Welcome to the 45th edition of The Giant’s Shoulders, the monthly history of science blog carnival! We’ve got a lot of interesting entries to cover, so let’s get going!
Captain of the men of death. Over at White Coat Underground, PalMD reposts a classic article describing the early history of the fight against pneumonia.
There was no such thing as the Longitude Prize. Over at The Board of Longitude, Rebekah Higgit clears up a common misconception about the search for an accurate measure of longitude.
The Shocking Dr. Webster (part 1 and part 2). A doctor who electrocuted corpses, a mysterious disappearance, and remains found in a furnace combine into a fascinating 19th-century science-related murder mystery, told skillfully by Romeo at Providentia.
Digital “Computers” 1450-1750: Memory and Calculating on the Fingers and Hands. People were doing “digital” computing long before the advent of computers, as this fun post by Ptak at Ptak Science Books demonstrates with wonderful old illustrations!
1901 — the year the nuclear atom was “invented”! Who really discovered, or more accurately, first conceived of, the concept of a planetary atom? Right here at Skulls in the Stars, I explain how the answer is more complicated than typically imagined.
The iceberg’s accomplice: Did the moon sink the Titanic? Over at PhysOrg, Jayme Blaschke reports on a very unusual new theory about the sinking of the Titanic: did a rare lunar event hide the iceberg from the ship lookouts?
Grave Matters: The Body-Snatchers Unearthed. In the late 18th century and early 19th, “body-snatching” was a common occurrence, as medical students needed bodies to study. The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice takes a look at the practices of the snatchers, and the precautions taken against them.
Eye treatments – 17th-century style. At his eponymous blog, Alun Whithey describes what it was like to be treated for eye problems in the 17th-century. Spoiler alert: not fun!
The tragic tale of Taiata and the artist’s journal. At Nat Waddell’s Blog, we learn the sad story of Taiata, a Tahitian boy who did not survive a trip back to England on Captain Cook’s voyage.
Me, Ludwig Boltzmann, Ludwig Boltzmann and I. At Galileo’s Pendulum, Matthew Francis explains why it is personally difficult for him to write about the famous physicist Ludwig Boltzmann.
A lyrical interlude. We’ve seen a lot of history so far — time for an intermission! Caroline Rance at The Quack Doctor presents a song from an 1886 book of tunes by medical club members.
Nash’s beautiful mind pre-empted million-dollar puzzle. Turns out that the mathematician John Nash was even smarter than we realized! Recently declassified letters between the NSA and Nash suggest he was years ahead of anyone else in thinking about cryptography; New Scientist explains.
Society in the sky: a seventeenth century attempt to redraw the constellations. The constellations are ancient, but not everyone has agreed that they should be permanent! At Thinking Through My Fingers, Michael Kay describes 17th century attempts to modify them.
The first-ever English language retraction (1756)? Papers get retracted from scientific journals these days with some regularity for a variety of reasons, such as discovered errors in methodology and even fraud. At Retraction Watch, Ivan Oransky notes that retractions go back quite a long time, and notes what may be the first English-language paper retraction!
Beatrix Potter: bestselling author, artist – and expert on our native mushrooms. Wow! In years past, science societies would not allow women to present their results. One injustice will be rectified in April, when the works of Beatrix Potter — rejected in 1897 — will be presented to the Linnean Society.
Turing at 100. Nature recounts the tragic mistreatment of Alan Turing, computer pioneer and codebreaker, and reminds us of why he deserves our attention.
History of Lines–a Note on the First Appearance of the Addition (“+”) Sign. In other fascinating post at Ptak Science Books, Ptak takes a look at the ancient origins of the “+” sign.
Newton’s apple tree. We all know the story — an apple falling on Newton’s head inspired him to develop the theory of gravity. Well, the story is likely apocryphal, but there was an apple tree at Newton’s birthplace. At the Royal Society’s History of Science Centre’s Blog, Keith Moore discusses the tree and its descendants.
Augustin-Jean Fresnel’s early years. In another post right here as Skulls in the Stars, I give an example of genius that manifested itself in an unusual way: the optical scientist Fresnel could hardly read at an advanced age, but demonstrated a rather hilarious mechanical knack!
Darwin: Geologist First and Last. You may be tempted to think of Darwin as a biologist, but Dana Hunter at En Tequila Es Verdad argues that Darwin was as much a geologist, and that background was crucial to his Origin of Species!
A Fondness for Fronds. At The Victorian Peeper, Kristan Tetens discusses Victorians’ fanatical fondness for fern fronds!
Laura Bassi, a woman who succeeded in a man’s world: physics. There are so many women whose early achievements in science have been neglected and forgotten! Mike Rendell at Georgian Gentleman introduces us to an especially fascinating woman physicist, Laura Bassi (1711-1778).
It’s not the Mercator projection; it’s the Mercator-Wright projection! Finally, over at Renaissance Mathematicus, ThonyC explains the origins of what has come to be known as the “Mercator projection”.
That’s it for this month’s carnival! The 46th edition will be hosted by Romeo Vitelli at Providentia on the 16th of April.