Eureka!

The fascinating inspirations behind common inventions and creations - from Barbie to Sweet and Low to Mt. Rushmore.

The slinky was born aboard a World War II ship.
The Barbie doll was inspired by a German sex toy.
Weight Watchers began with a Jewish housewife in Queens, New York.

Eureka! explores the fascinating stories behind these famous creations and many others-from blue jeans to the Taj Mahal to Mickey Mouse-detailing the relationships between inspirations and their inventors. Readers will delight in the intriguing-and sometimes surprising-origins behind the ideas that have shaped the world.

 

Synopsis
The fascinating inspirations behind common inventions and creations- from Barbie to Sweet and Low to Mt. Rushmore. The slinky was born aboard a World War II ship. The Barbie doll was inspired by a German sex toy. Weight Watchers began with a Jewish housewife in Queens, New York. Eureka! explores the fascinating stories behind these famous creations and many others-from blue jeans to the Taj Mahal to Mickey Mouse-detailing the relationships between inspirations and their inventors. Readers will delight in the intriguing-and sometimes surprising-origins behind the ideas that have shaped the world.
Wagman-Geller received her BA from York University and her teaching credentials from the University of Toronto and San Diego State University. She currently teaches high school English in National City, California, and lives with her family in San Diego.

Book Review | 'Eureka!: The Surprising Stories Behind the Ideas That Shaped the World'
'Light bulb' moment explored: Forehead slaps changed globe

By Scott Coffman * Special to The Courier-Journal * August 7, 2010

The central conceit of this extremely enjoyable book is ingeniously simple: Begin each chapter with a somewhat vague description of a historical figure -- who may or may not be recognizable by name alone -- and then fill in the remaining pages with the person's story, complete with the "Eureka!" event that changed lives and history.

The story of the author's moment of inspiration -- the one that was the gestation of the book -- is entertainingly told in the forward. Wagman-Geller also describes the criteria for the stories included in the book: Some stories fell to the wayside not because they were less than riveting, but because they lacked a "light bulb" moment. Other stories had the requisite "slap to the forehead" origins, but not enough verifiable information was available about the creators and their handiwork.

The disparate subjects included never fail to entertain: the name Anne Made Grosholz may be unfamiliar, but only a hermit would be unfamiliar with her life's work; Pierre de Coubertin created the most famous quadrennial event in the world, even if you didn't know it; uncover the connection between the allegedly treasonous Alfred Dreyfus and racing great Lance Armstrong; learn the shocking last request of Bill Wilson, self-described as "just another drunk" and yet a savior to millions; discover the daughter of immigrants who created one of America's most enduring icons; and learn the identity of the "boy born on the wrong side of the tracks..." and how his Eureka has "... changed the way (the world) does business."

These are truly fascinating mini-biographies -- 40 in all -- that deftly condense reams of information into digestible chunks of a few pages in length. The subjects are disparate, so if one fails to entertain, the next surely will. The author indicates she is at work on a sequel, and such a book would be welcomed wholeheartedly.

Scott Coffman is a writer, cartoonist and bookseller who lives in Louisville.