History of Science

Category archives for History of Science

Science Story: Night Owls

(When I launched the Advent Calendar of Science Stories series back in December, I had a few things in mind, but wasn’t sure I’d get through 24 days. In the end, I had more than enough material, and in fact didn’t end up using a few of my original ideas. So I’ll do a few…

“Hey,” you say, “It’s been, like, a week and a half since you did a post flogging Eureka: Discovering Your Inner Scientist. What gives?” Well, I’ve been kind of busy, and also the media world sort of goes into suspended animation over the stretch between Christmas and New Year’s. However, there’s publicity stuff in the…

When I launched this back at the start of December, I honestly wasn’t sure I would have enough good stories to make it through. I suspected I might end up going a week or two, then quietly letting the whole thing drop. As we come to the end, though, I’ve run out of days well…

For the penultimate advent calendar of science stories post, we’ll turn to a great experimentalist with a great biography. This story also appears in Eureka: Discovering your Inner Scientist, but it’s too good not to re-use. Chien-Shiung Wu was born in china in 1912, at right around the time education of women was first legalized.…

One of the very best books I ran across in the process of doing research for Eureka is The Second Creation: Makers of the Revolution in Twentieth-Century Physics by Robert P. Crease and Charles C. Mann. It’s an extremely detailed treatment of the development of quantum theory, and includes anecdotes that I haven’t seen elsewhere.…

Another weekend day, another story I’m going to outsource a bit. In this case, to the original scientist, who at the time of his discovery was a 13-year-old schoolboy in Tanzania: In 1963, when I was in form 3 in Magamba Secondary School, Tanzania, I used to make ice-cream. The boys at the school do…

We’re going to depart from the chronological ordering again, because it’s the weekend and I have to do a bunch of stuff with the kids. Which means I’m in search of a story I can outsource… In this case, I’m outsourcing to myself– this is a genuine out-take from Eureka: Discovering Your Inner Scientist, specifically…

As I endlessly repeat, I’m an experimentalist by training an inclination, so I especially appreciate stories about experimental science. There’s something particularly wonderful about the moment when an experiment clicks together, usually after weeks or months of hard, frustrating work, when things just keep breaking. Of course, sometimes, breaking stuff can be a Good Thing.…

The winter solstice holidays are a time for family and togetherness, so building off yesterday’s post about the great Marie Skłodowska Curie, we’ll stay together with her family. Specifically her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie and her husband Frédéric. The Joliot-Curies are possible answers to a number of Nobel Prize trivia questions– only mother and daughter to…

There’s no way I could possibly go through a long history-of-science blog series without mentioning the great Marie Skłodowska Curie, one of the very few people in history to win not one but two Nobel Prizes for her scientific work– if nothing else, Polish pride would demand it. She made a monumental contribution to physics…