Series Overview

Sloan Foundation Partnership

Since 1995, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has played a critical role as the funder of a science and technology initiative within AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. This valued partnership has enabled AMERICAN EXPERIENCE to explore the central role that science and technology have played in shaping American history. The result has been an extensive body of work featuring programs on topics as diverse as the development of the contraceptive pill, the work of mathematical genius John Nash, the building of the Golden Gate Bridge and the laying of the first transatlantic cable. These films seek to raise public awareness of the influence of science and technology on American culture and society. They show, for example, the key role the Pill played in the women’s rights movement and how the transatlantic cable revolutionized the flow of information much like the Internet today. AMERICAN EXPERIENCE films supported by the Sloan Foundation have screened at major film festivals including Sundance, and won major awards including the Erik Barnouw Award and the CINE Gold Eagle.

In 2003, with key seed funding from the Sloan Foundation, the producers of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE launched the WGBH History Unit. The unit’s inaugural production, the four-part series They Made America, looks at a select group of American innovators who have had a significant impact on history.

Founded in 1934, the Sloan Foundation’s interests lie in science, technology and economic performance. The foundation’s Public Understanding of Science and Technology program, in particular, seeks to enhance people’s lives by providing a better understanding of the increasingly scientific and technological environment in which we live. The program supports the use of books, radio, television, films, theater, and new media to reach a wide nonspecialist audience. In 2004, the foundation began to explore ways of reaching scientists and engineers so they can better understand and appreciate how they and their work are perceived by the broader culture.

Visit the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Online

Programs Supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation


The Race Underground
First broadcast: 1/31/17 (60 min.) 

Rachel Carson
First broadcast: 1/24/17 (120 min.) 

First broadcast: 10/18/16 (60 min.) 

Space Men
First broadcast: 3/1/16 (60 min.)

The Forgotten Plague
First broadcast: 2/10/2015 (60 min.)

The Big Burn
First broadcast: 2/3/15 (60 min) 

First broadcast: 1/27/2015 (120 min.)

The Rise and Fall of Penn Station 
First broadcast: 2/18/2014 (60 min.) 

The Poisoner's Handbook 
First broadcast: 1/7/2014 (60 min.) 

Silicon Valley
First broadcast: 2/5/2013 (90 min.)

Grand Coulee Dam
First broadcast: 4/3/2012 (90 min.)

The Greely Expedition
First broadcast: 1/31/2011 (60 min.)

Panama Canal
First broadcast: 1/24/2011 (90 min.)

Dinosaur Wars
First broadcast: 1/17/2011 (60 min.)

Into the Deep: America, Whaling & The World
First broadcast: 5/10/2010 (120 min.)

The Polio Crusade
First broadcast: 2/2/09 (60 min.)

The Trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer
First broadcast: 1/26/09 (120 min.)

Grand Central
First broadcast: 2/4/2008 (60 min.)

The Lobotomist
First broadcast: 1/21/2008 (60 min.)

The Living Weapon
First broadcast: 2/5/2005 (60 min.)

The Great Fever
First broadcast: 10/30/2006 (60 min.)

Test Tube Babies
First broadcast: 4/24/06 (60 min.)

The Alaska Pipeline
First broadcast: 4/24/06 (60 min.)

The Great Transatlantic Cable
First broadcast: 4/11/05 (60 min.)

Building the Alaska Highway
First broadcast: 2/7/05 (60 min.)

Golden Gate Bridge
First broadcast: 5/3/04 (60 min.)

The Pill
First broadcast: 2/24/2003 (60 min.)

Transcontinental Railroad
First broadcast: 1/27/2003 (120 min.)

A Brilliant Madness
First broadcast: 4/28/2002 (60 min.)

Streamliners: America’s Lost Trains
First broadcast: 2/5/2001 (60 min.)

Secrets of a Master Builder
First broadcast: 10/30/2000 (60 min.)

The Wizard of Photography
First broadcast: 5/22/2000 (60 min.)

Rescue at Sea
First broadcast: 2/15/99 (60 min.)

Race for the Superbomb
First broadcast: 1/11/99 (120 min.)

Influenza 1918
First broadcast: 2/9/98 (60 min.)

New York Underground
First broadcast: 2/17/97 (60 min.)

Big Dream, Small Screen
First broadcast: 2/10/97 (60 min.)

The Telephone
First broadcast: 2/3/97 (60 min.)

The Richest Man in the World: Andrew Carnegie
First broadcast: 1/20/97 (120 min.)

Spy in the Sky
First broadcast: 2/26/96 (60 min.)

The Wright Stuff
First broadcast: 2/12/1996 (60 min.)

Chicago 1968
First broadcast: 11/13/96 (60 min.)

Edison’s Miracle of Light
First broadcast: 10/23/95 (60 min.)