A History of Science

A History of Science

A podcast exploring the cultures, communities, and contexts of scientific progress.


May 27, 2020 25 mins
The French Revolution was the culmination of Enlightenment thinking. But rather than celebrating science, the revolutionaries suppressed ideas and killed the people that held them. In the last decade of the eighteenth century, one of the greatest experiments ever was being conducted. It wasn’t a scientific experiment, even though it was the culmination of Enlightenment …
In the 16th century, alchemy became a victim of its own success. The more it achieved, the more its reputation suffered. Cheating death. Curing every disease. Possessing unlimited amounts of gold. Such fantastic objectives were pursued all throughout medieval Europe by alchemists. They burned, melted, distilled, and vaporized any substance they could get their hands …
In the 16th century, great advances were made in anatomy. Amazingly, this didn’t lead to a single improvement in surgery, which remained crude, cruel, and lethal. Are you as intrigued by the skeleton in this show’s logo as I am? Probably not. It does have its place in the history of science, though. It’s a …
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Computing began long before the twentieth century. Mechanical calculators ran on cogs, wheels, and steam engines. How would you like a job as a computer? Not a programmer, not even a mathematician. A computer. Someone who makes calculations. By hand. All day, every day. I guess that doesn’t sound appealing. Until well into the previous …
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Columbus discovers America. But more importantly, he discovers discovery itself. In 1492, Columbus sailed west to prove that the world was round. His sailors, terrified of falling off the edge of the world, were on the brink of mutiny just as America’s coastline came into view. Except they weren’t. Ever since antiquity, nobody who had …
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Daring 17th century doctors try their hand at blood transfusion. With fatal consequences. Blood. The mere sight of it is enough to make many people faint. Blood has long been thought to be the magical ingredient to life. It has been used in rituals, cures, and potions. It has been believed to contain the essence …
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