Articles by David Zax

Georges Nagelmackers, creator of the Orient Express, envisioned "a train that would span a continent, running on a continuous ribbon of metal for more than 1,500 miles," writes one historian.

The True History of the Orient Express

Spies used it as a secret weapon. A president tumbled from it. Hitler wanted it destroyed. Just what made this train so intriguing?

How Did Computers Uncover J.K. Rowling’s Pseudonym?

Forensic linguistics can use powerful programs to track written text back to its author

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Is Your Cell Phone Helping to Fund a Civil War?

The rare minerals used to build your cell phone are coming under scrutiny by federal regulators

The annual value of Japan's Manga Publishing Industry is $6 billion.

How Do You Rebrand a Country?

A look at Japan’s attempt to call itself “cool”

Carole Pohn, with her children Jennifer and Andy in 1962 or '63, says photographer Vivian Maier called her "the only civilized person" in the Chicago suburb where they were neighbors.

Vivian Maier: The Unheralded Street Photographer

A chance find has rescued the work of the camera-toting baby sitter, and gallery owners are taking notice

Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s men drew Union fire in an attempt to destroy a Potomac River dam.

Frozen in Place: December 1861

President Lincoln addresses the State of the Union and grows impatient with General McClellan

Ralph Eugene Meatyard said that masks erased the differences between people. He photographed his family, shown here, in 1962.

Ralph Eugene Meatyard: The Man Behind the Masks

The "dedicated amateur" photographer had a strange way of getting his subjects to reveal themselves

George McClellan, with Abraham Lincoln at Antietam in 1862, took command of the Union armies but let the president wait.

November 1861: Flare Ups in the Chain of Command

As Union generals came and left, personalities clashed and Southern farmers set fire to their fields

The Union is defeated at Ball's Bluff, where Col. Edward D. Baker becomes the only U.S. senator to be killed in battle as illustrated here in Death of Col. Edward D. Baker: At The Battle of Balls Bluff Near Leesburg, Va., October 21st, 1861.

Scattered Actions: October 1861

While the generals on both sides deliberated, troops in blue and gray fidgeted

Union generals lost a week long siege of Lexington, Missouri, shown here, but took control of Ship Island, off Mississippi's coast.

September 1861: Settling in for a Long War

During this month, the civil war expands to Kentucky and West Virginia, and President Lincoln rejects an attempt at emancipation

"We expect a fight every moment," a Confederate private reported from Virginia, where New York's 8th militia, pictured, camped.

June 1861: Anticipating the Onslaught of the Civil War

The "Races at Philippi" and Virginia is split in two and more from what happened in the Civil War in June 1861

In his new book, iDubai, Joel Sternfeld publishes scores of photographs from his iPhone.

Seeing Dubai Through a Cell Phone Camera

At a shopping mall in Dubai, Joel Sternfeld documents the peak of consumer culture with his iPhone

George Gershwin's time in the Carolinas launched the musician on such a spree of creativity that it led to what some critics call one of his finest works.

Summertime for George Gershwin

Porgy and Bess debuted 75 years ago this fall, but a visit to South Carolina the year before gave life to Gershwin's masterpiece

Robert Scurlock covered Marian Anderson's performance at the Lincoln Memorial after she was denied the stage at Washington's Constitution Hall.

The Scurlock Studio: Picture of Prosperity

For more than half a century the Scurlock Studio chronicled the rise of Washington's black middle class

Galileo was the first to discover the moons of Jupiter.

Galileo's Revolutionary Vision Helped Usher In Modern Astronomy

The Italian scientist turned his telescope toward the stars and changed our view of the universe

Over the decades, archaeologists have turned up a great many artifacts from the Indus civilization, including stamp sealings, amulets and small tablets.

Can Computers Decipher a 5,000-Year-Old Language?

A computer scientist is helping to uncover the secrets of the inscribed symbols of the Indus

The Audubon Insectarium is the largest freestanding museum in the country dedicated solely to insects and relatives.

Going Buggy at the New Audubon Museum

Crickets, spiders, ants and many other insects thrive in historic New Orleans, where kids and adults learn about creepy crawlers

Antietam remains the bloodiest day in American history—23,000 men died or were wounded on that battlefield.

The Civil War

Civil War Geology

What underlies the Civil War’s 25 bloodiest battles? Two geologists investigate why certain terrain proved so hazardous

"Very seldom do a bunch of Santas get together," says Jerry Clarke, the right-most Santa, who manages apartments by day.

The More the Merrier

Photographer Neal Slavin captures the night some Santas bent the rules

Pier M. Forni's book, The Civility Solution: What do Do When People Are Rude.

Choosing Civility in a Rude Culture

Professor Pier M. Forni has devoted his career to convincing people to conduct their lives with kindness and civility

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