Quartz - Inside the 122-year-old company that makes sure our electronics don’t blow up our homes < 5min

The company’s genesis can be traced back to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, a world’s fair that took place in Chicago. A recent MIT electrical engineering grad, William Henry Merrill, was hired by insurers to investigate Nicola Tesla’s work illuminating the exposition, which apparently consumed three times as much electricity as the rest of the city of Chicago at the time. Buildings were catching on fire at the fair, and insurance adjustors wanted to know why. Realizing the myriad potential fire hazards that the burgeoning lighting and electricity industries could pose, Merrill decided to stay in Chicago and set up an organization dedicated to testing electrical products and writing safety standards for them. ... More than a century later, UL is still contending with the same problems Merrill saw at the Columbian Exposition—short circuits, faulty wiring, shoddy manufacturing; anything that can cause a product to catch fire. But for the most part, our electronics and houses don’t spontaneously combust, and, in the US, that’s generally because of the increasingly specific and bizarre tests UL puts products through.