Whewell’s Gazette: Vol. #48

Whewell’s Gazette

Your weekly digest of all the best of

Internet history of science, technology and medicine

Editor in Chief: The Ghost of William Whewell

Cornelis Bloemaert

Volume #48

Monday 18 May 2015


Another seven days have sped by and we’re back again with the forty-eighth edition of Whewell’s Gazette your weekly #histSTM links list bringing you all the best of the last week’s histories of science, medicine and technology from around the Internet.

Beginning with our next edition the ‘we’ will no longer be the royal we as we have gained a new recruit to our editorial staff to help keep the owls in order. I am very pleased to welcome Anna Gielas, as our new Editor in Chief for History of Science and Entertainment. Anna is a doctoral student at the University of St. Andrews, who describes herself as a Wissenschaftsgeschichtshungrige! For those of you who don’t speak German that translate as a person who hungers for the history of science. I bet you didn’t know that German has a word for that!

Anna’s fine example of applying for and becoming an important post in our editorial team inspires us to say that if any other Wissenschaftsgeschichtshungrige would like to help in producing Whewell’s Gazette every week they would be more than welcome to join the team. I promise you don’t have to eat the same snacks as the owls.

I’m sorry to say that the next edition of Whewell’s Gazette will be in two weeks and somewhat shorter than usual, as at the beginning of next week I shall be in England burying my elder brother who died last Friday.

Under the circumstances I would like to dedicate this edition of Whewell’s Gazette to my brother John Christie (22 May 1945 – 15 May 2015) one of the first nine people to graduate in Britain with a degree in computer science.

This week saw an op-ed in The New York Times, It Is, in Fact, Rocket Science, written by Leonard Mlodinow on the use of mythical anecdotes in the history of science, his main point being neatly summed up in the paragraph below:

The mythical stories we tell about our heroes are always more romantic and often more palatable than the truth. But in science, at least, they are destructive, in that they promote false conceptions of the evolution of scientific thought.

This piece provoked quite a few comments and exchanges on Twitter, which I have collected without comment. If you wish to add comments on the article or these comments you are welcome to do so.

Cartoon How Scientist THink


I’m less offended than many by the general phenomenon of inspiring science stories, though, because narrative is powerful. If you want to communicate science to a broad audience, you’d be a fool not to try to tap into our fascination with great stories. The problem isn’t the use of stories and inspirational figures in promoting science; it’s the LAZY use of oversimplified stories. It’s perfectly possible to use stories about famous scientists in a responsible way, inspiring without deceiving– encourage that. – Chad Orzel


The way to advance science is not to find a series of Einsteins & worship their brilliance. Science is collaborative & takes hard work. Yes, Einstein was smart. He was also in a physics PhD program at ETH Zurich, working with world experts. He didn’t spring from nothing. – Katie Mack


The damage done by oversimplified narratives in pop histories of science. Argument works for other histories too, IMHO. – Rebecca Onion


“Telling that this ‪@nytimes piece on oversimplified #histSTM narratives is written by a physicist not a historian”. – Ben Gross

“Why telling? What would a historian provide that a physicist cannot?” – Hank Campbell

Telling because it reinforces assumption that anyone can be a historian w/o formal training in the discipline. – Ben Gross

“A good point.“ – Hank Campbell


“NYT op-ed on #histSTM simplifies to “history is complicated”” – Patrick McCray

“History is complicated. But science is also complicated. So complicated, in fact, that its history is best left to scientists!” – Ben Gross

“#WeinberStrikesAgain” – Patrick McCray

“Complications are complicated”. – Patrick McCray

“Not quite. Scientists didn’t correct the story about Darwin’s finches. Sulloway did”. – Gabriel Finkelstein

If only more scientists were aware of such examples when they set out to write/speak re: #histSTM. – Ben Gross


“For some reason the media never asks historian of science to write about the history of science!!!“ – Thony Christie

“With a few exceptions (e.g.@HPS_Vanessa, @rebeccaonion, etc.) you’re right. Hopefully that will change. #histSTM – Ben Gross

“Maybe historians of science worry about (fear?) writing such op-ed pieces”. – Darren Hayton

“Do historians of science offer their expertise to media outlets? Physicists don’t shy away from it. Is their something about the culture in history of science that discourages media outreach?” – Darren Hayton

Quotes of the week:

“History is not written by the winners, it is written by the articulate.” – Ben Espen

“The first rule of anarchy club is that there is no first rule of anarchy club.” – @Swansontea

“If you marry a water nymph, she will acquire a soul. Otherwise she will die like a beast”. – Paracelsus h/t @senseshaper

For every mansplaining there’s an equal and opposite manshaming. – Liam Heneghan

“We are drawn to pyrotechnics, but history is made in the inner recesses of the mundane. We would do well to remember this. And to teach it”. – Michael Egan

“Stars are like animals in the wild. We may see the young but never the actual birth, which is a veiled and secret event” – Heinz R. Pagels

“If you torture data sufficiently, it will confess to almost anything” – Fred Menger

“Stupidity has a knack of getting its way.” – Albert Camus”

Okay to encourage others to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. But if you do, just remember, some people have no boots. – Neil deGasse Tyson

A philosopher who is not taking part in discussions is like a boxer who never goes into the ring. – Wittgenstein

“If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems. And that is a big mistake.” – Frank Wilczek

I’m increasingly thinking that I want to write my publications with my ‘blog voice’. I like it better and I think readers do, too. – Joanne Bailey

Suspicions amongst thoughts are like bats amongst birds, they ever fly by twilight. –Francis Bacon

“Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time.” – Terry Pratchett

“They forced this invention of the devil upon me. Fortunately the thing has a knack of getting out of order” – Andrew Thomas Gage on the telephone 1910

“What a typewriter will do to a novice, the ribbon has gone on strike & has wound itself around the bowels of the machine in a most vicious manner” – E. Ray Lankester 1927

Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. – Albert Einstein

Hofstadter’s Law: “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.”

Birthdays of the Week:

Johann Friedrich Blumenbach born 11 May 1752

Johann Friedrich Blumenbach Source: Wikimedia Commons

Johann Friedrich Blumenbach
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Embryo Project: Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752–1840)

Yovisto: Johann Friedrich Blumenbach and the Human Race

Blumenbach's five races. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Blumenbach’s five races.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Wonders & Marvels: Why Caucasian is a Dirty Word

Inge Lehmann born 13 May 1888

Inge Lehmann in 1932 Source: Wikimedia Commons

Inge Lehmann in 1932
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Trowelblazers: Inge Lehmann

Time: New Google Doodle Honors Pioneering Seismologist Inge Lehmann

Letters from Gondwana: Inge Lehmann

AMNH: Inge Lehman: Discoverer of the Earth’s Inner Core

True Anomalies: A Journey to the Center of the Earth

Figures from Inge Lehmann’s 1936 paper, P’, showing seismic wave signatures at many Danish stations. Source: True Anomalies

Figures from Inge Lehmann’s 1936 paper, P’, showing seismic wave signatures at many Danish stations.
Source: True Anomalies


Philly.com: Testing Galileo’s artistic chops 400 years later

Restricted Data: The Nuclear Secrecy Blog: What did Bohr do at Los Alomos?

Ptak Sciene Books: Albert Einstein: Part Time Civil Servant

The Guardian: Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space

Occam’s Corner: The birth of soft matter physics, the physics of the everyday

Ansamed: Hittits-Egyptians, scientific cooperation 2000 years ago

Forbes: What Einstein Should Have Known

1001 Invention: 1001 Inventions and the World of Ibn Al-Haytham


Teyler’s Museum: Rebound Trajectory

Skywatchers: Rose O’Halloran

AEON: In the beginning

teleskopos: Eighteenth-century eclipse maps by Halley and Whiston

Airspace Blog: Finding Pluto With the Blink Comparator

The National Museum of American History: Painting – Measurement of the Earth (Eratosthenes)

Perimeter Institute: General Relativity From A to Z

Tehran Times: Khayyam statue looking for apt location in United States


Tennessee State Library and Archive: Free Exhibit Highlights State Library and Archives’ Vast Collection of Maps

British Library: Endangered archives blog: New online collections – May 2015

Public Domain Review: Maps from Geographicus

Eiland Ormus, of Jerun, engraved by Jacob Van der Schley under the supervision of J. Bellin for the c. 1750 edition of Provost's L`Histoire Generale des Voyages

Eiland Ormus, of Jerun, engraved by Jacob Van der Schley under the supervision of J. Bellin for the c. 1750 edition of Provost’s L`Histoire Generale des Voyages

Ptak Science Books: A Nearly-Blank Outline Map of the World

Ptak Science Books: World Map of the Geography of Homer

University of Southern Maine: Osher Map Library

Public Domain Review: Highlights from the 20,000+ maps made freely available online by New York Public Library

New York Public Library: The Great War and Modern Mapping: WWI in the Map Division

The battle fronts of Europe - Stanford's Geographical Establishment [1917]

The battle fronts of Europe – Stanford’s Geographical Establishment [1917]


Medievalist.net: Abortions in Byzantine times (325–1453 AD)

Social History of Medicine: ‘A virtue beyond all medicine’: The Hanged Man’s Hand, Gallows Tradition and Healing in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-century England

Dr Alun Withey: Unhealthy Beards? Denouncing Facial Hair in History

The Recipes Project: How to grow your beard, Roman style

Wellcome Library: Digitisation at the Royal College of Surgeons England

The Cullen Project: The Medical Consultation Letters of Dr William Cullen

The Recipes Project: Wigging Out: Mrs Corlyon’s Method for extracting Earwigs From The Ear

Unidentified species of Earwig, order Dermaptera, possibly Forficulidae, by JonRichfield,Wikimedia Commons

Unidentified species of Earwig, order Dermaptera, possibly Forficulidae, by JonRichfield,Wikimedia Commons

Books Combined: Obsessions and olfaction: scent and the seduction of books

The New York Times: A Grisly Find Under a Supermarket Illuminates France’s Medieval Past

Medievalist.net: Why All the Fuss about the Body? A Medievalist’s Perspective

The Quack Doctor: The mysterious Doctor Du Brange

academia.edu: Health, Medicine and the Family in Wales c. 1600 – c. 1750 PhD Thesis Alun Withey

Genotopia: An early use of the term “precision medicine”

Slate Vault: A Depression-Era Medicinal Plant Map of the United States

“Medicinal Plant Map of the United States of America.” Edwin Newcomb and the National Wholesale Druggists’ Association, 1932.
David Rumsey Map Collection

The Guardian: Man who died 1,500 years ago may have brought leprosy strain to UK

Wonders & Marvels: Feeling Swinish: Or the Origins of “Pandemic”

Hektoen International: The arsenic eaters of Styria

History of Vaccines: History of Smallpox

Brought to Light: Country Joe McDonald’s Florence Nightingale collection will be preserved in UCSF Archives

My Wonderland.Mental Health Blog: The Rise of Psychiatry has Augmented the Rise of Madness through Medication

Dorset Echo: Help historians find stories from the asylum

Throb: There Was No Viagra in 1918. But There Was This Penis Splint


Forbes: Julius Caesar’s Health Debate Reignited: Stroke or Epilepsy

Deathplaining: The Attritional Mortality Myth


The New York Times: Ghostly Voices From Thomas Edison’s Dolls Can Now Be Heard

Conciatore: The Neri Godparents II

Conciatore: The Neri Godparents III

Conciatore: The Neri Chapel

Vir History: Navy Radio Traffic Handling, Circuits, and Messages

Rhode Island Radio: Dedicated to the history of radio in Rhode Island

Smithsonian Libraries: Unbound: Durable Pianos

Ivers & Pond Piano Co., Boston, MA. Ivers & Pond Pianos, circa 1890, pages 32-33, Style 13, Ivers & Pond Small Parlor Grand Piano.

Ivers & Pond Piano Co., Boston, MA. Ivers & Pond Pianos, circa 1890, pages 32-33, Style 13, Ivers & Pond Small Parlor Grand Piano.

io9: The Illustrated History of Jet Packs

The New York Times: Moore’s Law Turns 50

Smithsonian.com: How 75 Years Ago Nylon Stockings Changed the World

CHF: Nylon A revolution in Textiles

Cornell University: Dawn’s Early Light: The First 50 Years of American Photography

O Say Can You See: The oldest microscope in the museum

Ptak Science Books: Bombing Subs with Exploding Birds, 1918

Tylers Museum: Bourdon type barometer

Barometer, Bourdon type or aneroid + case, F.W. Funckler Source: Teylers Museum

Barometer, Bourdon type or aneroid + case, F.W. Funckler
Source: Teylers Museum

Ptak Science Books: Hot Bunks and Cool Air in (All White?) Community Fallout Shelter

Auckland Meccano Guild: The Cambridge Meccano Differential Analyser

150 Great Things About The Underground: 37. The world clock at Piccadilly Circus

Engineering and Technology Wiki: Theordore Maiman and the Laser

Ptak Science Books: Unusual Questions 1: Are the London Bridges Too Far Apart? 1904

Linda Hall Library: Plates from Jacquard machine analysed and explained, by E.A. Posselt, 1892


Inside the Science Museum: The Pegasus Computer


Patheos: 11 recurring mistakes in the debate over the “historical Adam”

AIP:Expanding NBL&A resources to include meteorology

An Awfully Big Blog Adventure: “Mamma’s Kindness to Me”

The West Wales Chronicle: Special party treat for Garden Members

The Atlas of Living Australia: Over 10 million collections-based records on the Atlas

PBS: Alfred Wegener

The Junto: Natural Histories

BHL: Notes & News: Mars Invaders: The Wonderful World of Microfungi

Fig. 2. Symptoms and spore diversity of rust fungi from Rust, smut, mildew and mould: an introduction to the study of microscopic fungi. By M.C. Cooke and illustrated by J.E. Sowerby. London, 1898.

Fig. 2. Symptoms and spore diversity of rust fungi from Rust, smut, mildew and mould: an introduction to the study of microscopic fungi. By M.C. Cooke and illustrated by J.E. Sowerby. London, 1898.

Oxford Today: Award for 200 unbroken years of Oxford weather records

The Secret Library: Little Chunks of History

Sandwalk: James Hutton and John Playfair and a genealogical connection

University of Glasgow Library: An artistic reinterpretation of William Hunter

The New York Times: The Greatest Generation of Scientists

The Friends of Charles Darwin: John Stevens Henslow

Yovisto: Ilya Mechnikov and the Macrophages

Élie Metchnikoff (1845-1916)

Élie Metchnikoff (1845-1916)

microBEnet: Where does the term microbiome mean? And where did it come from? A bit of a surprise…


CHF: Justus von Liebig and Friedrich Wöhler

CHF: Where’s the Beef?

About Education: Who was the first chemist?

Chemistry World: All set for chemistry

Some of the earliest sets came in mahogany cases and were very expensive © Science Museum, London, Wellcome Images

Some of the earliest sets came in mahogany cases and were very expensive © Science Museum, London, Wellcome Images


Szilard Commandments

The New York Times: Peter Gay, Historian Who Explored Social History of Ideas, Dies at 91

Living Anthropologically: Real History versus Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

CHF: Heritage Day Awards

Forbes: The Role of Philosophy in Physics

AHA Today: AHA Announces New Taxonomy of Historical Fields

Shady Characters: Pilcrows in the service of science: a Shady Characters field trip

Science Museum Group Journal: Issue 3 Spring 2015

The Mary Sue: Everyone, We Need to Talk About 17th-Century Badass Writer Margaret Cavendish

Wellcome Collection: The Catalogue for the Public Library of Private Acts

University of Glasgow Library: Glasgow Incunabula Project and exhibition update

The H–Word: Do snails have eyes? Seventeenth century ‘mythbuster’ and science communicator, Sir Thomas Browne, investigates

Sir Thomas Browne, taken from a copy of “Religio Medici” (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images), Photograph: UniversalImagesGroup/Getty Images

Sir Thomas Browne, taken from a copy of “Religio Medici” (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images), Photograph: UniversalImagesGroup/Getty Images

Vox: Science is often flawed. It’s time we embraced it.

Wellcome Collection: Open Platform

Constructing Science Communities: People Powered Science

Open Culture: 6,000 Years of History Visualised in a 23-Foot-Long Timeline of World History, Created in 1871

Nautilus: The Trouble With Scientists

Girl, Interrupting: We’ve all got troubles (including Open Science Network)

The #EnvHist Weekly

University of Cambridge Museums: Innovation: The Emperor’s New Clothes?

The H-Word: Beware Eurosceptic versions of history and science

The Renaissance Mathematicus: History or political propaganda?

Notches: Inaugural Monthly Digest

The Guardian: 150 years of mathematics in the UK – in pictures

NY Book Editors: Inside an Edit: Non-Fiction Structural Changes


distillatio: My alchemical demonstrations at re-enactment events

Ultraculture: 3 Ways to Become a ‘Magician’, by a 16th Century Alchemist

Natural Magick, by Giambattista della Porta

Natural Magick, by Giambattista della Porta

SV Educational Services: Medieval Alchemy – The Art and Science of Transmutation


Brain Pickings: Richard Feynman on Science vs. Religion and Why Uncertainty is Central to Morality

JHI: Practical Past, Runaway Future

Brain Pickings: Richard Feynman on the Universal Responsibility of Scientists

Science Book a Day: The Journals of Lewis and Clark


Financial Times: ‘Scientific Babel: The Language of Science’ by Michael Godin

HNN: Why I wrote a Book About the Wright Brothers

New Books in Science, Technology, and Society: Galileo’s Idol: Gianfrancesco Sagredo and the Politics of Knowledge

Nature: The man who bared the brain

History Today: Aphrodisiacs, Fertility and Medicine in Early Modern England

Nature: In search of self and science

The Guardian: The Water Book by Alok Jha review – this remarkable substance

The Economist: A man for all seasons: Universal Man: The Lives of John Maynard Keynes

Popular Science: How UFOs Conquered the World: The History of a Modern Myth

academia.edu: Review – McLeish’s Faith and Wisdom in Science

Science Book a Day: The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Age


Popular Science: Einstein’s Masterwork: 1915 and the General Theory of Relativity

The Washington Post: John Hemming follows three British scientists who made significant discoveries in the Amazon


Historiens de la santé: Hippocrate et les hippocratismes: médicine, religion, société

University of Pennsylvania Press: Medieval Robots: Mechanism, Magic, Nature and Art

Historiens de la santé: La santé en guerre 1914–1918. Une Politique pionnière en univers incertain

University of Pittsburgh Press: The Crown and the Cosmos: Astrology and the Politics of Maximilian I



YouTube: The Royal Society: A dramatic experiment: science on stage


The Guardian: Jane Hawking: “There were four of us in our marriage”

Facebook: John Farrell: Sungenis Admits His Movie Was a Flop, Promises More


BBC: Cosmonauts: How Russia Won the Space Race



Classical Confidential: Caesar’s Strokes and the Fate of an Empire

Science Dump: 10 of Tesla’s best ideas that prove he was the ultimate science bad ass!

Medievalist.net: Vegetables in the Middle Ages

Bohemcan Youtube Channel: Alchemy (Show One & Two)

YouTube: The Pegasus Computer

YouTube: Leading interdisciplinary research, Professor Tom McLeish

YouTube: Darwin on the evolution trail



Dr Alvin: The Most Trusted Name in Wisdom: Einstein’s Dice & Schrödinger’s Cats by Paul Halpern chats with Dr Alvin

Advances in the History of Psychology: New Books in STS Interview: Matthew Heaton’s Black Skin, White Coats


University of Cambridge: Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry Meeting 15 June 2015

Museum for the History of Science Oxford: Exhibition: Dear Harry: Henry Moseley – A Scientist Lost to War 14 May–18 October 2015

Royal Society: People-powered science: Symposium: citizen science in the 19th and 21st centuries

University of Manchester: Symposium: Stories About Science: Exploring Science Communication and Entertainment Media 4–5 June 2015

Morbid Anatomy: Daniel Rushkoff and the Narrative Lab! Alchemy Lecture and Workshop Series! History of the Sacred Heart of Jesus! Arcane Media! Upcoming Events

University of Warwick: Gems in Transit: Materials, Techniques and Trade, 1400–1800 18-19 May 2015

Seton Hall University: The 2015 Biennial Conference of the Aphra Behn Society for Women in the Arts, 1660-1830: CfP: Women in the Global Eighteenth Century 5-6 November 2015

University of Northampton: Masculinity and the Body in retain, 1500–1800 18 June 2015

Colloque de la SFHSH – Histoire des sciences humaines et sociales Paris, 5-6 novembre 2015

UCL: STS Research Day 2015 Programme

University of Manchester: CHSTM: Workshop: Medicines, Histories and Translations 11-12 June 2015

World Health Organization Global Health Histories: Online webinar: ‘Chemical and Biological Weapons’ 21 May 2015

University of Notre Dame: Locating Forensic Science and Medicine 24-25 June 2015

Caltech: Lecture: Andrew Hodges: “Alan Turing: An Individual of the Twentieth Century” 21 May 2015

University of Warsaw: The Tree of Knowledge: Theories of Science and Art in Central Europe, 1400–1700 28 May 2015

Maastricht University: CfP. Theorizing the Body in Health and Medicine 26–27 November 2015

H-Histsex: Notches: CfP: Histories of Sexualities In Africa

The Northern Network for Medical Humanities: Workshop: University of Sheffield 10 June 2015

University of Durham: Thomas Harriot Seminar 2015 6–7 July

IET: Newcastle Discovery Museum: Conference: The history of power generation, distribution, utilisation and other engineering specialisms 6–7 June

Institute of English Studies, Senate House, University of London: Biennial London Chaucer Conference: Science, Magic and Technology 10-11 July 2015

University of Wales Trinity Saint David: Astrology as Art: Representation and Practice 27-28 June 2015


University of Zurich: Two Postdocs in History of Medicine

University of Strathclyde: Lectureship in the History of Medicine

University of Pennsylvania: Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Humanities 2016-2017

MOSI: Fully-funded AHRC PhD studentship: The Rise and Fall of The Manchester Motor Industry, 1896–1939

University of Sussex: Sussex Humanities Lab Doctoral Research Scholarships (2015)

Museum of the History of Science, Oxford: Part-time twelve-week Collections intern

University of Edinburgh: Postdoctoral Teaching and Research Fellowship in the History of Medicine

Smithsonian Institute: Museum Curator (Aeronautics)

University of York: Teaching Fellow in the History of Science and Medicine

About thonyc

Aging freak who fell in love with the history of science and now resides mostly in the 16th century.
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1 Response to Whewell’s Gazette: Vol. #48

  1. I find it quite amusing that Mr Mlodinow should moan about inaccurate portrayal of history of science, but his own recent book The Upright Thinkers both perpetuates the ‘Bruno burned at the stake for his science’ myth and tells us that Max Born, rather than Gilbert Lewis, named the photon.

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