History of Science

NASA Teacher-in-Space trainee Sharon Christa McAuliffe (right) and backup Barbara R. Morgan practice experiments during a zero-gravity training flight on October 16, 1985.

In Stellar Tribute, Astronauts Teach "Lost Lessons" From Educator Who Died on <em>Challenger</em>

Christa McAuliffe had planned to teach the lessons during her 1986 trip to space. Now, two astronauts will finally carry out the plan

Baber gathering fossils at Mazon Creek, Illinois, 1895, during the first field class at the University of Chicago to which women were admitted.

The Woman Who Transformed How We Teach Geography

By blending education and activism, Zonia Baber made geography a means of uniting—not conquering—the globe

During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F Kennedy discusses results of surveillance missions in Cuba

How the Presidency Took Control of America's Nuclear Arsenal

From Truman onwards, the ability to order a nuclear strike has shaped the office

When a Medical “Cure” Makes Things Much, Much Worse

In 1960s Japan, a bizarre outbreak of hairy green tongues failed to set off alarms around the world

Ephraim McDowell is memorialized in the U.S. Capitol Statuary Hall Collection

This American Doctor Pioneered Abdominal Surgery by Operating on Enslaved Women

Glorified with a statue in the U.S. Capitol, Ephraim McDowell is a hero in Kentucky, but the full story needs to be told

Spandex, under the brand name Lycra, quickly took off after it was introduced in 1962. This ad was published in Good Housekeeping in October of that year.

Thank(?) Joseph Shivers For Spandex

From Spanx to space suits, spandex has shaped modern garments

The interior of the Cocoanut Grove nightclub after the fire.

Three Medical Breakthroughs That Can Be Traced Back to a Tragic Nightclub Fire

Four hundred ninety-two people died as a result of the horrifying fire, an unprecedented death toll that led physicians to make unprecedented innovations

What would the days, weeks, years after a nuclear explosion really look like? In 1983, Carl Sagan gave the public their first imagining.

When Carl Sagan Warned the World About Nuclear Winter

Before the official report came out, the popular scientist took to the presses to paint a dire picture of what nuclear war might look like

Benjamin Banneker as portrayed on a stamp released in 1980 as part of a Black Heritage series.

Three Things to Know About Benjamin Banneker's Pioneering Career

Banneker was a successful almanac-maker and self-taught student of mathematics and astronomy

The tenth inkblot in Rorschach's series.

Hermann Rorschach’s Artistic Obsession Led to His Famous Test

Rorschach's high school nickname was "Kleck," which means "inkblot" in German

This paper log for Interface Message Processor shows the very first online communication.

These Two Small Letters Heralded the Beginning of Online Communication

Their message is far more profound in retrospect than it was at the time

Nicholas Culpeper fought against the medical establishment of the time by taking the radical action of writing in English, not Latin.

How Nicholas Culpeper Brought Medicine to the People

His 17th-century text is still in print today

The remnant's of Kepler's supernova imaged with modern instruments.

How a 1604 Supernova Presented a Challenge to Astronomers

The supernova provided proof to Galileo, Kepler and others that the heavens were not fixed–although they were wrong about what caused the bright star

Guillaume Rondelet was an early anatomist who founded his own dissecting theater, which was a thing people did in the sixteenth century.

A Sixteenth-Century Hot Date Might Include a Trip to the Dissecting Theater

Anatomy theaters were an early site for science as spectacle

Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is a more modern form of IVF.

In Vitro Fertilization Was Once As Controversial As Gene Editing is Today

The scientists who pioneered it were regarded as pariahs, even within their own universities

Unlike Samuel Morse's one-key telegraph, Baudot's used five keys.

The Roots of Computer Code Lie in Telegraph Code

Émile Baudot, born a year after the first long-distance telegraph message was sent, helped advance the technology

You can see the resemblance in his eyes.

This Nineteenth-Century Genealogist Argued Norse God Odin Was George Washington’s Great-Great-Great... Grandfather

Albert Welles's ideas about whiteness were a reflection of his time, and would be continued into the future

To the naked eye, the Albireo star system looks like a single, brilliant star. In reality, this binary system consists of two stars, similar to the ones witnessed by Korean astronomers nearly 600 years ago.

The Secret Lives of Cannibal Stars Revealed, Thanks to 15th Century Korean Astronomers

For the first time ever, astrophysicists observe the entire life cycle of a binary star system

Paul Ehrlich was the first to take a chemical approach to immunity.

The First Syphilis Cure Was the First 'Magic Bullet'

The term 'magic bullet' once just meant a targeted drug

One of the best-known paintings of the doomed Franklin expedition. Full title: "They forged the last link with their lives: HMS ‘Erebus’ and ‘Terror’, 1849–1850."

A Dentist Weighs in On What Really Doomed the Franklin Expedition

Addison’s disease may have blackened the explorers' gums and hastened their demise, proposes a history-obsessed dentistry professor

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