The Giants' Shoulders #7

Jan 16 2009 Published by under Misc

Welcome to the seventh edition of The Giants' Shoulders - the monthly blog History of Science blog carnival.

Courtesy of the Digital Cuttlefish, we have a nice reminder of just why this whole insane thing we call "science" is so important:

They've hit upon something that multiplies thinking,

A process they like to call "science",

Where each person builds on the other ones' progress

Like standing on shoulders of giants.

Some say these "humans" are smarter than cuttlefish;

I won't be taking that bet!

But maybe--just maybe--with science to help them,

These humans... they might make it yet.

Let's look at some giants:

1789: Science and culture met in poetry, Brian tells us, when a german poet wrote about a giant sloth exhibited in Spain.

1831: Michael Faraday's Experimental Researches in Electricity is published. Over at Skulls in the Stars, gg provides an excellent - and very nicely illustrated - review of the pioneering research.

1850: Alexander von Humboldt contemplates sublime phenomena. Microecos presents his musings about the phenomenon of electric eels, along with a set of somewhat more recent (but still historical) pictures.

1859-?: Brian reminds us that there are lots of ways to remember and celebrate the anniversary of Origin of Species, but there's only one that's likely to last: doing more science.

1875: Ferdinand Cohn publishes a paper detailing his efforts to classify species of bacteria. It wasn't a bad effort, Epicanis points out, particularly given the tools that were available at the time.

1889: Chronic, long-term alcoholism can be really, really bad for you. Thiamine it. Sorry, couldn't resist. Anyway, Scicurious provides us with an excellent discussion of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (sometimes referred to as "wet brain" and commonly found in alcoholics). Instead of focusing mainly on the relationship between the condition and drink, though, she highlights a classic paper by Korsakoff that discussed a series of cases that were seen in non-alcoholics.

1904: Heycock and Neville publish a paper about one of the more important metals in the history of humanity - bronze. Their paper turned out to be first example of one of the more important tools used by materials scientists and metallurgists: the phase diagram. Guru walks us through the example and explains the importance at Materialia Indica.

1943: Science can transcend borders even during wartime. The Evilutionary Biologist tells the story of a German and an Italian who did groundbreaking research on bacterial viruses in America during WWII.

1956: Dr. James Brussel's pioneering efforts in the field of psychological profiling leads to the capture of George Metesky, disgruntled ConEd employee and Mad Bomber. Dr. Vitelli reviews the case for us.

1959: Anytime I talk to a group of kids about science, I tell them that it's really hard to do good science if you're afraid of looking stupid. Podblack provides us with an absolutely fantastic example of some papers that illustrate this principle - in this case, a series of (perhaps overly) elaborate experiments looking into how people perceive certain things. Be sure not to miss this one - particularly the bit that has the experimenters walking around in a porn theatre wearing a fluorescent sheet.

1971: In this month's most recent entry, Rense Nieuwenhuis discusses a 1971 study published in Science that looked at public attitudes about abortion.

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