific American wrote that, “There is nothing in the industrial world at the present time more remarkable than the production of petroleum.” That such a sentence could be uttered suggests a starry-eyed optimism around the new, dazzling technology of petroleum. This optimism might be difficult to compute for those of us living in the blackened ruins. It’s hard to think without judgement of a world when petroleum was novel and exciting, a source of wonder, particularly in a time of rapid scientific growth and advancement. This was just a few years before Darwin published On the Origins of Species by Means of Natural Selection. The fossil record was being uncovered and people were digging up the bones of huge, curious lizards. There were so many other things to be excited about, and yet. Oil was already in the water, in the air, thickening the batter of our dreams.


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