You are browsing the archive for Science & Medicine.

Ignatius Donnelly: Recipes for Disaster

Adam Green - September 27, 2017 in apocalypse, Atlantis, Books, catastrophe, disaster, disaster porn, Featured Articles, Ignatius Donnelly, Literature, pseudo-science, Religion, Myth & Legend, Science & Medicine, science fiction

The destruction of Atlantis, cataclysmic comets, and a Manhattan tower made entirely from concrete and corpse — Carl Abbott on the life and work of a Minnesotan writer, and failed politician, with a mind primed for catastrophe.

Human Forms in Nature: Ernst Haeckel’s Trip to South Asia and Its Aftermath

Adam Green - September 13, 2017 in Art & Illustrations, art forms in nature, biology, ceylon, Darwinism, ernst haeckel, eugenics, Kunstformen der Natur, race, racism, Science, Science & Medicine, sri lanka

An early promoter and populariser of Darwin's evolutionary theory, the German biologist and artist Ernst Haeckel was a hugely influential figure of the late 19th century. Bernd Brunner looks at how a trip to Sri Lanka sowed the seeds for not only Haeckel's majestic illustrations from his Art Forms in Nature, for which he is perhaps best known today, but also his disturbing ideas on race and eugenics.

W. B. O’Shaughnessy and the Introduction of Cannabis to Modern Western Medicine

Adam Green - April 19, 2017 in calcutta, cannabis, colonial science, colonialism, first trials medical marijuana, india, marijuana, medical cannabis, medical marijuana, Science & Medicine, weed

Cataleptic trances, enormous appetites, and giggling fits aside, W. B. O'Shaughnessy's investigations at a Calcutta hospital into the potential of medical marijuana — the first such trials in modern medicine — were largely positive. Sujaan Mukherjee explores the intricacies of this pioneering research and what it can tell us more generally about the production of knowledge in colonial science.

Lofty Only in Sound: Crossed Wires and Community in 19th-Century Dreams

Adam Green - April 5, 2017 in civil war, Culture & History, dream, dreams, Featured Articles, paranormal, poetry, psychology, Science & Medicine, telepathy, us civil war

Alicia Puglionesi on a curious case of supposed dream telepathy at the end of the US Civil War, and the important role dreams played in how a traumatised nation responded to the conflict.

The Many Lives of the Medieval Wound Man

Adam Green - December 7, 2016 in Art & Illustrations, early modern medicine, Featured Articles, injury, medieval medicine, Science & Medicine, surgery, wound man

Sliced, stabbed, punctured, bleeding, harassed on all sides by various weaponry, the curious image of Wound Man is a frequent presence in the world of medieval and early modern medical manuscripts. Jack Hartnell explores this enigmatic figure’s journey through the centuries.

“Let us Calculate!”: Leibniz, Llull and Computational Imagination

Adam Green - November 10, 2016 in artificial intelligence, calculating machine, calculator, computation, Culture & History, Featured Articles, language, leibniz, Philosophy, ramon llull, Science & Medicine, the first calculator, universal language

Three hundred years after the death of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and seven hundred years after the birth of Ramon Llull, Jonathan Gray looks at how their early visions of computation and the “combinatorial art” speak to our own age of data, algorithms, and artificial intelligence.

Visions of Algae in Eighteenth-Century Botany

Adam Green - September 7, 2016 in algae, botany, Conferva fontinalis, Erasmus Darwin, frankenstein, Joseph Priestley, mary shelley, photosynthesis, Science & Medicine, temple of nature

Although not normally considered the most glamorous of Mother Nature's offerings, algae has found itself at the heart of many a key moment in the last few hundred years of botanical science. Ryan Feigenbaum traces the surprising history of one particular species — Conferva fontinalis — from the vials of Joseph Priestley's laboratory to its possible role as inspiration for Shelley's Frankenstein.

Copying Pictures, Evidencing Evolution

Adam Green - May 18, 2016 in copying, creationism, ernst haeckel, evolution, haeckel's embryos, intelligent design, Science & Medicine

Copying — unoriginal, dull, and derivative by definition — can be creative, contested, and consequential in its effects. Nick Hopwood tracks Haeckel’s embryos, some of the most controversial pictures in the history of science, and explores how copying put them among the most widely seen.

Frolicsome Engines: The Long Prehistory of Artificial Intelligence

Adam Green - May 4, 2016 in Al-Jazari, artificial intelligence, automata, automatons, digesting duck, Featured Articles, Hero of Alexandria, history of robotics, hydraulics, Jaquet-Droz, pneumatics, Science & Medicine, the turk, vaucanson's duck, when did artificial intelligence begin, William Kempelen

Defecating ducks, talking busts, and mechanised Christs — Jessica Riskin on the wonderful history of automata, machines built to mimic the processes of intelligent life.

The Anthropometric Detective and His Racial Clues

Adam Green - February 24, 2016 in Anthropometric Laboratory, arthur conan doyle, detective fiction, eugenics, fingerprints, francis galton, Science & Medicine, sherlock holmes

Ava Kofman explores how the spectre of race, in particular Francis Galton's disturbing theory of eugenics, haunts the early history of fingerprint technology.