date published: Mar 18, 2002

The Spirit of Innovation
Plug into the Hub’s legacy of invention and technological discovery on the Innovation Odyssey tour
by Ariana Brody
Everyone knows Boston as the birthplace of the American Revolution, but our fair city has also been a fountainhead of many groundbreaking inventions and technological innovations. The telephone, the Internet, the mutual fund and the first safety razor all came to life here in the Hub. The city has also been the site of important breakthroughs in medicine, gene research and computer technology.

Uncover this world of discovery on the new Innovation Odyssey tour, where guests get a personal introduction to the many inventors and visionaries who made notable contributions that changed the world. Visitors ride into the past on a two-hour theatrical adventure (running every Saturday at 2 p.m.) aboard a luxury coach, while a costumed narrator describes the dozens of stories of those who significantly advanced the growth of communication, finance, education, medicine, sports and much more. This play-on-wheels is an excursion of discovery that exemplifies the genesis of innovation and provides guests with privileged access to hidden treasures throughout the city. The first section of the tour brings guests to the famous Ether Dome (the name alone can make you feel lightheaded) at Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1846, Boston dentist Dr. William T.G. Morton

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD—The Innovation Odyssey winds its way from the Pioneer Telephone Museum (above) to Kendall Square in Cambridge (left), home to M.I.T. and several important genetic research labs.
successfully performed the first surgery using the anesthetic ether, paving the way for modern surgery. The room was built on the fourth floor in order to allow natural light—which is better for surgery—to penetrate through the domed ceiling.

Harvard Medical School became part of the city’s health care mecca when it moved into the Longwood Medical area in 1906, joining the already established first-class health institutions. The purpose was for Harvard’s medical students to be trained among the elite in the profession. This put Harvard at the top among teaching hospitals, leading to the introduction of insulin, the iron lung and the first transplant, which all took place at Harvard Medical School.

COSTUME DRAMA—A costumed narrator enlightens visitors at one of the stops along the Innovation Odyssey tour.

Today, ease of communication is the key to our modern society. And we have Alexander Graham Bell—and his invention of the telephone—to thank for that. With the proliferation of cell phones and multiple home phones, it’s easy to forget when and where the first telephone came into existence. In fact, it was right here in the Hub. Visitors on the tour journey to the Pioneer Telephone Museum at City Hall Plaza, not far from the site where Alexander Graham Bell first uttered that famous phrase to his assistant through his harmonic telegraph line: “Mr. Watson, come here, I need you.”

Across the Charles River, the city of Cambridge is known for its culture, quaint shops, restaurants, local music and the nation’s first college, Harvard University. But most people don’t realize that the other nickname for Cambridge is “Genetown, U.S.A.” DNA and genome research thrives at notable Cambridge research and development labs like the Whitehead Institute, Genzyme and Biogen, many of which recruit their scientists from the world-class Massachusetts Institute of Technology. M.I.T. has itself been the progenitor of important inventions like the first computers, the Internet and e-mail.

Finance is the connection between a dream and making that dream come to life. Bostonians led the charge on such financial innovations as the first commercial bank, the mutual fund and venture capital. And storied companies like Gillette, which invented the first safety razor, have also made their name in Boston.The tour continues its route down the Avenue of the Arts where a wealth of history is preserved—the beauty of the Isabella Gardner Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts and Northeastern University, which pioneered the innovative co-op program into its higher education goals.

The Innovation Odyssey tour is a museum without walls, a collaborative effort to celebrate the curiosity, triumphs and creative genius of those who have changed the course of human progress—much in the same way the revolutionary spirit of colonial Boston forever transformed America.

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