Migraine: A History

by eea | Wednesday, June 12, 2019 - 12:00 PM

I didn’t set out to write Migraine: A History as a book spanning nearly two thousand years. As a specialist in nineteenth-century disease and medicine, I’d planned to write something distinctly more modern. In fact, a good friend had gently but firmly warned me off attempting to write a long history early in the project; “You are not Owsei Temkin”, he joked, referring to a magisterial account of the history of epilepsy, first published in 1945.

But I was interested in questions such as who gets to speak with authority about health and illness? Whose knowledge matters enough to be preserved in the historical sources that survive? What kind of history would different kinds of evidence, including images, allow us to write? It proved fascinating to follow the historical threads of a term from its roots in Galen’s second-century term hemicrania , through emigranea in Latin and Middle English and the later vernacular meagrim , to the adoption of the French migraine in the late eighteenth century. I was rapidly drawn further and further back through the centuries.

Of course, all projects develop in ways that cannot be envisaged at...Read More

Taking Nazi Technology

by eea | Monday, June 10, 2019 - 12:00 PM

Taking Nazi Technology is a book about the largest-scale attempt at corporate/industrial espionage in history, about scientist spies and covert missions to steal technologies. When I discuss the topic, however, people sometimes ask whether it's really fair to talk about this as a book about "espionage" or "scientific intelligence." It's a fair question, but a tricky one, so I thought I would take the opportunity of this blog post to explore the topic.

When we think of espionage, we often think of James Bond, The American, the CIA as it's portrayed in films – dramatic, secretive, high-stakes, illegal action. Even in an earlier era when Tom Clancy's character Jack Ryan was a historian-turned-analyst (unlike the recent TV remake, which made the mistake of casting Ryan as an economist), the emphasis was on secret information.

In contrast, the programs to take German science and technology after the Second World War ranged from top secret (such as the Alsos mission to investigate German advances in nuclear technology) to so open they were advertised in newspapers and trade journals. Further, once Germany was defeated and split into four occupation zones, each governed by one of the major...Read More

Celebrating World Doll Day

by eea | Friday, June 7, 2019 - 5:00 PM

June 8, 2019, is World Doll Day, and the most important attribute of these playthings – Jerry Griswold points out in this excerpt from Feeling Like a Kid – is how they are alive.

The very young child, psychologist Jean Piaget observed, does not distinguish between the animate and the inanimate: the youngster who bangs her knee on a table, for example, goes back and strikes the offending table. For the very young, the whole world is alive–from talking dolls to the North Wind.

It’s not surprising, then, that in children’s stories we sometimes encounter talking animals interacting with talking toys. The evil Mouse King exchanges challenges with a household object in E. T. A. Hoffman’s Nutcracker . The villain Manny Rat discusses the meaning of life with a tin toy in Russell Hoban’s The Mouse and His Child . And the wily Fox and Cat parlay with a puppet in Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio .

This aliveness of toys is important when the young play. Dolls have tea parties. Teddy bears talk. Stick horses gallop. From the point of view of children, living...Read More

Engineering Standard Setting

by eea | Thursday, June 6, 2019 - 12:00 PM

When we started researching the global history of industrial standard setting, we expected that we would end up writing about a community of engineers acting in their typical role as conservative rationalizers, even if, in this case, they operated on the vast stage of the global economy. We did not think we would be writing about engineers as part of a transformation-oriented social movement—something resembling the transcontinental free trade movement or the global environmental movement—but it turns out that just such a movement was behind the voluntary standards that link all our transportation systems and electrical grids and make global manufacturing and the Internet possible.

Engineering Rules: Global Standard Setting since 1880 tells the story of three waves of a social movement that invented and promoted a process of setting standards through consensus-oriented committees of engineers representing the major producers and purchasers of industrial products, along with engineers chosen to represent the larger public interest. A series of movement leaders worked to create the organizations that set up and manage these committees. In the first wave, before the Second World War, most of these organizations were national standardization bodies, joined by a couple of...Read More

Communicating U.S. Science Policy

by bjs | Wednesday, June 5, 2019 - 12:00 PM

The complexity of scientific research does not always mesh well with transparency. Terror incidents in the 1990s led to rules "that undermined the ability of scientists and research institutions to self-regulate and in some cases to disseminate information freely," according to Carole R. Baskin , Director, Communicable Diseases, Vector & Animal Control for St Louis County, Mo. She recently published an essay titled " Who Should Be Driving US Science Policy? " in Perspectives in Biology in Medicine . Baskin joined us for a Q&A about her article, which strives to find ways to balance competing needs for transparency and security, so that research critical to biosecurity is supported rather than impeded.

What pushed you to write this essay? For the past decade, I have had an interest in policy and especially on science policy history. A couple of years ago, I published an essay on the importance of self-regulation for scientists. This was really the story of the NIH Recombinant DNA Guidelines because they are such a good example of scientists taking the lead in moderating their own. In this essay, I wanted to explore the issue further,...Read More