About the SA Blog Network

The Scicurious Brain

The Scicurious Brain

The Good, Bad, and Weird in Physiology and Neuroscience
The Scicurious Brain Home

Giant’s Shoulders #53!

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Email   PrintPrint

Hello and welcome to the 53rd edition of the Giant’s Shoulders Carnival, the blog carnival focusing on the history of science. We may not have Friday Weird Science today, but fear not, for the history of science contains MANY weird and wild tales.

And yea, let it be written that fpeaking of the hiftory of fcience makef Fci want to write her fs all fcrolly. But I won’t. to fpare your eyef.

So without further ado, let’s dive in. We’ve got a LOT of great history of science posts from around the web!

First off, this month’s Special: HURRICANES

  • With the recent onslaught of Hurricane Sandy (felt with some force here at Sci headquarters), it seems only appropriate to look at the history of hurricanes. Hurricane Sandy became a major political issue in the US, and has become somewhat of a focus for climate change. But as the Philadelphia Center for the History of Science points out, hurricanes have always been a political issue. Europeans were dealing with the physical and political post-hurricane landscape as early as the 1600′s.



Health and Medicine



  • Relying on hearsay for tales like these of getting 8 cups of water per day might result in some inaccuracy, so medieval doctors wrote their own drug “recipes” in “recipes books”. What were they? Did they work well? Check it out.
  • And from the same group, did you know that remedy books go back to the Ancient Romans? Sadly, there’s not nearly enough discussion of gross ingredients like lark’s tongues.
  • We all know that people have long used herbs in medicine in history, but you’ve got to make them into drugs somehow. Here’s how.
  • Learn more about Leprosy in this discussion of leprosy in Scandinavia.
  • It turns out that we skeptics have been warning people about quack medicine for far longer than you might think! Check out this 1927 booklet, and don’t get “gulled”!
  • Make sure to read this fantastic post on the history of insulin from Science-Based Medicine.


Woman and the History of Science

  • And make sure to check out the following video, looking at pluralism and the history of science:



  • Did you know there’s a superstition that beech trees don’t get struck by lightning? I didn’t either. But it turns out there is one. And it’s false. Make sure to check out the post on it by Skulls in the Stars.


  • Everyone knows about Copernicus. But did you know that he never would have published, if it weren’t for the OTHER guy at the University of Wittenberg? Head over and find out who we can thank for the heliocentric model of the solar system.


  • I don’t know about you, but when I read fantasy novels, I always read about water clocks. It turns out, water clocks did exist, but not quite in the way that I thought. Now you can read about those, and other medieval clocks, at W.U. History.
  • It’s not quite a type of technology, but here you can see a 300 year old manual, one of the first attempts at teaching the hearing-impaired to speak.
  • Here’s a celebration of one of the U.S.’s first civil engineers, John Smeaton.

Geography and Navigation


  • If you’re at all a fan of microscopy, you’ll recall Hooke’s famous flea picture:




And finally, a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the British Journal for the History of Science, which turns 50 this year. An appropriate repository for all the good old science out there.

That’s all for the 53rd Edition of Giant’s Shoulders! If you’d like to submit your own writing on the history of science, the next Giant’s Shoulders will be held on December 16th, at Contagions Blog, where you can submit your entries. And make sure you head over on December 16th for some old school science!

Scicurious About the Author: Scicurious is a PhD in Physiology, and is currently a postdoc in biomedical research. She loves the brain. And so should you. Follow on Twitter @Scicurious.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Rights & Permissions

Comments 2 Comments

Add Comment
  1. 1. friendsofdarwin 1:00 pm 11/16/2012

    Out of shameless self-interest, I feel I should point out that your link to my Darwin’s pigeon-mentor piece links to the wrong website. The correct link is:

    Link to this
  2. 2. TimONeill 10:45 am 11/17/2012

    Sorry to be pedantic, but a Seventeenth Century medical treatise is rather too late to be described as “medieval”. Try 500-1500 AD for that term. The treatise is Early Modern. “Medieval” is not synonymous with “any time before the founding of the United States”, though many Americans seem to use it that way.

    Link to this

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Email this Article