Episode Description

In 1856, decades before the term “greenhouse gas” was coined, Eunice Newton Foote demonstrated the greenhouse effect in her home laboratory. She placed a glass cylinder full of carbon dioxide in the sun, and found that it heated up much faster than a cylinder of ordinary air. Her conclusion: more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere results in a warmer planet. Several years later, a British scientist named John Tyndall conducted a far more complicated experiment that demonstrated the same effect and revealed how it worked. Today, he’s widely known as the man who discovered the greenhouse gas effect. There’s even a crater on the moon named for him! Eunice Newton Foote, meanwhile, was lost to history—until an amateur historian stumbled on her story.


  • Ray Sorenson, retired petroleum geologist and amateur historian
  • Sally Kohlstedt, science historian and professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota
  • John Perlin, author and lecturer who has been researching the story of Eunice Newton Foote
  • Katharine Hayhoe, climate scientist and chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy



Zoe Kurland


Zoe began her audio career working with the Kitchen Sisters on their podcast The Kitchen Sisters Present. After a stint in documentary film, she worked as an environmental reporter in West Texas covering everything from water shortages to cacti smuggling. She then moved on to KPCC/LAist Studios in Los Angeles where she worked on the daily news team and produced Weekend Edition. Zoe’s work has been featured on Marketplace and in New York Magazine, and she’s won two Regional Murrow Awards for her feature reporting.

Elah Feder

Senior Producer

Elah is a journalist, audio producer, and editor. Her work has appeared on Science Friday, Undiscovered, Science Diction, Planet Money, and various CBC shows. She has a masters from the University of Toronto, where she studied evolutionary biology, and later completed a masters at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism.


  • The write-up of the 1856 talk at AAAS, where a man named Joseph Henry read Eunice’s paper for her.
  • Eunice’s full paper published in 1856
  • Ray Sorenson, a retired petroleum geologist, uncovered Eunice Newton’s Foote story 12 years ago, and published this paper about his discovery.
  • “Who discovered the greenhouse effect?” an article from the Royal Institution asking what it means to “discover” the greenhouse effect when multiple people contributed to establishing it.

Episode Transcript

All Episodes