The Real-World Stories Behind Dr. Stone's Inventions

by Mary Lee Sauder,

One day, a mysterious green light engulfed the Earth, transforming all humans into stone statues. When teen genius Senku finally breaks out of his petrification after 3720 years, he finds himself in a world devoid of modern society – buildings have crumbled to make way for lush, untamed forests, and the only humans are a small group of villagers who subsist on stone-age technology. With the help of his new friends and his near-limitless knowledge of science, Senku sets out of rebuild modern civilization one invention at a time. Senku may be highly intelligent and creative, but he's quick to point out that the real inventors are the people who developed these technologies in the first place – for the most part, he's just recreating their work with stone-age materials. So, what are their stories? In the real world, how did we get gas masks, sulfa drugs, cola, and so many other useful things? Let's dive into the history of these inventions and see where Senku got his inspiration from!

Light Bulbs


One of the most iconic moments in Dr. Stone is when Senku returns light to the night sky by recreating the light bulb. He credited Thomas Edison for the invention, even though it's relatively common knowledge that Edison didn't create it by himself. Various scientists had been experimenting with incandescent light (made by heating a strip of metal to such a high temperature that it glows) since the 1700s, but none had landed on a practical version until 1878, when British physicist and chemist Joseph Swan developed a light bulb with a carbon filament and platinum lead-in wires. In 1881, the Savoy Theater in Westminster became the first public building to be entirely lit by electricity, thanks to Swan's light bulbs.

Around the same time, Edison and his team were busily experimenting with filaments and trying to muscle their competitors out of the electric lighting business. They successfully exploited patents from another inventor named William Sawyer, and even took over Swan's company by 1882. The one major contribution Edison did make to the incandescent light bulb was the implementation of a bamboo filament, which Senku used as well. Maybe that's what he meant when he told Chrome that Edison invented the light bulb...

Gas Masks



During the quest to cure Ruri's mysterious disease, the gang needed to gather sulfuric acid from a lake situated in a valley nearby. However, sulfur gas (hydrogen sulfide) is incredibly poisonous, so Senku needed to develop a gas mask so they could travel there safely. The Banu Musa brothers first outlined the concept of a gas mask in 9th century Baghdad in their “Book of Ingenious Devices”, intending its use to be for workers in polluted wells. Ancient Greeks used sea sponges as masks, and Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier invented a respirator in 1785 (but he also tested the flammability of hydrogen by pouring it into his mouth and blowing over an open flame, so perhaps he shouldn't be considered a leading authority on chemical safety).

The development of the gas mask skyrocketed during World War I, when soldiers needed protection against the new chemical weapons that were used heavily at the time. A Russian chemist named Noklay Zelinsky used activated charcoal in the mask to absorb poisonous gases, which Senku recreated by using a canister full of charcoal from roasted bamboo. It was a crude method, but it worked!

Sulfa Drugs



We don't hear much about sulfa drugs these days, since they've largely been supplanted by penicillin and other modern antibiotics. But since the bacteria used to create penicillin is so rarely found in nature that its discovery happened completely by accident, Senku had no choice but to use a different method to cure Ruri's disease. Bacterial diseases are vulnerable to some substances that aren't natural to the human body, such as certain types of mold and, of course, sulfur, so sulfa drugs use that principle to act as a general antibiotic.

German pathologist Gerhard Domagk invented the sulfa drug Prontosil in 1935, which was the first medicine to successfully treat bacterial infections. He was so confident in his work that he even used it to cure his six-year-old daughter Hildegard's strep throat. The treatment was successful, but Hildegard was stuck with a permanent reddish skin discoloration afterwards because the chemicals used in Prontosil come from synthetic dyes. At least she didn't have a sore throat anymore...?

Unfortunately, even though Domagk won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1939, German authorities interfered with his well-earned moment of recognition. German citizens were forbidden from accepting Nobel Prizes at the time, since an outspoken German pacifist named Carl von Ossiestzky had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1935, angering the Nazi party. Domagk ignored them and took his medal anyway, but was arrested by the Gestapo and forced to send a letter rejecting it. He eventually got the medal back eight years later, but never received the prize money because it had been redistributed in the intervening years.

To add insult to injury, penicillin and other antibiotics became more widely available after World War II and Prontosil quickly fell out of favor. But Domagk and his team later contributed to the invention of isoniazid, which remains one of the strongest and most reliable anti-tuberculosis medications to this day. Along with his one last hurrah in Dr. Stone, Domagk cemented his place in history.

Cotton Candy and Electrical Wire



Wire was originally made in ancient Egypt by pulling thin strips of metal through perforations in rocks to form a cylinder, and today it's usually manufactured by drawing metal through progressively smaller dies or draw plates. Senku's idea of forming gold electrical wires by using the centrifugal force from a modified cotton candy machine doesn't have much precedent in real life, but it could conceivably work.

Pulled sugar candy has existed in various forms for over 2,000 years, from the traditional Chinese dragon's beard candy to Iranian pashmak to Tuskish pismaniye and more. But the first cotton candy machine was invented by dentist William Morrison and confectioner John C. Wharton in 1897 and gained popularity when they served up their “fairy floss” at the 1904 World's Fair. It works by pouring a specially formulated sugar and food coloring mixture into a spinning reservoir, which uses centrifugal force to pull the sugar through heated holes around the edges. The sugar melts and then re-solidifies as tiny threads in the air, where it is collected in a larger basin and gathered up on a stick. Senku used the same method to pull melted gold into thin strands that could then be braided to form electrical wire.

However, similarly to poor Joseph Swan and Gerhard Domagk, Morrison and Wharton's success was short-lived. Another dentist named Joseph Lascaux filed a patent for a similar machine in 1921 and called the confection “cotton candy”, which completely replaced the term “fairy floss” in the U.S. Australia still uses the original name, but that was probably small comfort for the American-born Morrison and Wharton.

Cola



The modern mentalist Gen Asagiri became one of Senku's most valuable companions over the course of the story. He missed the comforts of the old era, especially the simple satisfaction of a bottle of cola. So, after got severely injured trying to save the group from Magma's wrath, Senku rewarded him with a custom cola concocted from carbonated water, honey caramel, coriander, and lime. Senku wasn't able to use the caffeinated kola nut (native to Africa) in his recipe, but Gen was delighted nonetheless.

Interestingly, cola was originally developed as a medicine. In 1866, Atlanta pharmacist and Civil War veteran John Pemberton was seeking a cure for his morphine addiction (caused by the lingering pain from a war injury) and turned his attention to the popular European drink coca wine. He improved the simple combination of cocaine and alcohol with the additions of kola nut extract and damiana (a plant used in traditional Mexican liqueur) and dubbed it “Pemberton's French Wine Coca”, which he marketed as a relief tonic for “ladies, and all those whose sedentary employment causes nervous prostration”. He later had to remove the alcohol because of temperance laws in Atlanta, which set him back a few steps. But he hit upon a stroke of luck when his assistant accidentally infused the drink with carbonated water, giving Pemberton the idea to sell it as a fountain beverage named “Coca-Cola” instead.

However, Coca-Cola wasn't the morphine addiction cure that Pemberton needed. His health and wealth deteriorated and, shortly after the country was introduced to his new fountain drink, he sold the rights and died in poverty. Senku's cola may not be the exact same as Pemberton's recipe, but it carried on the spirit of the brilliant pharmacist into the distant future.

Final Thoughts

Even though almost all of these inventors led very turbulent lives that ended in tragedy, their contributions to the world will never be forgotten. Senku truly stands on the shoulders of giants– his forebearers created wondrous inventions that had never been seen before, and he uses his wit and determination to reimagine them for his new stone-age environment. We can't wait to see what he comes up with next!


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