The Giants’ Shoulders #56

Two pound coin

Image of £2 coins from UK by Flickr user p_rocket71

Welcome to The Giants’ Shoulders #56, bringing you the world of history of science blogging over the last month all in one place. For lack of energy (I’m under the weather) and the overwhelming number of great and worthy posts (this is only a good sign that history of science blogging is healthy), there is no grand theme to this blog carnival. Instead, I will offer the posts to you in Chicago Manual Style format. Yes, CMS has citation (footnote/endnote) and bibliographic guidelines for blog posts! Awesome. I will use the citation format, as that includes the title of the blog post, whereas the bibliographic format only includes the post URL and name of the blog. For example,

John Ptak, “History of Science Reference Tools,” Ptak Science Books, February 3, 2013,

The author of the post above would like to expand his list of science reference tools, so he respectfully invites readers to share their top five go-to reference sites for the history of science, either in the comments here, or John can be reached on Twitter at @ptak. Thanks!

Also, before I bombard you with an incredibly long list of posts, let me highlight a few that go together, as they address the act of blogging:

Jai Virdi, “HPS Blogging V.2013,” From the Hands of Quacks, January 30, 2013,

Mike Thicke, “False dilemmas in science blogging,” The Bubble Chamber, January 30, 2013,

Nathaniel Comfort, “Toward a historioriography of science & social media,” Genotopia, February 4, 2013,

Mike Thicke, “Interview with James Collier of the Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective,” The Bubble Chamber, February 10, 2013,

On to the #histsci!

Dan Allosso, “Birth Control in the First Half of the 19th Century,” The Historical Society, February 6, 2013,

Rupert Baker, “Our unusual ‘Chymist’,” The Repository, The Royal Society, January 17, 2013,

Philip Ball, “Righting history,” Chemistry World, January 9, 2013,

Michael Barton, “Get to Know Darwin,” The Dispersal of Darwin, January 30, 2013,

Michael Barton, “I post this without comment,” The Dispersal of Darwin, February 5, 2013,

BBC, “Five Portraits of Science,” The Essay, BBC Radio 3, January 14-18, 2013,

David Bressan, “The Forgotten Naturalist: Alfred Russel Wallace,” History of Geology, January 9, 2013,

David Bressan, “Geologizing with Darwin,” History of Geology, February 12, 2013,

David Bressan, “Men among prediluvian Beasts,” History of Geology, January 27, 2013,

B. Ricardo Brown, “Darwin, Slavery, the HMS Black Joke, and Seaman Morgan,” Until Darwin: Science & the Origins of Race, February 12, 2013,

B. Ricardo Brown, “Darwin, Slavery, and Science (2009),” Until Darwin: Science & the Origins of Race, January 24, 2013,

Michael Bycroft, “Correctives to #overlyhonestmethods,” Double Refraction, January 17, 2013,

Richard Carter, “Charles Darwin to Charles Lyell, 10th January, 1860,” The Friends of Charles Darwin, January 10, 2013,

Thony Christie, “Down a mineshaft or why historians (must) become polymaths,” Renaissance Mathematicus, February 7, 2013,

Thony Christie, “A play is not a history book,” Renaissance Mathematicus, February 15, 2013,

Thony Christie, “What Kepler and Newton really did,” Renaissance Mathematicus, February 5, 2013,

Matthew Cobb, “What is life? The physicist who sparked a revolution in biology,” Notes & Theories, February 7, 2013,

Jason Colavito, “How a (Sort of) Believer in Ancient Astronauts Almost Became U.S. President,”, February 6, 2013,

Nathaniel Comfort, “Hilary Rose on eugenics & genetic medicine,” Genotopia, January 31, 2013,

Richard Conniff, “Lost and Gone Forever,” The Opinionator, The New York Times, February 3, 2013,

Justin Cook, “International Museum of Horology (Musée International d’Horlogerie), Switzerland,” The BSHS Travel Guide, February 6, 2013,

Joanna Corden, “Piltdown Man,” The Repository, The Royal Society, February 4, 2013,

Stephanie Cowell, “Poetry, pain, and opium in Victorian England: Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s use of laudanum,” Wonders & Marvels, February 5, 2013,

Henry Cowles, “A Novel History of Psychology,” AmericanScience: A Team Blog, February 15, 2013,

Henry Cowles, “Up Goer Five and the Rhetoric of Science,” AmericanScience: A Team Blog, January 31, 2013,

Helen Anne Curry, “David Kinkela on DDT, American politics, and transnational history,” AmericanScience: A Team Blog, January 16, 2013,

Athene Donald, “A cracking tale: why did the world’s first jetliner fall out of the sky?,” Occam’s Corner, January 21, 2013,

Lindsey Fitzharris, “Silent Voices in History: The Searchers of the Dead,” the chirurgeon’s apprentice, February 11, 2013,

Katherine Ford, “A curious fact…,” The Repository, The Royal Society, January 15, 2003,

Katherine Ford, “A Fellow’s election card,” The Repository, The Royal Society, February 11, 2013,

Jennifer Frazer, “Darwin’s Neon Golf Balls,” The Artful Amoeba, January 15, 2013,

Susannah Gibson, “Natural Histories in Eighteenth-Century Britain,” Dissertation Reviews, February 13, 2013,

Greg Gbur, “Phantasmagoria: How Étienne-Gaspard Robert terrified Paris for science,” Skulls in the Stars, February 11, 2013,

Greg Gbur, “The physicist vanishes,” Science Chamber of Horrors, February 4, 2013,

Greg Good, “Romantic Science, Romantic Music: Alexander von Humboldt and Franz Schubert,” GEOcosmoHISTORY, February 10, 2013,

Greg Good, “Starting off in a new direction: Earth, Cosmos, and History,” GEOcosmoHISTORY, February 8, 2013,

Graeme Gooday, “Review: Science in the Twentieth Century and Beyond,” Reviews in History, February 13, 2013,

Bill Griffith, “Lord Porter of Luddenham at Imperial College, London,” BSHS Travel Guide, February 2, 2013,

Jacob Hamblin, “Can’t Historians Predict the Future?,” Minds in a Groove, February 4, 2013,

Jacob Hamblin, “History of Science off the Beaten Path, History of Science at Oregon State University, January 31, 2013,

Ann-Marie Hansen, “Contracts and Early Modern Scholarly Networks,” The Sloane Letters Blog, February 4, 2013,

Jennifer Harbster, “Saving Science Blogs,” Inside Adams, January 25, 2013,

Tom Harper, “Stargazing with maps. In the dark?,” Magnificent Maps Blog, January 18, 2013,

Darin Hayton, “Forgeries, Lies, and Deception in History,” Darin Hayton, February 8, 2013,

Darin Hayton, “Gopkin on Galileo,” Darin Hayton, February 6, 2013,

Darin Hayton, “Science Heroes Refuse to Die, Darin Hayton, February 3, 2013,

Darin Hayton, “Tales of Scientific Heroes are Just Celebrity Biographies,” Darin Hayton, January 31, 2013,

Vanessa Heggie, “The science of Ripper Street,” The H Word, February 3, 2013,

Robinson A. Herrera, “The Ambulatory Archive: Santa Muerte Tattoos as Historical Sources,” The Appendix, December 2012,

Rebekah Higgit, “Heritage and the Royal Institution,” The H Word, January 29, 2013,

Rebekah Higgit, “Thinking about life on Mars – video,” The H Word, January 18, 2013,

 Joanna Hopkins, “Can you feel the chemistry?,” The Repository, The Royal Society, February 14, 2013,

Rowan Hooper, “Wallace: Wonders of nature have been solace of my life,” New Scientist, January 24, 2013,

Virginia Hughes, “Darwin In the Age of Ebooks,” Download the Universe, January 7, 2013,

Dana Hunter, “Darwin: Geologist First and Last,” Rosetta Stones, February 10, 2013,

Ashutosh Jogalekar, “Leo Szilárd, a traffic light and a slice of nuclear history,” The Curious Wavefunction, February 12, 2013,

Eric Michael Johnson, “Macaque and Dagger in the Simian Space Race,” The Primate Diaries,” February 14, 2013,

Steve Jones, “Alfred Russel Wallace, the man who pre-empted Darwin,” The Telegraph, January 14, 2013,

Gilbert King, “The Rise and Fall of Nikola Tesla and his Tower,” The Past Imperfect, February 4, 2013,

Greg Laden, “Charles Darwin, Geologist,” Greg Laden’s Blog, February 11, 2013,

Fiona Keates, “That’s Ent-ertainment,” The Repository, The Royal Society, February 8, 2013,

Roger Launius, “Reflections on the Loss of STS-107: Ten Years Ago,” Roger Launius’s Blog, February 1, 2013,

Roger Launius, “Wednesday’s Book Review: ‘Red Moon Rising: Sputnik and the Hidden Rivalries that Ignited the Space Age’,” Roger Launius’s Blog, February 6, 2013,

Roger Launius, “What is the Space Shuttle’s Place in Modern American History?,” Roger Launius’s Blog, January 14, 2013,

Daniel Lende, “On Science, Social Science, and Politics,” Neuroanthropology, January 21, 2013,

Cory Lewis, “HPS could be the Corpus Callosum of the academy,” The Bubble Chamber, January 16, 2013,

Eleanor Louson, “A cold day in Ottowa,” Productive (adj), February 6, 2013,

Martin Mahony, “The slippery concept of ‘climate’,” Topograph: contested landscapes of knowing, January 16, 2013,

Adrienne Mayor, “Alexander the Great and the Rain of Burning Sand,” Wonders & Marvels, February 2013,

Patrick McCray, “Apprehending the Artifact,” Leaping Robot Blog, February 6, 2013,

John McKay, “Boltunov’s drawing,” archy, February 6, 2013,

John McKay, “An Early Description of Permafrost,” Mammoth Tales, February 3, 2013,

Adam McLean, “Lawrence Principe takes Basilius Valentinus to the laboratory,” Bibliotheca Philosophica, February 13, 2013,

Keith Moore, “The romantic Mr Edwards,” The Repository, The Royal Society, February 13, 2013,

Larry Moran, “How Linus Pauling Discovered the α-Helix,” Sandwalk, February 7, 2013,

Kate Morant, “The Paramore becalmed,” Halley’s Log, January 15, 2013,

Dawn Moutrey, “Winter surprise: tiny phrenology book,” Whipple Library Books Blog, January 23, 2013,

Carla Nappi, “Christopher I. Beckwith, Warriors of the Cloisters: The Central Asian Origins of Science in the Medieval World,” New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, January 22, 2013,

Carla Nappi, “Deborah R. Coen, The Earthquake Observers: Disaster Science from Lisbon to Richter,” New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, February 11, 2013,

Carla Nappi, “Joel Isaac: Working Knowledge: Making the Human Sciences from Parsons to Kuhn,” New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, January 28, 2013,

Carla Nappi, “Michael Gordin: The Pseudo-Science Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe,” New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, January 15, 2013,

Hannah Newton, “A Bag of Worms: Treating the Sick Child in Early Modern England, 1580-1720,” The Recipes Project, January 17, 2013,

Roger Pielke, Jr., “The Authoritarian Science Myth,” Roger Pielke, Jr.’s Blog, January 17, 2013,

John Pieret, “On the First Day of Darwin” through “On the Twelfth Day of Darwin, Thoughts in a Haystack, February 1-12, 2013,

 Maria Popova, “Happy Birthday, Pale Blue Dot: A Timeless Valentine to the Cosmos,” Brain Pickings, February 14, 2013,

Maria Popova, “How Chemistry Works: Gorgeous Vintage Science Diagrams, 1854,” Brain Pickings, January 31, 2013,

James Poskett, “Django Unchained and the racist science of phrenology,” Notes & Theories, February 5, 2013,

James Poskett, “Letters of Alfred Russel Wallace go online,” Nature, January 24, 2013,

John Ptak, “How Old are (Some) Scientific Words? Many Not Very,” Ptak Science Books, February 3, 2013,

John Ptak, “Pre-Darwin Darwin, Without the Post-Darwin,” Ptak Science Books, January 19, 2013,

Michael Robinson, “Beyond the Extreme,” Time to Eat the Dogs, January 27, 2013,

David Rooney, “The multiple lives of Alan Turing,” Stories from the stores, February 5, 2013,

Meg Rosenburg, “Between Science and HPS: How did I get here?,” True Anomalies: Tales from the History of Science, February 13, 2013,

Steve Shapiro, and Andrew Bensley, “The 6 Greatest Acts of Trolling in the History of Science,”, February 3, 2013,

Patrick Slaney, “Audra J. Wolfe: Competing with the Soviets: Science, Technology, and the State in Cold War America,” New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, February 4, 2013,

Lisa Smith, “Hans Sloane’s New York Collections,” The Sloane Letters Blog, February 10, 2013,

Lisa Smith, “Preparing for an Epidemic in the Eighteenth Century,” The Sloane Letters Blog, January 28, 2013,

Amy Shira Teitel, “Schirra’s Stellar Navigation,” Vintage Space, January 26, 2013,

Brian Switek, “Book Review: The Complete Dinosaur, Second Edition,” Laelaps, January 29, 2013,

Brian Switek, “Fossils of Future Past,” Laelaps, January 24, 2013,

Will Thomas, “Kuhn’s Demon, or: The Iconoclastic Tradition in Science Criticism,” Ether Wave Propaganda, January 21, 2013,

Will Thomas, “R.A. Fisher, Scientific Method, and the Tower of Babel, Part 1 and 2,” Ether Wave Propaganda, February 2/9, 2013, and

UCL History of Medicine, “How To Make a Victorian Villain (or the Tale of Isaac Baker Brown) Part 1 and 2,” The UCL Centre for the History of Medicine Blog, January 17/26, 2013, and

Alberto Vanzo, “Empiricism and innate ideas,” Early Modern Experimental Philosophy, February 4, 2013,

Jai Virdi, “Popular Remedies for Deafness,” From the Hands of Quacks, February 11, 2013,

Jai Virdi, “Searching for Charlatans,” From the Hands of Quacks, February 1, 2013,

Jennifer Wallis, “Muscle and mind in the asylum,” Asylum Science, February 4, 2013,

Michael Washburn, “Floating Ideas: ‘Soundings,’ About Marie Tharp, by Hali Felt,” Sunday Book Review (The New York Times), January 25, 2013,

Brandon Watson, “Whewell on Newton’s Laws IV: The Second and Third Laws,” Siris, January 30, 2013,

Mike White, “There is grandeur in Lucretius’ view of life,” The Finch and Pea, February 10, 2013,

Emily Winterburn, “Happy familes and Nobel Prizes,” Tea and Stars, February 6, 2013,

Emily Winterburn, “Herschel’s telescope,” Tea and Stars, January 12, 2013,

Alun Withey, “‘Weird’ remedies and the problem of ‘folklore’,” Dr Alun Withey, January 24, 2013,

Ed Yong, “Scientific families: Dynasty,” Nature, January 16, 2013,

Michelle Ziegler, “History Meets Biology at the AHA,” Contagions, January 8, 2013,

Unknown, “Rankine on Entropy, Love and Marriage,” Carnotcycle, February 1, 2013,

And, since February 12 was Darwin Day AND Mardi Gras, I’ll share one more Darwin post (from last year, but too good not to):

Cyriaque Lamar, “In the 1870s, Charles Darwin was the theme of a downright deranged Mardi Gras parade,” io9, May 2, 2012,

Well, there you have it, about a month’s worth of history of science/technology/medicine blogging (and this is far from comprehensive). Just one month? Wow!

As far as I know, a host for the March edition of The Giants’ Shoulders is still needed. If interested, reach out to the blog carnival organizers here or here.

Giants’ Shoulders #57 will be hosted by Alison Boyle (@ali_boyle) on the Science Museum Blog on 16th March. Submission should as always be made direct to the host or to Thony at The Renaissance Mathematicus or to Dr SkySkull at Skull in the Stars by 15th March at the latest.

The latest The Giant’s Shoulders is up

The latest history of science blog carnival is up. Via Thony C:

Dr SkySkull, founder and senior manager of your monthly history of science blog carnival, has posted the 45th edition of The Giants’ Shoulders at Skull in the Stars and as always it is a fascinating, titillating, exhilarating, scintillating and captivating potpourri of histsci delight. So put on the reading specs and mosey on over to Dr SkySkull’s abode and drink your fill at his history of science well of knowledge.

The 46th edition of the world’s numero uno history of science blog carnival will be hosted by Romeo Vitelli at his Providentia blog on 16th April 2012. We are having problems with the Blog Carnivals website so submissions please either direct to the host or to me (and I will forward them) before or on 15th  April.

The 47th edition of Giants’ Shoulders is being hosted by a newcomer to our blog carnival the Medical Heritage Library on 16th May. You can have the historic chance of hosting either the last Giants’ Shoulders #48 in its fourth year of existence on 16th June or the very first edition in its fifth year on 16th of July! Book now to avoid disappointment! Contact either Dr SkySkull at Skulls in the Stars of Thony C here at the Renaissance Mathematicus.

43rd edition of The Giant’s Shoulders: People, Places, and Things

Welcome to the 43rd edition of the history of science blog carnival, The Giant’s Shoulders. I have separated this month’s posts into people, places, and things, with all sorts of ideas within. Enjoy!


Nathaniel Comfort of the blog Genotopia talks history of science on the podcast Mendelspod (54:03).

James F. Crow, Population Genetics Pioneer, Dies at 95 – The New York Times: “James F. Crow, a leader in the field of population genetics who helped shape public policy toward atomic radiation damage and the use of DNA in the courtroom, died last Wednesday at his home in Madison, Wis. He was 95.”

Cetacean Scientists in the US – AmericanScience: “Paul Greenberg recently reviewed D. Graham Burnett’s The Sounding of the Whale: Science and Cetaceans in the Twentieth Century in the New York Times. Greenberg traces the arc, as told by Burnett, of the cetacean scientist from standing knee-deep in whale innards at the turn of the century to being newly enlightened by whale-ish complexity in the interwar years to fighting alongside other frustrated technocrats at the dawn of an age of international conservation to expanding the human and Cete mind in groovy ways amidst a backdrop of Cold War science. He comes away fascinated by the experience, but also wonders if the reading public wouldn’t benefit from something less that 793 pages, with footnotes for the footnotes (almost) —or actually, he wonders if the public wouldn’t benefit from more: a shortened version to accompany the encyclopedic one.”

Science and The New Inquiry – AmericanScience: “This brings us, briefly, to the hipster. Greif hinges his analysis on hipsters’ emphasis on “forms of knowledge that they possessed before anyone else,” on “a priori knowledge as a means of social dominance.” There’s something about this element of performance that feels somehow distant from the philosophical clubs of the 1800s.”

Huxley’s Apocryphal Dinosaur Dinner – Dinosaur Tracking: “I don’t know where the story about Huxley and the Christmas turkey came from. It is one of those stories that seems simply to exist in the academic ether. (Even the Discovering Dinosaurs authors voiced their uncertainty about the tale in their book.) Fortunately for us, though, Huxley’s many scientific papers trace the development of his thoughts about birds and dinosaurs.”

New portrait to mark Hooke’s place in history – IOP Blog: “Despite the folklore, however, there is now no doubt that Hooke had a profound influence on the history of physics, not least through the law of elasticity which he drew up while working as Robert Boyle’s assistant in 1660; a law of physics that now bears his name. Now, thanks to Rita Greer, a history painter, who has undertaken a project to memorialize Hooke, a portrait of the scientist will be hung at the Institute of Physics (IOP) in London.”

Google’s doodle: women have eggs – Why Evolution Is True: “Today’s Google doodle (above) is in honour of Nicolas Steno (1638-1686) – it would be his 374th birthday today (in fact it’s a bit more complicated than that, because he was actually born on 1 January 1638, but under the old Julian calendar…). The doodle fetes Steno’s principle of superposition, which is the idea that, in any geological strata, the lower layers are older than the upper layers. Furthermore, it shows fossils in the rocks – Steno was the first person to clearly show that fossils were actually the remnants of long-dead animals. But Steno was not just the father of geology. He was one of the most amazing thinkers who participated in the Scientific Revolution that took place in the 17th century. He also made lasting contributions to anatomy and physiology, and above all to our understanding of where we come from. All in the space of about 12 years.”

Hitchcock’s Primeval Birds – Dinosaur Tracking: “Lacking any better hypotheses, Hitchcock prominently featured his avian interpretation of the three-toed tracks in his 1858 book The Ichnology of New England. It was a gorgeous fossil catalog, but it also came at almost precisely the wrong time.”

Happy Birthday, William James – AmericanScience: “Today marks what would’ve been the one-hundred-and-seventieth birthday of one of the most well-regarded and enigmatic figures in American science: William James… James is a towering figure in American intellectual history – and he’s gotten lots of attention in the ensuing century as a result. Lately, it’s been picking up. The last few years marked a series of centenaries, including those of some of his best-known works: most significantly, The Varieties of Religious Experience in 1902 and Pragmatism in 1907.”

Podcast 44: Silent Spring at 50: a comparison perspective – Exploring Environmental History podcast: “2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s book ‘Silent Spring’… In order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Silent Spring this episode of the podcast explores the significance of this book with Mark Wilson, a PhD candidate at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle, England. Mark has written a study which compares the response to Silent Spring in the US and Britain. He also agues that Silent Spring is a typical product of its time that was closely connected with the Cold War and the rise of the counter culture at both sides of the Atlantic.”

Remarkable radium – Stories from the stores: “100 years ago today, Marie Curie was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, becoming the first person to win two Nobel Prizes. The citation recognised ‘the discovery of the elements radium and polonium … the isolation of radium and the study of the nature and compounds of this remarkable element’.”

Nothing new under the sun? – The Panda’s Thumb: “I was reminded of that flap the other day while I was reading Alfred Russel Wallace’s autobiography. Wallace mentions an 1872 talk he gave to the Entomological Society in which he described Herbert Spencer’s hypothesis that segmented insects are the result of an aggregation of once-separate ancestors…”

How to bridge the Two Cultures? – The History of Emotions Blog: “Lisa Jardine, centenary professor of renaissance studies at Queen Mary, University of London, put forward an interesting essay on Radio 4 on Sunday, looking at CP Snow’s ‘Two Cultures’, and the rise of technocratic government (you can read her essay here). She said…”

Rudwick and Newman & Principe and the Recovery of Meaning – Ether Wave Propaganda: “In the preparation of his Bursting the Limits of Time: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Revolution (2005), Martin Rudwick visited some of the geological features that geographers and natural philosophers of the late-18th and early-19th centuries discussed in their works. Accordingly, he devoted a special section to “places and specimens” in the book’s bibliography (pp. 653-654). He urged that such visits be seen as akin not only to documentary resources, but to the work of ‘…some historians of the experimental sciences [who] have been demonstrating the value of reconstructing the apparatus and replicating or ‘re-staging’ the experiments of historical figures in order to understand more fully how their hands-on laboratory experience of natural phenomena translated into theoretical conclusions.'”

Hasok Chang and “Complementary Science” – Ether Wave Propaganda: “In this post, I want to talk specifically about Chang’s ideas on what he calls “complementary science” — a vision for a new relationship between the history and philosophy of science and actual scientific work.”

Happy Birthday, Johannes Kepler! – Galileo’s Pendulum: “Newton showed why Kepler’s laws worked, based on his new laws of gravitation and motion, ultimately putting all of astronomy into the realm of physics where they had previously been separate. We should still honor Kepler, though: he discovered how the planets move without the benefit of Newton’s mechanics, which is a rather amazing feat. Happy 440th birthday, Johannes Kepler. Everyone go outside tonight and look at some planets in his honor.”

A trio of posts from Thony at Renaissance Mathematicus: Only 26 and already a professor! (Newton); How Charles tried to oust Isaac from Cambridge (Babbage); and Kepler contra Fludd, science contra woo? (Kepler)

James Moore on Alfred Russel Wallace (podcast, 11:37) – To The Best of Our Knowledge: “Alfred Wallace was the co-discover, with Charles Darwin, of the theory of natural selection. Wallace was also a great 19th century naturalist who spent years collecting speciments in the Amazon River Basin and later in the Malay Archipelago. Unlike the aristocratic Darwin, Wallace always had to work for a living. Historian of science James Moore says Wallace remains a mysterious figure, unlike the more famous Darwin.”

Muslims in the History of Sciences – The Pen (magazine): “Many people think that Muslims did not play a role in the history of sciences. They suppose religion does not let man to improve in science; so in this case Islam was in no position to let the Muslims to contribute to the scientific works. These are what the schools have taught for decades even in Muslim countries. This fallacy has been collapsing for the last few years. There have been some initiatives and projects that raise awareness of scientific achievements of the Muslims from the 7th century onwards.”

Why the Arabic World Turned Away from Science – The New Atlantis: “To anyone familiar with this Golden Age, roughly spanning the eighth through the thirteenth centuries a.d., the disparity between the intellectual achievements of the Middle East then and now — particularly relative to the rest of the world — is staggering indeed.”

Book Review: The First American by H.W. Brands – SomeBeans: “Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) is someone who has crossed the paths of a number of protagonists in books I have read on the history of science, including Antoine Lavoiser, Joseph Banks and the Lunar Society. I thought I should read something on the man himself: ‘The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin’ by H.W. Brands.”

HMS Beagle’s Naturalist – Wellcome Library: “McCormick’s diary may not be as famous as some of our other holdings, but its (relative) unfamiliarity is arguably a virtue: it’s one of the manuscripts held by the Wellcome Library that directly reminds us that there can be disputed accounts of ‘familiar’ historical events.”

Plaque spotting: Henry Cavendish (1731 – 1810) – Bloomsbury Bytes: “There is a black plaque to Henry Cavendish at 11 Bedford Square WC1, which is the north-east corner where Montague Place begins. It is difficult for the casual passer-by to notice, as it blends in rather well with its dark brick background. In this house, purchased around May 1783, Cavendish created a museum, a laboratory, and a scientific lending library of roughly 12,000 volumes contained in row upon rowsof elaborate sliding shelving, available to colleagues and other gentlemen who had been properly vouched for…”

Rhyme and reason: The Victorian poet scientists – New Scientist: “Poetry has been a long-standing tradition in the natural sciences, and Victorian scientists, in particular, had a wide-ranging education that fostered a powerful affinity with the Muse.”

They Froze for Science – and Got the Eggs – Neuron Culture: “The histories of exploration and science are littered with catastrophies like the Scott expedition, big ones like his polar push and the small ones like the penguin eggs: people and ideas and ventures embedded in ice and slowly obscured. These failures are necessary to the successes; Scott’s drive drove Amundsen, and Wilson’s questions about the origins of feathers later got answers, in transmuted forms, in today’s theories about birds’ descent from dinosaurs. The same desire, an ardor akin to Ahab’s, animates them all. It shows more in the failures. Who can’t be at their best when things go well? The real test is when things don’t quite work out.”

This dude strongly pushed the existence of intelligent Martian Canals. His initials also influenced the naming of Pluto. – Popperfont: “Science history rocks! This is a picture of Percival Lowell. More at his wiki entry.”

Maskelyne and Banks Revisited – The Board of Longitude 1714-1828: “After spending five weeks last summer as an intern and immersing myself in the NMM’s collections relating to Nevil Maskelyne, I have found myself intrigued by the character of his relationship with Joseph Banks. A previous post on this blog highlighted two episodes in the forty or so years that they knew each other, one from 1775 revealing a confident friendship between them and a shared scientific curiosity, and the other painfully polite, written in highly stilted and formal language in the months following a major dispute in 1784. Further reading has shed more light on the latter incident, and I have found documents that reveal the depth of the schism between the two men at this time.”

Art in the Lion’s Den – Laelaps: “Though Knight is best known for his restorations of prehistoric life – his dinosaur murals at Chicago’s Field Museum are arguably the finest ever composed – he could not have reconstructed primeval creatures so wondrously without instruction from the anatomy and attitudes of living animals.”

Hypotheses and Newton’s Rings – Early Modern Experimental Philosophy: “Newton’s “Hypothesis” paper provides a good example of his method of hypotheses. He remains carefully detached from his own hypothesis, using it only to ‘illustrate’ his theory and to suggest further experiments. Newton was also careful to keep his hypotheses well separate from his theory; the paper ends with a series of ‘Observations’ that contain no reference to his hypotheses at all!”

Richard Owen vs. Textbook Cardboard – Laelaps: “But this is historical hogwash. The dramatic battle between 19th century evolutionists and creationists over Archaeopteryx makes for a spicier narrative, I will admit, but does not hold together upon close scrutiny. Owen may have been an anti-Darwinian naturalist, but he was an evolutionist of another sort, and the high price he paid for Archaeopteryx had nothing to do with keeping the bird out of the reach of Huxley’s ilk. Rather, the primordial bird was to be one of many jewels that Owen set in the crown of his magisterial museum.”

£50 reward for industrial revolution pioneers on new bank note – Guardian: “Sir Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, has often voiced his yearning for a “rebalancing” of the economy towards neglected manufacturing, and he will put the nation’s money where his mouth is next month when the Bank produces a new £50 note celebrating two pioneers of the industrial revolution. The Bank will evoke the memory of the inventor James Watt and his Birmingham business partner, Matthew Boulton on the new note.”


New entires in the BSHS Travel Guide: Observatory of Tycho Brahe, Sweden; The Carlsberg Laboratory, Copenhagen; Sigmund Freud Museum, Vienna; Semmelweiss Museum, Budapest; City of Science and Industry, France; and a call for Philadelphia-specific articles!

Cursed Glaciers – History of Geology: “Some historians suggest that this myth is based on observations of advancing glaciers during the period of the “Little Ice Age“, a period of cooling extending in the Alps from the 16th to the 19th centuries.”

History of science in science museums and science centers – Medical Museion: “I guess what bewildered me is that history of science has been the obvious vantage point for most science museums for more than a hundred years. In other words, science museums have by definition been museums that displayed science historically: science museums have been identical with science history museums. But then I realised that this call had been made by scholars who don’t at all take this for granted.

Science in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery – teleskopos: “This post relates instead to an extra-curricula visit to another newly renovated Edinburgh institution (see my Longitude Blog post on the National Museum of Scotland) – the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.”

An 18th-century astronomical tour – teleskopos: “Bugge’s journal was discovered in the Royal Library in Copenhagen by Kurt Møller Pedersen over forty years ago. Although Pedersen quickly brought it to the attention of scholars, circulating a transcription and translation in the 1970s and ‘preliminary’ edition in 1997, this is the long-anticipated scholarly edition of a text that is of great significance to historians of scientific instruments, observatories and machinery in the eighteenth century.”

Richard Feynman’s Grave – Zoonomian: “Today I paid my respects at the grave of physicist Richard Feynman, interred with his wife Gweneth at the Mountain View Cemetary in Altadena, California. Feynman died of cancer in 1988 and his wife died the following year.”

Charlie’s Rose – Zoonomian: “I stumbled upon these today in the gardens of the Huntington (Library, Art Collection, Botanical Gardens) Estate in San Marino. According to this rose dealer, the variety is hardy, with a ‘strong and delicious fragrance that varies between a soft, floral Tea and almost pure lemon according to weather conditions’. Sounds like it would be right at home at Darwin’s former home in Kent (where it may indeed be for all I know).”


Animals or Brutes? – Anita Guerrini: “As I have been reading a number of anatomy texts from the seventeenth century, I have been struck by the ambiguity of the term “animal.” Now, these texts are all in Latin (a few were translated into the vernacular, in this case French, but not many). There is a clear distinction drawn between “animal” (the same in French), “homo” (or “homme”) and “brutus” (or “brute”).”

A Sometimes Unnatural History – BibliOdyssey: “The images below (background cleaned) are taken from the multi-volume natural history work, ‘Getreue Abbildungen Naturhistorischer Gegenstände’ (1795-1807), by Johann Matthäus Bechstein.”

Some Final Thoughts on Maps – PACHSmörgåsbord: “Judging by the increase in sophistication and nuance in student papers, it seems that this experiment in pedagogy enjoyed at least some success. Unfortunately, unlike many experiments that might seem to offer immediate results, I may never know the ultimate success or failure of this experiment. I, at least, enjoyed the process enough and students seemed to like working with old maps enough to merit using maps again the next time I teach my Introduction to the History of Science.”

Will a new HMS Beagle set sail in 2013? – Guardian: “Once launched, the new Beagle will bring the adventure of science to life, retracing FitzRoy and Darwin’s voyage, serving as an ambassador for British science, history and industry, and taking scientists and sailors to sea. Both disciplines are about looking at horizons, wondering what lies beyond, and not stopping until you, your crewmates and lab-mates have found out.” (visit The HMS Beagle Project)

The Nervous Icon – Part III – Textbook History: “‘The Nervous Icon’ is my name for an illustration of the human nervous system that found its way into dozens of anatomy, physiology and biology textbooks published between the mid-1800s and the mid-1900s. I began tracing its history in The Nervous Icon – Part I, where I touched on the issues of artistry, copyright, and mechanical reproduction in science textbooks. I followed up a month later in The Nervous Icon – Part II, where I went ‘over my head’ into the history of encyclopedias and the tension caused by the conflict between the assumption that cultural artifacts were the property of the dominating imperialist power and the imperatives of the emerging global marketplace. As I said then, ‘big stuff for a blog.'”

A Pictorial History of the Mysterious Wolverine – The Wolverine Blog: “The only obvious thing about wolverines is the fact that they have always been – and still are – mostly a mystery. Wolverine biologist Jason Wilmot recently unearthed three images spanning the early decades of natural history, and they neatly summarize how little was known about the animal at the time.”

Consilience: Photographers Operating at the Intersection of Art and Science – Monsters & Madonnas: “In many ways, art and science are likely bedfellows. Both support a culture of experimentation that is inspired by curiosity, while attracting individuals interested in generating fresh ideas and forging new paths. Consequently, there is a discoverable history of unifying practices, practitioners, and organizations dedicated to artists and scientists dating back to the Lunar Society. Photography has a singular place in this unfolding history.”

Intel vs. Obelisk: The Renaissance Beauty of the Single-Chip Microprocessor – Ptak Science Books: “The moment that I saw this image1 of (what I think is) the 8086 processor I thought of its great visual similarities to one of the greatest engineering works of the 16th century, so much so that with a little imagination, the older work seems a pentimento of the newer.”

Highly Recommended: The Discovery of Evolution, by David Young – ScienceDenial: “I never thought I was interested in the history of science, much, until I started reading David Young’s The Discovery of Evolution. Now I’m not even sure where I go[t] this book, but it had been on my shelf a while before I picked it up and took it some place to read over lunch one day. I hope I didn’t steal it, but if I did I’d like whoever I took it from to know I really, really enjoyed reading it. (Just kidding. I didn’t steal it.)”

In Praise of Ephemeral Astrological Literature – PACHSmörgåsbord: “Whether or not The Economist’s analogy is accurate, I think ephemeral print has a lot to offer if we spend the time studying it. These pamphlets often reveal what the most sophisticated astrologers thought, how astronomical ideas were spreading amongst the learned, how influential astrologers aligned their work with local princes and political agendas, and what the public might have known about their world.”

Botanists finally ditch Latin and paper, enter 21st century – Culturing Science: “And if you’re a botanist consulting a lengthy record of described plant species, you don’t want to lose some of those descriptions into the black hole of cyberspace. But this year, the botanists decided the web was less spooky and now can describe species in any electronic journal that has an ISSN, for the purpose of archiving.”

Dogmas in Neuroscience and Further Thoughts on the Limits of Neurohistory – The Neuro Times: “Secondly doesn’t the existence of these dogmas, as well as the observation we don’t know the origins of the claim that we have 100 billion neurons, only elevate further the fact that in order to even begin a neurohistory project we would need a clearer, deeper, and refined history of neuroscience and neurology? The dogmas that Lent et al. describe point towards other unsettled questions.”

On Collecting and Collectors – PACHSmörgåsbord: “Some areas I wish Blom had spent some time exploring include arranging, displaying and mediating access to collected objects. How is it that collectors use their collections to establish and project intellectual, social, and political authority? How is the status of the possessor enhanced by having the authority to arrange objects, to establish relationships between those objects, by displaying them in particular ways? How does that person’s authority increase by controlling access to that body of objects? It is fascinating to think about these power dynamics on a personal level, but what happens when they are transferred onto larger institutions? Institutions like academies and museums are not simply conduits for accepted scientific knowledge but instead actively shape that knowledge through processes of collecting, housing, arranging, and displaying artifacts.”

January 6, 1912: Continental Drift! – History of Geology: “January 6, 1912 the German meteorologist Alfred Wegener presented in a lecture entitled “Die Heraushebung der Großformen der Erdrinde (Kontinente und Ozeane) auf geophysikalischer Grundlage” (The uprising of large features of earth’s curst (Continents and Oceans) on geophysical basis) for the first time his hypothesis of the ancient supercontinent Pangaea, from which all modern continents split apart.”

From the Contracting Earth to early Supercontinents – History of Geology: “Already when the first maps of the American continents were published (1507 and after), the similitude between the western coast of Africa and the eastern coast of South America intrigued geographers and naturalists and this fascination continued in the following centuries.”

Hunting the Higgs – Project Syndicate: “Fifty years ago, particle physicists faced an unexpected challenge. Their best mathematical models could account for some of the natural forces that explain the structure and behavior of matter at a fundamental level, such as electromagnetism and the weak nuclear force responsible for radioactive decay. But the models worked only if the particles inside of atoms had no mass. How could huge conglomerations of such particles – proteins, people, planets – behave as they do if their constituent parts weighed nothing at all?”

Introducing “Science Studies Dissertation Reviews” – Dissertation Reviews: “It is with great pleasure that we announce the forthcoming launch of “Science Studies Dissertation Reviews,” set to go live in Winter 2012. In the tradition of the Dissertation Reviews project, the new site will feature friendly, non-critical overviews of recently defended, unpublished dissertations in Science Studies. Approximately 20 dissertations are currently under review, with more to come.”

Darwin’s Many Origins – Zoonomian: “Meet the front end of the Huntington Library‘s 252 strong collection of Darwin’s Origin of Species – all 20 feet of them. I snapped this at the permanent ‘Beautiful Science’ exhibition last month, and have just gotten around to a bit of research… Henry Edwards Huntington acquired much of his collection, now at San Marino, by buying up ready-made collections or even whole libraries. But some books he bought individually, including, in 1860s New York, an 1859 first edition of the Origin of Species in original cloth – for $22.79.”

8 days left to submit to The Giant’s Shoulders!

Via Renaissance Mathematicus:

You have just eight days left to submit those irresistible history of science blog posts to Giants’ Shoulders #41 the one and only history of science blog carnival hosted on 16th November at Early Modern Experimental Philosophy. Submissions as always by the 15th either direct to the host or to the Blog Carnival Website.


We need some bloggers willing to host the Giants’ Shoulders starting with GS #42 on 16th December. If you are willing to forsake fame and fortune and to sacrifice one day of your life putting together the best history of science blog carnival in the multiverse then get in touch with me Thony C at Renaissance Mathematicus or Dr SkySkull at Skulls in the Stars.

The Giant’s Shoulders #36: The ABCs of the History of Science

Happy 3rd blogiversary, The Giant’s Shoulders!

Summer is upon us, and many of you are looking forward to time away from desks and books and computer screens. So, take this edition of your favorite history of science blog carnival (the only!) as a last call for intelligent, historical entertainment (but honestly, don’t forget about the July and August editions).

A is for Ancient texts, Alchemy, Agassiz, Anenomes, and Astronomy

Smithsonian: What Secrets Do Ancient Medical Texts Hold?

Science: Podcast interview about medieval alchemists

– Neuron Culture: Reef Madness Begins: Louis Agassiz, Creationist Magpie

– History of Science Centre’s blog: Love your anemones

– The Renaissance Mathematicus: The astronomical revolution didn’t start here!

– Universe Today: Newly Born: the Science of Astronomy

B is for Burtt, Bugs, Books, Bottom-Feeders, Bryan, and Botany

– The Evolution List: The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science

– Biodiversity Heritage Library: Book of the Week: Cabinet of Oriental Entomology

– The Renaissance Mathematicus: The world’s first scientific press

– Laelaps: Plesiosaurs, the Beautiful Bottom-feeders

– The Sensuous Curmudgeon: John West & William Jennings Bryan

– History of geology: A very short history of Palaeobotany

C is for Color, Childhood, Crime, Code, Creation, and Chapman

– Huntington Blogs: The Shade of Things

– Petri Dish: child-sized depictions of charles darwin to grow on

– Songbirds and Satellites: Cream o’ the Crop

– Providentia: The Turing Problem (Part 1)

– BBC News: Code-cracking machine returned to life

– Neuron Culture: Reef Madness 3: Louis Agassiz, TED Wet Dream, Conquers America

D is for Doodles, Doubt, Darwin, Discovery, Development, and Descourtilz

– Jacob Darwin Hamblin: Battle of the History of Science Doodles!

– COSMOS: Merchants of doubt

– OU History of Science Collections: New exhibit: Darwin @ the Library and The HMS Beagle

– The Atavism: Sunday Spinelessness – Flat animals and biology’s age of discovery

– Pharyngula: PZ Myers at Glasgow Sceptics in the Pub, The Crystal Palace

– BibliOdyssey: Caribbean Nature

E is for Environmental determinism, Epigenetics, Eddington, Education, Economics, and Embryos

– Jacob Darwin Hamblin: Roundtable on Mosquito Empires

– History of Science at OSU: Nature versus Nurture

– Scientific American: The Evolution of Common Sense

– Boundary Vision: Escaping the rhetoric of “the past” in science education

– Ether Wave Propaganda: Margaret Schabas on the Concept of Nature in Economic Thought

– Thoughts from Kansas: What do Haeckel’s embryos signify? (recent comments in old post)

F is for Francis Darwin, Forbes’ Folly, Fossils, Fiction, Family, and Fish

– Deep Sea News: Forbes’ Folly – Evidence of Deep Sea Life Ignored

– The Meming of Life: Screwing with Darwin 1, Screwing with Darwin 2, and Screwing with Darwin: the final chapter

– Between Death and DNA: Prelude To The Final 3: Of Physicists And Fossils

– Whewell’s Ghost: Fictional science

– Darwin and Gender: Darwin’s Invisible Workforce

– BibliOdyssey: Bloch Fish

G is for Group selection, Galileo, Glen Roy, General Electric, and Gould

– Political Descent: Evolutionary Restraints

Forbes: Galileo’s Conversion

– Neuron Culture: The One Darwin Really DID Get Wrong: Rumble at Glen Roy

– Scientific Blogging: Science History: A Look At General Electric’s Early Guest Book

– john hawks weblog: Gould’s “Unconscious Manipulation  of Data”; Why Evolution Is True: Steve Gould gets it in the neck; Quodlibeta: The Bias Sphere; or, Turning Gould into Irony; and Antropomics: Plotz biology

H is for Heliobacter pylori, Helium, House, Hahn, Harvey, Halley, and Hollow

– EarthSky: Did HMS Beagle voyage lead to Charles Darwin’s poor health?

– Scientific American: Helium Hokum: Why Airships Will Never Be Part of Our Transportation Infrastructure

– PACHSmörgåsbord: The House Where Spacetime Began

– Whewell’s Ghost: Thank You and So Long, Roger Hahn

– Early Modern Thought Online: William Harvey’s Medical Aristotelianism

– Ptak Science Books: How Fish and a Dog Nearly Prevented the Publication of Newton’s Principia

– Petri Dish: hollow heads? science, fantasy, and what’s as plain as the earth beneath our feet

I is for Images and Integration

– Early Modern Experimental Philosophy: Images of Experimental Philosophy (and a request for help!)

– AmericanScience: A Team Blog: HPS? History and vs. History of

J is for Judson, Josephine, and Joseph

– Biomedicine on Display: Remembering Horace Judson, author of Eighth Day of Creation; Genotopia: Horace Judson: a eulogy; and Why Evolution Is True: Horace Freeland Judson, R.I.P.

– Oral History of British Science: Josephine Barnes and Joseph Rotblat

K is for Kindgom

– History of geology: Roy Chapman Andrews and the Kingdom of Cretaceous Skulls

L is for Longitude, Lab coats, and Lindau

– The Board of Longitude: Across the pond

– through the looking glass: David Kirby’s ‘Lab Coats in Hollywood’

– Scientific American: Lindau Nobel Meeting–Courting Minerva with Ragnar Granit

M is for Menus, Maskelyne, Modernity, Madness, Magnetism, Mayer, and Monsters

– The Board of Longitude: A Chrononhotontologue

– The Board of Longitude: The Maskelynian revival

– William Eamon: The Age of How-To

– Biomedicine on Display: Madness and museums – collecting and exhibiting the history of psychiatry

– Highly Allochthonous: Why does a compass point north? A mystery at the heart of the story of science (book review)

– The Board of Longitude: Tobias Mayer – Our man in Hanover

– Scientific American: Anecdotes from the Archive: A Closer Look at New York City’s Tap Water Monsters

N is for Neuroanatomy, Nacktkultur, Noether, Nationalism, and Newton

– Slate: How the Brain Got Its Buttocks

– From the Hands of Quacks: Constructing the Naked (Social) Body III

– PACHSmörgåsbord: Emmy Noether

– The Renaissance Mathematicus: Nations, nationality, nationalism, history and historiography

– Ptak Science Books: Newton and his 351st Trinity Anniversary: a Note on Ending his Research in Alchemy

O is for Oral history, Oslo, and Oregon

– Natural History @ 100: Recording Our Stories

– The Pauling Blog: The Oslo Conference

– The Pauling Blog: “Oregon Experience: Linus Pauling,” now available online

P is for Popularization, Polymath, Porter, Pox, Punctuated equilibrium, Plastic, and Pterosaur

– The Dispersal of Darwin: How the Victorians Learned about Darwin’s Theories

– The Renaissance Mathematicus: A Croatian Polymath

– Wellcome Trust: Excellence attracts – Roy Porter at the Wellcome Institute (via h-madness)

– The History of Vaccines Blog: POX: Michael Willrich in Philadelphia May 12

– Not by Needs nor Nature: Punctuated Equilibrium as metaphor

– Scientific American: A Brief History of Plastic’s Conquest of the World

– Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs: Scaphognathus crassirostris: A Pterosaur in the Historical Record? and Goertzen’s Case for the Historical Scaphognathus

Q is for Quatermass

– History of geology: Five million years of terror: Quatermass and the Pit (1967)

R is for Religion, Reade, Radium, and Rutherford

– Soapbox Science: Science owes much to both Christianity and the Middle Ages

– Open Parachute: Early history of science and Clarifying some myths in the history of science (comments a must)

– Darwin and Human Nature: Spotlight on a correspondent: William Winwood Reade

– Meteorite Manuscripts: Early Use of Radium in the U.S. – George Barker’s 1903 Columbia Lecture

– Providentia: That Healthy Glow (Part 1)

– BBC News: The man who looked inside the atom

S is for STEM, Spandrels, Sins, Sasquatch, and Space

– Common Core: STEM or Not: Why Science History Matters

– Kele’s Science Blog: “Spandrels” before “spandrels” were cool

– Ptak Science Books: The 47 Sins of Isaac Newton, as Recorded by Himself

– MonsterTALK: Searching for Sasquatch

– Roger Launius’s Blog: Reconsidering the Foundations of Human Spaceflight in the 1950s

T is for Trust, Tables, Tyndall, Travel, Thatcher, Time, and Telomeres

– Scientific American: Trust Me, I’m a Scientist

– Evolving Thoughts: Quote: Eddington’s Two Tables

– World Association of Young Scientists: John Tyndall – Science Communicator

– Transcribing Tyndall: Work on Tyndall from Ciaran Toal

– BSHS Travel Guide: Welcome to the British Society for History of Science (BSHS) Travel Guide!

– through the looking glass: Thatcher, Scientist

– AmericanScience: A Team Blog: Recapping the Reinvention of Time

– Genotopia: End Times (The Telos of Telomeres)

U is for Uranium and Unicode

– History of Science at OSU: The Legacy of Nuclear Radiation on Native Lands

– Periodic Tabloid: Newton Would U+2661 Unicode 6.0

V is for Venereal disease, Venus, and Vegetal

– The Quack Doctor: Pockey Warts, Buboes and Shankers

– Vintage Space: Unraveling Venus

– BibliOdyssey: Anatomia Vegetal

W is for Water, Wales, Wells, and Wallace

– The Mermaid’s Tale: The Darwins at Malvern: the Water-Cures

– Skulls in the Stars: Mpemba’s baffling discovery: can hot water freeze before cold? (1969)

– History of Science Centre’s blog: Photography and a wet weekend in Wales

– Skulls in the Stars: H.G. Wells’ The World Set Free (1914)

– Wallace News Blog: Baldwin, Wallace and Organic Selection

X is for XX

– xkcd: Marie Curie

Y is for Year

– Roger Launius’s Blog: The Legacy of the International Polar Years and the International Geophysical Year

Z is for Zodiac

– History of Science Centre’s blog: Random reflections on Regiomontanus


Thank you for stopping by this 3rd anniversary edition of The Giant’s Shoulders! As of right now, the carnival does not have a blog host for the July edition. Think about it. In the meantime, be sure to look over my ever-updated list of history of science bloggers and tweeters, and if you’re on Twitter yourself, search #histsci.

Happy Summer!

2011-06-17 UPDATE:  The next edition will appear at Romeo Vitelli’s psychology blogProvidentia on July 16th.  Entries are due by the 15th of the month, and can be submitted directly to the host blog or through

The latest Giant’s Shoulders is out…

Via The Giant’s Shoulders (or as @beckyfh has asked, should it be ” Giants’ “? –

Morning Coffee Physics has found a new source of caffeine and on his bright shinny new revivified blog he has posted The Giants’ Shoulders #31. For a dose of the best history of science from the last month make yourself a mug of the finest Arabica sit back in your most comfortable chair and cruise through the intertubes with your host Morning Coffee Physics.

Host for The Giants’ Shoulders #32 is on 16th February is still to be announced, submission as usually by 15th February. If you wish to host GS contact Thony C at the Renaissance Mathematicus or Dr SkySkull at Skulls in the Stars.

Update by Dr. SkySkull: I’ll be hosting the 32nd edition, as I’m due again, but we still desperately need more.  We’re happy to have folks who have hosted before do so again, so please let us know.

Giant’s Shoulders #28 is out, looks at visuals & representations in science

The caricature by De la Beche of Charles Lyell as Prof. Ichthyosaurus on the pages of Francis Buckland's "Curiosities of Natural History" (1858).

Via here here or here:

Jai Virdi has posted her special edition of Giants’ Shoulders ‘Visuals & Representations’at From the Hands of Quacks and a wonderful collection of  history of science eye candy is waiting for your perusal, so put on the reading glasses and pop on over.

The 29th edition of Giants’ Shoulders will be hosted by Egil Asprem at Heterodoxology on 16th of November and is a ‘Esoteric Science’ special.

To the layman, the natural sciences have become increasingly “esoteric” in the sense of being hard to access and difficult to understand. Throughout its history, science has been esoteric in other senses as well, connected with attempts to unravel the secrets of the book of nature, the understanding of occult properties and forces, and the quest for absolute, higher knowledge. This edition of Giants’ Shoulders is dedicated to all those esoteric pursuits of knowledge; a celebration of all strange, alien, and counterintuitive methods that have been attempted to dissect, read, or tame nature’s secrets, from renaissance natural philosophy to present-day Grand Unified Theories – whether cleverly inventive, hopelessly megalomaniac, or simply misguided.

Post should be submitted by 15th of November either directly to the host or to the Giants’ shoulders Blog Carnival.

Giant’s Shoulders draws near…

Via Thony:

In just ten days from now the 28th edition of your favourite History of Science Blog Carnival “The Giants’ Shoulders” will take off from this months launching pad at From the Hands of Quacks. This means you have just nine days left to submit your entries for this “visuals and representation in the history and philosophy of science, technology, and medicine” special edition either directly to your host Jai Virdi or here at Giants’ Shoulders. Submissions on normal history of science topics are of course more than welcome.

The Giant’s Shoulders #27 is out!


The Giant’s Shoulders #27 is up over at Entertaining Research, the third year in a row that Guru has hosted it there!  He has put together a delectable assortment of tasty history of science posts; go check them out!  (And thanks to Guru for being a great and consistent host!)

The deadline for the next edition is October 15th, and it will be held at From the Hands of Quacks.  It will be yet another special edition: the broad theme of the carnival will be on visuals and representation in the history and philosophy of science, technology, and medicine. Entries can be submitted or directly to the host blog, as usual!”

5 days until The Giant’s Shoulders #27

There are only 5 days left before the deadline of the next edition of The Giant’s Shoulders history of science blog carnival!  It will be held at Entertaining Research, and the deadline for entries is September 15th.  Entries can be submitted through or directly to the host blog, as usual!

There should be plenty this time around, seeing that there’s been an increase in #histsci blogging over the last week!

11 days until the “fools, failures and frauds” edition of The Giant’s Shoulders!

From The Giant’s Shoulders:

I have almost been negligent in pointing out that there’s only 11 days left before the deadline of the next edition of The Giant’s Shoulders history of science blog carnival!  This is a special edition, hosted by scicurious, and is known as the “fools, failures and frauds” edition, commemorating the history of those scientific discoveries that didn’t work out as intended!

Consider submitting a history of science post that describes (a) some really stupid or crazy scientific research (or researchers), (b) research that didn’t work out as intended or expected, (c) research that was completely fraudulent.  All relevant history entries will be included, but please think about writing something special for this themed edition!

Entries can be submitted through or directly to the host blog, as usual!

Also, Darin Hayton at the history of science blog PACHSmörgåsbord takes a look and has some questions about The Giant’s Shoulders:

Thinking about history of science (and related genres) I began to wonder about the history of science blog carnival over the past two years. Although each carnival has been posted at The Giant’s Shoulders (and conveniently listed in the sidebar), I thought it might be nice to draw attention to them all, in some collective way, and might be interesting to look at the blogs and authors who had contributed to the carnival. I’m not sure what conclusions can be drawn, but I think it’s safe to say that historians of science are in the minority. That is not to say that there hasn’t been a nice range of carnival hosts nor that the authors of those blogs don’t write interesting and informative posts, many of which are related to the history of science. But most of the blogs and their authors seem to be scientists of different stripes (e.g., physicists, mathematicians, biologists) and science writers.

I suppose the next step would be to classify the posts to get an idea of the relative popularity of different kinds of posts. For example, are history of science posts more or less common than science writing or science communication posts? Do certain subjects, e.g., Darwin, religion vs. science, physics, seem more popular than others? Extra credit for anybody who actually does that analysis.

The Giant’s Shoulders #25: 2nd Anniversary Edition!

What better way to introduce the second anniversary edition of the history of science blog carnival The Giant’s Shoulders than to share this photo of me, standing on the sholders of one such giant, Albert Einstein. As you may know, this summer I am a science education intern at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland for their exhibit Einstein. We allow kids to climb on this comical bust of Einstein up to his ears, but no farther. We must keep things safe!

Standing on the shoulders of a giant

Standing on the shoulders of a giant

“If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants.” – Isaac Newton to Robert Hooke, February 1676, Newton praising Hooke’s contributions to optics

To begin this edition, which I believe has received the most submissions of any edition to date, let us note that the Royal Society is celebrating 350 years of science this year:

On November 30th 1660 a dozen men gathered to hear the young Christopher Wren give a lecture on astronomy. In the discussion that followed they decided to form a society for the study of the new and still controversial Experimental Philosophy. Two years later Charles II made it his Royal Society and in the 350 years since it was founded, its Fellows have given us gravity, evolution, the electron, the double helix, the internet and a large part of the modern world. In 2010 we celebrate 350 years of scientific brilliance and fearless doubt.

Also, the Royal Society has made their digital archive freely accessible through the end of July. Get to it! Now for the history of science posts. Since there are so many, it’s tough to find some theme to weave through them, so I will list them chronologically from the most recent to the oldest, referring not to the post date, but to the history which is being discussed in the them. (Do inform me of any history of science-themed posts during the last month that I overlooked.)


General, MZ Skeptica: The Value of Learning History of Science: One Student’s Perspective

General, Reflexivepractice: Being scientific about science

General, The New York Review of Books: The Other Side of Science (book review of Never Pure)

General, Ether Wave Propaganda: Life at the Boundary

General, Ether Wave Propaganda: Wave Three in the Sociological SEE

General, News and Views: The History of Science in America: American Birds

General, Seiler on Science: The Birth of a New Physics, a book by I. Bernard Cohen

General, Heterodoxology: Lawrence Principe and the Rehabilitation of Alchemy (also, info about a thesis workshop on alchemy)

General, Slate: Blogging the Periodic Table

Present, petri dish: prototyping participation over presentation: “the children’s darwin” & “undergrads at the collections”

Present, Panda’s Thumb (Nick Matzke): Luskin, Haeckel, Richardson, and Richards (also see What do Haeckel’s embryo’s signify?)

Late 20th C., Point of Inquiry (podcast): Naomi Oreskes – Merchants of Doubt

Late 20th C., Sandwalk: False History and the Number of Genes

Late 20th C., Thoughts in a Haystack: Science Wars (a quote on Kuhn)

1975, Skulls in the Stars: Invisibility physics: Kerker’s “invisible bodies”

1960, Jane’s Journal: Excerpt from July 14, 1960 (this year is the 50th anniversary of Goodall’s chimp research)

1955, Ptak Science Books: History of Dots #27: Killing Bacteria – Human Experimentation with Conscientious Objectors, 1955

Mid-Late 20th C., PACHSmörgåsbord: Cold War Science Is Everywhere (also see this from Advances in the History of Psychology)

1945, Pauling Blog: The Independent Citizen’s Committe for the Arts, Sciences and Professions

1945, Science: Righting a 65-Year-Old Wrong

1930s – 40s, The Dispersal of Darwin: The shit that refuses to be flushed (on the Darwin-Hitler link)

1935, Pauling Blog: A Theory of the Denaturation of Proteins

1924, Brian Switek (formerly Laelaps): Taung, 2.3 Million Years Ago – Scratched bones and fossil primate bones as keys to a lost world

1913, Are You Scicurious?, Friday Weird Science: The Human Penis Bone

1909, Ptak Science Books: The Medical History of Curing Cancer with Limburger Cheese, Glycerin and Alcohol

Early 20th C., PACHSmörgåsbord: Pluto is not Planet X

Early 20th C., Deep Thoughts and Silliness: More on Mendel’s Manuscript

20th C., Science After Sunclipse: Textbook Cardboard and Physicist’s History

20th C., News and Views: The History of Science in America: Laserfest!

20th C., Uncertain Principles: Are Communication Skills Holding Science Back?

20th C., Science: Belief, Reason, and Insight & Nature: A life both kind and strange (book reviews of The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness)

20th C., Evolving Thoughts: Homology

20th C., Providentia: Unmaking the disease, Part 1Part 2, and Part 3

Early 20th C., OU History of Science Collections: Einstein Papers and Archives Project

Late 19th C., PACHSmörgåsbord: History of Science in Philadlephia – The E.D. Cope Residence

Late 19th C., Dinosaur Tracking: When Diplodocus Invaded Europe

Late 19th – Early 20th C., Gambler’s House: Wetherill Day

1895, bit-player: The thrill of the chase

1865, archy: Petermann’s polar lands

1849, Ptak Science Books: History of Dots #26: a Picture of the Speed of Light

Mid-19th C., Hafan Martin: Charles Darwin and I

Mid-19th C., Poseidon Sciences: Charles Darwin’s other passion: rediscovering the origins of barnacle research

1824, archy: Return of the killer mastodons

1817, From the Hands of Quacks: Curtis’ 1817 Letter to the London Asylum

Early 19th C., From the Hands of Quacks: Research Frustrations! RDDE and Lost Records

19th C., Ptak Science Books: A Taxidermological Satirist Adventurer and PsychoBon-Vivant: a few Paragraphs in the History of Boredom

19th C., Ether Wave Propaganda: Walter Bagehot on Ancient and English Civilization

19th C., Southern Fried Scientist: Louis Agassiz and a brief history of early United States marine biology

19th C., Science: Imagination in Chemistry (book review of Image and Reality)

19th C., Ptak Science Books: History of Dots #28: Cellular, Topical and Astronomical (1512-1888)

Late 18th C., PACHSmörgåsbord: A Monument to Joseph Priestley

1830s, The Red Notebook: Reading Darwin’s first masterpiece, Darwin collects a specimen, Darwin performs a blind test… on some condors, The Falklands fox: foolish dog of the South, How to get a large animal into a boat, and Darwin eats an excellent cat

18th C., The Renaissance Mathematicus: The scientific potter

1770, OU History of Science Collections: Longitude at Sea: J.T. Mayer (1770)

Late 17th – Early 18th C., OU History of Science Collections: The Chymistry of Isaac Newton Project

17th C., Aquarium of Vulcan: Oedipus Egypticus

1664, The Renaissance Mathematicus: Birth of the guinea pig

1660s, Quodlibeta: Boyle’s List

1625, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Centraal: First Published Microscopy Article?

Early 16th C., PACHSmörgåsbord: Renaissance Art of Neuroanatomy, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

16th C., Dinosaur Tracking: Leonardo da Vinci – Paleontology Pioneer

16th C., The Renaissance Mathematicus: Gunfight at the Cubic Corral

Late 15th C., PACHSmörgåsbord: Exploring Collections: Tracts on the French Disease in the College of Physicians

15th C., PACHSmörgåsbord: Making Science Fun: Joseph Moxon’s Astronomical Playing Cards

15th C., Cipher Mysteries: Visually mapping Cusanus and Bessarion

1325, PACHSmörgåsbord: Exploring Collections: Walter Burley in the College of Physicians

10th C., In Our Time (podcast): Muslim scholar Al-Biruni (mp3)

6th C., Greg Laden’s Blog: The Myth of Christianity Founding Modern Science and Medicine (graph)

4th C., The Renaissance Mathematicus: Going to the movies (on Agora)

1st C., In Our Time (podcast): Pliny’s Natural History (mp3)

5th – 4th C. BCE, The Renaissance Mathematicus: The Book of Nature is written in the language of mathematics

12th C. BCE, Beyond the Bench: Eclipse in The Odyssey: Science Meets Mythology

14th C. BCE, PACHSmörgåsbord: HoS Micropost: King Tut, again


Thanks for checking out this special edition of GS and hope you enjoyed some of the posts and, most of all, learned something new! Props to gg for maintaining this blog carnival for two years and hopefully more to come, since we can all use more history of science in our science blogging; and to Thony C. for submitting many of the posts for this edition.

I previously hosted The Giant’s Shoulders in August 2009. Do consider submitting your history of science-themed blog post to the next edition of The Giant’s Shoulders to Scicurious at Are You Scicurious? Alternatively, you can use the carnival submission form.

The Giant’s Shoulders #24 & a call for the next

The Giant’s Shoulders #24 is up over at Jost a Mon.

The deadline for the next edition is July 15th, and it will be held at The Dispersal of Darwin. Wait, that’s here. It will also be a special event, as it will mark the 2nd anniversary of this carnival’s existence!  Entries can be submitted through or directly to the host blog, as usual!

Start sending them in, and if you’re on Twitter, please tweet:

Send your history of science-themed posts to @darwinsbulldog for 25th installment of The Giant’s Shoulders: #histsci

Science Online 2010 & the latest The Giant’s Shoulders

Science Online 2010 (program), a conference bringing together hordes of science bloggers and more to North Carolina each January, kicks off today. I will not be going, but you can follow the conference via its blog and Twitter hashtag, #scio10. Like last year, this year’s conference includes a session on the history of science:

An Open History of Science – John McKay and Eric Michael Johnson

Description: We will be talking about how the history of science and the history of the open-access movement have intersected. Steven Johnson touches on this theme in his latest book, The Invention of Air, in that 18th century British polymath Joseph Priestley was a strong advocate of publishing scientific data widely in order to create a greater dialogue between scientists. While Johnson only mentions this briefly in the case of Priestley, this theme runs strongly through the history of science and is what makes the debate over the patenting of genes or the availability of open-access journals such important topics today.

Hopefully I can attend next year, maybe team up with another Darwin/evolution-minded history of science blogger for a session.

On another note, the latest installment (#19) of the history of science blog carnival The Giant’s Shoulders is up at The Renaissance Mathematicus.

The Giant’s Shoulders #14

The search for nappium (

The search for nappium (

Discover. It is a word that can be said to best describe the pursuit of science. But we know that motivations for conducting science vary beyond the desire to discover something new. Over the summer I have been reading a few older books about the history of American science. So far, their authors all set out in the beginning the distinctions between internal (progressive development), external (institutional, national, etc.), and socially-constructed views of the history of science, and they situate their approach in either one or more of these views. Distinctions aside, science is surely contingent on many factors. It is not an isolated pursuit, but connected in interesting ways to the world in which science is developed. Race, gender, empire, environment, economics, religion, culture, politics, geography – name it and in some way science is affected by it, and science affects it. I particularly like the way historian Crosbie Smith states it in The Science of Energy: A Cultural History of Energy Physics in Victorian Britain (1998): “One of the central features of a contextual history is to present scientific work not as the product of isolated individuals but as crucially contingent upon the cultural resources of the age in which it was produced.” Whether they describe the progressive development of science, illuminate the relationships between scientists and institutions, or reveal the numerous ways that science is a culturally-bound institution, let us delve into the wide variety of posts on the history of science for this 14th edition of The Giant’s Shoulders. The Giant’s Shoulders (carnival site/blog site) is:

a monthly science blogging event, in which authors are invited to submit posts on “classic” scientific papers… Why restrict yourself to “classic” papers? Entries profiling an important person or concept in the history of science are also acceptable.

The Giant’s Shoulders #14

Bora Zivkovic of A Blog Around the Clock has always been an advocate for the appreciation of the history of science (he is, after all, co-adminstator along with gg of The Skulls of Stars of The Giant’s Shoulders). But he continues to share interesting things about the history of science in his posts. In “The exciting history of the history of science. And mammoths!” Bora points us to a series of posts on the blog archy (from John McKay) about the history of mammoths and paleontology. He starts out:

But it is even more fun watching the historians of science at work. Most recent science is pretty easy to figure out. But going into the past, it gets harder and harder. The unit of information today is the peer-reviewed scientific paper in a journal that is for the most part easily obtainable online. But in the past, books were more important. The standards of evidence were not as stringent. The various pseudoscientific and borderline scientific ideas were mainstream. Many scientific findings were made by adventurous explorers, not people with long and sophisticated scientific training. The line between science and fiction was not very clear. While today English is the language of science, in the past many languages were used, and not everyone could read all of them. Transport of books around the world was slow and difficult. Plagiarism was harder to detect, thus rampant. History of science, and even more the work of science historians, reads like a detective thriller! Now that’s exciting!

Indeed, Bora!

For more on paleontology, check out Brian Switek’s “Ameghino’s ‘Elephants'” at his blog Laelaps. Brian tells us about the Argentine naturalist Florentino Ameghino’s nationalistic efforts to make a place for South America in paleontology, and how his “scientific sins” were dismissed by fellow naturalists:

Florentino’s most controversial work often had a nationalistic bent. Ever since evolution became fully integrated into paleontology after 1859 many scientists wanted to trace the origins of living animals, especially humans. Identifying early transitional forms and the places of origin for major groups was thus an important task in understanding the history of life, and Florentino favored South America as a highly productive evolutionary cradle. Florentino traced every group of mammals back to South America, including elephants.

In “Hugh Falconer” at Michael Bertasso’s blog Darwinaia, we learn how a contemporary of Darwin’s was also interested in the evolutionary history of elephants, “plac[ing] their likely ancestral stock in India.” Falconer was interested in much more, and debated with the scientific elite of Victorian England:

However, in a society rich with scientific visionaries, it is all too often the case that some individuals get overlooked.  Hugh Falconer is one of these individuals.  Mention the words “Victorian” and “scientist” in a sentence, and most people will think of Darwin, Owen, Huxley, Lyell, Wallace, or some other well-known scientist.  Falconer operated in the same scientific arenas as these men, and often butted heads with some of them.  He was a relatively close friend of Darwin (see Desmond and Moore 1991 p. 528 on Darwin’s reaction to Falconer’s death for example).  He anticipated a modern development in evolutionary theory.  Yet hardly anyone knows his name.

At Skulls in the Stars, gg offers another in a series of posts on the work of the nineteenth-century physicist Michael Faraday. In “Maxwell on Faraday” we learn of Maxwell’s respect for Faraday by way of his own writing in A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism (1873), and get a response about it:

Maxwell concisely summarizes one of the reasons that I find the study of the history of science useful: “science is always most completely assimilated when it is in the nascent state.”  This reminds me of a discussion I had once as a T.A. for a math methods class: the teacher was “old school”, and the recommended texts for the course were all classics of mathematical literature.  Some students actually complained to me about being forced to read “old books!”  My immediate response was something to the effect of: “If you’re planning to do research, you’re going to have to read an old reference eventually, you might as well learn to do it now!”  There’s an even more compelling reason to read from the original sources: the discoverers of a phenomena or theorem are almost always the ones who understood it best, as they likely spent the most time thinking about the problem.

Michael Faraday was succeeded as Professor of Natural Philosophy at the Royal Institution of Great Britain by the Irish physicist John Tyndall in 1853, a position he held until retirement in 1887. Tyndall, and how he was received by the religious community, is the topic of two posts by, well, me. “Evolution Quote Mining in the 19th-Century,” at The Dispersal of Darwin, traces how a quote from Tyndall was taken out of context in the 1880s, making it seem that he rejected the theory of evolution:

Clearly Tyndall does not reject the theory of evolution. He is making a distinction between what can be known about evolution through experimental inquiry and what cannot. The New York Times piece takes Tyndall’s quote out of context and skews Tyndall’s intentions. This is a perfect example of quote mining. Tyndall did not state that “evolution belongs to the twilight of conjecture,” but rather that “the theory of evolution applied to the primitive condition of matter” belongs to “the dim twilight of conjecture.” Surely two different meanings. Darwin explained how species evolved, but not how life first originated. This is what Tyndall is getting at.

And in “19th-Century Caricature Prints with Tyndall” at my blog Transcribing Tyndall, I share images of two caricature prints I saw at the Whipple Museum of the History of Science in Cambridge. In one, “Our national church the aegis of liberty, equality, and fraternity” (1882), Tyndall is caricatured along with Thomas Huxley as a disciple of Charles Darwin, Darwin himself seen as a monkey calling out, “This way to daylight my sons.” I have since learned that this caricature, showing the wide range of religious opinion in England, was released in two versions. The version I did not see, from 1873, is slightly different. Tyndall and Huxley are joined by Spencer, heading up steps showing geological ages, and Darwin is represented by a bust lit up by the sun peeking out from clouds that hover over the final step, “Protoplasm.” [Both versions of the caricature are on Darwin Online (1873/1887), and the 1873 version is discussed in Janet Browne’s Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (2002) and Paul White’s Thomas Huxley: Making the Man of Science (2003). Thank you to historian Thomas Dixon for sharing some information about these caricatures.]

Another issue with quotations. This time Brian Switek of Laelaps looks for the origin of the following quote which appear time and time again in writings about Darwin in “Darwin and the Bishop’s Wife”:

Descended from the apes? Dear me, let us hope it is not true,” allegedly exclaimed the wife of a 19th-century English bishop upon hearing of Darwin’s new theory. “But if it is true, let us hope it does not become widely known.

As we should be with references, Brian had reason to be skeptical:

But where did this quote come from? Montagu’s phrasing indicates that the quote was already well-known when he transcribed (paraphrased?) it, yet there appears to be no occurrence of it whatsoever before 1942. Although the original quote may be hiding in some elusive journal, periodical, or book, I have not been able to find any trace of it before that year… It is possible that the quote was never actually said but was fashioned to represent the shock that Victorian-era society supposedly felt when Darwin published On the Origin of Species… As far as I have been able to tell no one has successfully traced the origins of the quote. For me the trail ran cold, but perhaps professional historians have had better luck and I have missed their work.

Einstein, too, is often misquoted. In “10 Lessons Every Student Can Learn From Einstein” at Online College, we are presented with 10 quotations from Einstein – some honest, some unfortunately misattributed.

But sometimes quotes can be correct, and possibly amusing. In “Friday Weird Science: Refridgerator Mothers vs. Refridgerator Kids” at Neurotopia, Scicurious was intrigued by a 1958 article in the journal Pediatrics, “Behavior of young children under conditions simulating entrapment in refrigerators”:

So why on earth might people trap children in refrigerators? Well, it turns out that kids in the 1950s got trapped in those a lot (apparently they still do, and this is why you are supposed to take the lining off your fridge before you throw it away, to take away the airtight seal).

Scicurious goes on to describe the experiment detailed in the article, and ends showing the practical side of scientific experiment:

The results of the experiment actually ended up in a law, providing that refrigerators have a simple internal release mechanism, or, alternatively, that the door open in response to less than 20 lbs of pressure from the inside. I’m [not] sure if these laws are still in effect, but hopefully they have helped some kids.

At Genomicron, T. Ryan Gregory gives some thoughts, in response to a recent review of Philosophie Zoologique (1809), about Lamarck in “Lamarck in Nature”:

It’s not so much a literary review per se as a brief essay on Lamarck’s unflattering and unwarranted legacy. Lamarck was the first to propose a scientific theory of evolution, and he coined the terms “invertebrate” and “biology”. Unfortunately, Lamarck’s important contributions are often clouded by misconceptions about what he actually said, both by critics and by modern authors who insist on (mis)labeling the inheritance of acquired characteristics as “Lamarckian”, especially when discussing epigenetics research. (For my comment on this, seehere and here). Thankfully, Graur et al. hit on both of these issues, and make a much-needed appeal for clarification and recognition of Lamarck’s contributions.

In “NEW VOICES: georgie boy” at Cocktail Party Physics, Jennifer Ouellette shares an aspect of the career of Walter Cheadle, a nineteenth-century doctor in London who was concerend with helping children and women (and in response his reputation suffered). One child, Georgie, is diagnosed by Cheadle, using case-based reasoning, as suffering from rickets and scurvy. But:

According to a 2004 article in the Journal of Nutrition Science, “[t]he first scientific approach to [rickets] was made by McCollum and his co-workers [in 1914].” This article describes the discovery of the biochemistry of vitamin D, a story climaxing in the awarding of the Nobel prize in 1928. (Nobels were awarded in 1937 for work on vitamin C.)  Thus, Dr. Cheadle’s use of “case-based reasoning” to cure patients is not “scientific” by the criteria of this article… Dr. Cheadle cured Georgie without having a twentieth-century understanding of vitamins. Georgie would have been 52 in 1928 and 61 in 1937, when the significance of vitamins D and C were being  Nobel-y acknowledged, respectively, but it was thanks to Dr. Cheadle’s case-based clinical knowledge that Georgie lived to be 2 in 1878.

Another doctor is featured in “Science Maligned” by Surbhi Bhatia at The Viewspaper. Subhash Mukhopadhyay, the first Indian doctor to perform the procedure to produce a test tube baby, killed himself in 1982:

But the doctor’s claim to accomplish in-vitro fertilization successfully was greeted with disbelief and disdain. Not only was he mocked by his peers, the Indian Government also did not allow him to attend a seminar in Japan that had been organized by Kyoto University (which invited him to present his experiment to the international community in 1979). Although his British counterparts also received criticism from the world, but Mukhopadhyay’s story never reached the world! In fact, he could never submit his research. The only evidence of his research being a report which he submitted to the West Bengal Marxist government which does not give any proper scientific account of the technique he invented. Shocked and depressed, Dr Mukhopadhyay committed suicide on June 19, 1981. It was in October, 2005 that the Indian Council of Medical Research finally declared him as the person to give India’s first test tube baby.

Like Jennifer Ouellette’s post, disease is also the topic of Thony C.’s “Syphilis and Comets” at his new blog The Renaissance Mathematicus. Thony links medicine and astronomy in the sixteenth century:

There is a certain irony to the fact that Fracastoro published important texts on both syphilis and comets, as one of the prevailing medical theories of the period was that syphilis was a curse caused by comets. Fracastoro is a typical example of a relatively minor scholar who is today virtually unknown but in his own times made important contributions to the debate that propels the development of science.

Thony discusses the rejection of the Ptolemaic system in his post, as does Ethan Siegel at Starts With A Bang! in “Suck it, Ptolemy”:

It wasn’t until nearly 1500 years later, when Copernicus realized that if an inner planet moved faster than an outer planet, it would appear that Mars moved backwards from the point of view of Earth… So that’s the cause of the apparent “retrograde motion” of Mars. What the history books don’t tell you? By time Copernicus came along, Mars’ orbit had been so carefully studied that geocentric modelers of the Solar System had placed seventy-eight epicycles on Mars’ orbit! And, much like you, I wonder what blind alley we’re inadvertently treading down, adding epicycles to, all because we don’t have the proper perspective? [Thony C. corrects a bit of information in this.]

“While much of the history of science necessarily focuses on centers of elite learning,” writes Will Thomas in “Hump-Day History: Imperial College” at Ether Wave Propaganda, “a thorough understanding necessitates examination of the broader foundations of scientific culture.” Will continues by describing the emergence of technical schools in London in the second half of the nineteenth century, many of which were consolidated into Imperial College in 1907:

Imperial College became a part of the University of London system in 1929, and steadily improved its academic standing through the interwar period.  It was the home of mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead for ten years, as well as of noted physicists Robert Strutt and George Thomson (the sons of Lord Rayleigh and J. J. Thomson, respectively; the younger Thomson was co-winner of the 1937 Nobel Prize).  In this period, though, the Imperial’s main strengths were in the biological and earth sciences.  By the time World War II ended, Imperial had become a major nationwide center for original scientific and technical research.  Though Cambridge would remain the most important academic scientific institution in Britain, any history of British science should acknowledge that by this period the intellectual base of science had become institutionally diffuse, along the lines of the university systems of Germany and the United States.

Cambridge. Just a little over a month ago I was there for a conference. That trip allowed me to finally meet some science bloggers I’ve been in touch with online for a few years: Karen James of the Beagle Project and Richard Carter of The Friends of Charles Darwin. On his blog The Red Notebook, Richard has a few short posts about his time in Cambridge: “Darwin’s room,” “Darwin’s octopus,” and “Darwin’s beetles.” Just fun armchair history of science:

Darwin was hopelessly wrong about the colour-changing ability of octopuses being a new observation. But never mind: the good news is that one of Darwin’s St Jago octopuses is still alive and kicking preserved for posterity in Cambridge, and I have photos to prove it.

The social origins of Darwin’s natural selection are explored in “Darwin’s Simulacrum” by rgwallace at Farming Pathogens. While not going so far as creationists to say that Darwin stole the idea of natural selection from Alfred Russel Wallace, rgwallace does criticize Darwin:

The deal has always bothered me. It isn’t that I think Wallace deserved credit alone–Darwin’s version is better substantiated–but rather I’m piqued by the old boy network, an accumulated class advantage Darwin could rely on to protect him from the consequences of his own cowardice. Darwin had shielded himself, and his petty personal ambitions, from Anglican retribution, going so far as helping hang fellow evolutionists, but now wanted the kind credit of discovery someone who had the guts to openly speak out about it plainly deserved instead. One could reasonably argue his secrecy was the only way Darwin could work on–and substantiate–such a theory for so long in this kind of England. I think that a fair contention (and also open to rebuttal). But let us no longer entertain illusions of guileless innocence on the part of a boyish Darwin. That he allowed his proxies to conduct his Machiavellian affairs, however generous he was to Wallace himself, makes Darwin no less conniving.

In “Scientific cranks: going strong since at least 1891” at Skulls in the Stars, gg looks at an instance of unprofessionalism in a journal from 1891:

The single word that jumped out at me while skimming the titles was the word, “absurdity”, in J. Parker’s “Theory of magnetism and the absurdity of diamagnetic polarity.”  Clearly “absurd” is a very negatively charged and polemical word; Merriam-Webster defines it as, “ ridiculously unreasonable, unsound, or incongruous.”  Though scientists will freely use such words in spoken arguments with colleagues (I’ve heard, and used, far worse in discussions with collaborators), it is generally unprofessional to use such insults in printed papers, and a sign of someone who is motivated by emotion, not reason.

What is absurd is the constant connection between Darwin and Hitler. In “Darwin → Hitler? Naw” at The Panda’s Thumb, Richard B. Hoppe looks at this apparent connection as offered by Benjamin Wiker, and writes:

Wiker’s view depends in large part on the supposition that German evolutionary thinking about evolution actually followed Darwin. However, as a recent book review in PLoS Biology points out, what reached Germany was not the English version of Origin of Species, it was a translation by German paleontologist Heinrich Georg Bronn that was a main source of German notions of Darwinian evolution, and those notions were a distortion of Darwin’s views. Bronn had a substantially different conception of evolution than Darwin, and Bronn’s translation apparently incorporated a good bit of his own conception rather than being a straight translation of Darwin. Bronn even added an extra chapter to OoS incorporate his own ideas.

Others responded to that book review (of Sander Gliboff’s H.G. Bronn, Ernst Haeckel, and the Origins of German Darwinism: A Study in Translation and Transformation) as well. From Eric Michael Johnson’s “Charles Darwin’s Reception in Germany” at The Primate Diaries:

While it is technically correct to say that Haeckel’s connection with Nazi eugenics is “disputed” (in the same way that global warming is disputed) the evidence is persuasive that Haeckel was not a precursor to the Nazis and, even if he was, the Nazi leadership prohibited any scholars from using Haeckel’s work as part of their platform.

And at The Mermaid’s Tale, Ken Weiss writes in “Heckling Haeckel”:

As part and parcel of their appeal to recover national self-esteem after the devastation it experienced in WWI, the Nazis were, if anything, hyper-Nordic. They reveled in anything Aryan. They would have lauded Haeckel with great enthusiasm as a hero of their race. Indeed, in both Haeckel’s human evolutionary tree, and even Baur et al., Jews were placed at a very high plane among humans. The authors certainly knew of Haeckel and his writing, as he was still alive and was perhaps the most celebrated public scientist in the world (and certainly in Germany). Yet, they ignored him… The Nazis took a ready-made Darwinian justification for their vitriol that was ‘in the air’ at the time. Their abuses were their own doing!

Recently creationists have also angried some historians of science. In the docu-drama film The Voyage That Shook The World, produced by Creation Ministries International, Darwin’s legacy is considered. Three historians of science interviewed for the film were not told by “Fathom Media Group” that the film was being produced by a creationist organization. Read more about the film and the issue in “Historians respond to ‘The Voyage that Shook the World'” at A Simple Prop, “More lying creationists, now with biblical justification” at Why Evolution Is True, “Creationist Darwin docu-drama and allegations of misrepresentations” at The Lippard Blog, “The Voyage That Shook the World,” also at The Lippard Blog, “Counting Noses” at Thoughts in a Haystack, and “The Voyage That Shook the World” at Vridar.

Finally, at The Art of Teaching Science Blog, Jack Hassard, in “The Invention of Air and Science Teaching,” recommends Stephen Johnson’s The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America as a tool in teaching science, for he advocates a “humanistic science paradigm to reform of science teaching—one that attempts to think in wholes, and values interdisciplinary thinking, not only amongst fields in science, but across disciplines to include science, history, politics and religion.”

That’s it for this edition of The Giant’s Shoulders. The next edition will be hosted by Entertaining Research on September 16, 2009. Submit your posts via the carnival website or directly to the host blog.