Bertrand Russell reading the Russell-Einstein Manifesto in Caxton Hall, London, 9 July 1955

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When did the sciences become so technical that the general public saw them as beyond its grasp? What impact does that have on the scientists’ moral obligations?

This episode transports us to two conferences that can help us answer these questions. First, you will tag along with me to the History of Science Society (HSS) annual meeting that took place recently in Washington, DC. I’ll share with you some excerpts from Ted Porter’s fascinating lecture on “How Science Became Technical.”

Then, we’ll travel back a half-century to the first Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs, a remarkable event at which 21 eminent scientists – including Leo Szilard, Joseph Rotblat, and Herman Muller – met to discuss the threat posed to world peace by thermonuclear weapons.

Segment 1 – “How the Sciences Became Technical” at the History of Science Society meeting in Washington

Segment 2 – Pugwash: Cold War Scientists and Nuclear Disarmament

On the shelf:

Jim Endersby, A Guinea Pig’s History of Biology (Harvard UP, 2007).

Audio credits:

All music on this program courtesy of the Podsafe Music Network, except where noted.

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This episode considers some of the animals – big and small, welcome and unwelcome – that have accompanied us humans on our journeys through the history of scientific and medical discovery. Of course animals have been the subject of scientific study for centuries, but what we often forget is that they aren’t simply passive subjects. Animals have their own agenda, which sometimes does and sometimes doesn’t harmonize with the agendas of the people they live with.

(You also get to hear what the host sounds like when microbes’ agendas get the better of her immune system.)

Host essay: “The Dog Who Would Be Naturalist”

Host essay: “No Flies on Me”

Audio credits:

All music on this program courtesy of the Podsafe Music Network except where noted.

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section of berin wall painted with double helixListen to this episode.

On today’s show, we embark on the first of what I hope will be many virtual excursions together. This time we visit Berlin, Germany. This beautiful city is famous for its political and cultural past, but also has a fascinating history in science and medicine.

There is so much to examine, but this episode will focus on Charité — an institution founded as a plague hospital that ended up treating soldiers, training medical students, hosting the founding work of modern pathology, and most recently housing a history of medicine museum — and the Berlin Phonogram Archive, a founding institution for ethnomusicology and a key voice in early twentieth century evolutionary arguments about race.

Host essays: “I Feel Your Pain” and “Evolution in Four-Part Harmony”

  • for further reading/viewing/listening:
    • Eric Ames, “The Sound of Evolution,” Modernism/Modernity 10 (2003): 297-325.
    • Lazare Benaroyo, “Rudolf Virchow and the Scientific Approach to Medicine,” Endeavour 22, no. 3 (1998): 114-116.
    • Der Himmel über Berlin, aka Wings of Desire, dir. Wim Wenders (1987)
    • Arthur E. Imhof, “The Hospital in the 18th Century: For Whom?” Journal of Social History 10 (1977): 448-470.
    • Music! The Berlin Phonogramm-Archiv, 1900-2000 (Wergo, 2000).
    • Konrad Obermann, “Materialised Medical History,” The Lancet 359 (2002): 361-362.
    • Alexandra Richie, Faust’s Metropolis: A History of Berlin (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1998).
    • Londa Schiebinger, “Maria Winkelmann at the Berlin Academy: A Turning Point for Women in Science,” Isis 78 (1987): 174-200.

Audio credits:

All music on this program courtesy of the Podsafe Music Network except where noted.

Other links:

berdacheListen to this episode.

On today’s show, we look at the seemingly obvious idea that women and men are opposites. So many cultures historically have assumed this to be so, and so many of these cultures have argued that differences between men and women had a natural basis. We will see how difficult that argument has been to maintain as science has probed deeper into the human body.

Guest essay: Amber Hoerauf, “The Hormone Revolution”

Host essay: “Yin to His Yang”

Audio credits:

All music on this program courtesy of the Podsafe Music Network except where noted.

Contest: Leave a substantive comment here on the website or on iTunes by September 25, and your name will entered into a drawing to win two books on the history of science fiction. Be sure to leave your e-mail address so that I know how to contact you.

In the essay “Dying Planet,” I said that nineteenth-century astronomers came to see Mars as the planet that most closely resembled Earth in size. I misspoke. Of the planets in our solar system, Venus is closest in size to Earth, and nineteenth-century astronomers knew that. I should have said that nineteenth-century astronomers saw Mars as the planet that was easiest to study for analogies to what would happen to Earth.

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Today’s show considers some of the ways that science fiction has drawn inspiration from planetary science.

Host essay: “Dying Planet”

Guest essay:
Megan Healy, “Attack of the Lady Scientists!”

Audio credits:

Guest voices:
Jack Green Musselman

Win fabulous prizes:

Leave a substantive comment here on the website by August 25, and your name will entered into a drawing for a $50 gift certificate to Powell’s Books.

Watch this space…

The first episode of The Missing Link will go online this summer. More details coming soon.

In the meantime, I’m soliciting ideas for a regular segment that will be featured on the show. The segment will feature brief reviews and excerpts of books (or other media) on the history of science that are accessible to a broad audience. If you have a book to recommend, please leave a comment here.