The Giant’s Shoulders #32

Welcome to the 32nd edition of the History of Science blog carnival, The Giant’s Shoulders!  We had an incredibly large number of entries this month, not all of which could be accommodated, so without further ado let’s get to them!  They are roughly sorted by field of study.


Population, Leeuwenhoek and National Geographic. At Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Centraal, we learn that Leeuwenhoek was the first to estimate the human population of the Earth!

Circadian clock without DNA–History and the power of metaphor.  Recent papers suggested that the circadian rhythm can operate without genes or even DNA! At Scientific American: Observations, Bora Zivkovic puts this work in its historical context.

How to subdue an ant.  From The Bug Whisperer, we learn how Robert Hooke “subdued” ants for microscopic investigation!

The Dodo is Dead, Long Live the Dodo! The extinct Dodo has a reputation to have been an awkward and frumpish bird.  But was it really that way, or did we make it that way in our own perceptions?  Over at Laelaps, Brian investigates.


The first glimmer of a nuclear Sun: radium and solar energy (1903).  It was a long processes by which science came to understand where the Sun’s energy comes from!  The first hint came in the early 1900s, when radioactivity was discovered.  Right here on this blog, I discuss the first glimmers of understanding.

Joule’s Jewel.  James Joule was one of the most important figures in the development of thermodynamics in the 19th century.  At Reciprocal Space, we get a discussion of the man’s life and work.

The Scholar and the Caliph. At, Jennifer Ouellette gives a delightful fictional account of Ibn al-Haytham’s (965-1040) time as a prisoner in Egypt — and the science that came from it! (account required)

Newton’s ‘Crucial Experiment’. Kristen at Early Modern Experimental Philosophy investigates an important optical experiment of Isaac Newton — and wonders about an oversight in the arguments…

A bit of Victoriana.  At through the looking glass, Alice Bell takes a look at some children’s science books of the 19th century.

Rutherford’s alchemy solved Atom’s mystery.  In the Montreal Gazette, we get a wonderful description of Rutherford’s discovery of the nuclear atom — that led the way to all modern atomic and nuclear physics!


A Beautiful Manuscript of Square Roots, ca. 1830.  Mathematics can be quite beautiful, and at Ptak Science Books we are treated to some images from a wonderful 1830s book.

The Guts of Mathematics, Archimedes’ Dog, and the Greaseless Anatomy of Machines. Archimedes life ended famously when a Roman soldier murdered him immediately after the fall of Syracuse.  Again at Ptak Science Books, we are treated to some artists’ interpretations of the event.


The discovery of the ruins of ice.  Over at cryology and co, the origins of glacier research are outlined.

Mount Etna: Significance in the history of volcanology.   What role does Mount Etna play in the history of volcanology?  History of geology gives us an explanation.

The Layers of Earth.  Also at the History of geology, the history of the understanding of stratigraphy is discussed.


Dedications.  Over at From the Hands of Quacks, Jai Virdi looks at a charming dedication from an early 19th century book about the human ear.

Video: Four Centuries of Vaccinology, by Stanley A. Plotkin, MD.  Here we have a video about the the development of vaccination, starting in the 1700s up through the present; see it at the History of Vaccines.

The Medical Gaze. Over at Executed Today, we get the “landing page” of a four-post series of historical executions each connected to the medical history of utilizing corpses for scientific inquiry.


Bicentenary and padded suit may help revise views of 18th century Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne.  Maskelyne is considered a villain of the quest to properly measure longitude on the Earth, but a new exhibit aims to soften his image; posted at

Reaching for the moon.  Speaking of longitude, we have a post at the Board of Longitude discussing attempts to use lunar distances to ascertain position.

2,100-yr-old Greek coin offers insights into rare astronomical event.  Remarkably, an ancient Greek coin may commemorate an unusual astronomical event; the Greek Herald explains.

The Sun is a Star.  Stars are tiny points of light that to the naked eye seem completely different from the massive fiery ball that is the Sun.  When was the connection made between the two?  Feanor at JOST A MON explains.

Mars, a Victorian Sensation. Modern expeditions to the Red Planet seek to discover life in primitive form there.  Back in Victorian times, speculation of life first exploded in the popular consciousness, as discussed at Vintage Space.


The Greely Expedition. Arctic expeditions in the 19th century were an extremely dangerous proposition; at Time to Eat the Dogs, we get a detailed discussion of the disastrous Greely expedition, and its impact.

Did Vikings navigate by polarized light? In an intriguing paper recently published, it is suggested that Vikings could navigate even on a cloudy day by the use of polarized light.   NatureNews give an explanation of the idea.

How to navigate a Viking longboat with a king, some bees and a DC-8.  However, over at  AlunSalt a little cold water is thrown on the idea: how much evidence is there that Vikings used such techniques.

Longitude and Lunacy.  The quest for a measure of longitude became such an obsession, that it became represented in the popular mind as a sort of madness! At Board of Longitude, the history of this impression is discussed.


How (Not?) to Popularize the History of Science: Tycho Brahe (again) The Philadelphia Center for History of Science uses a Discovery Channel podcast as a case study for the wrong way to discuss the history of science.

Discovery.  Over at Periodic Tabloid, we get a brief musing of the nature of scientific discovery.

The history of science, on its own terms. Over at the  PLoS Blogs Network, Holly Tucker gives a spirited argument for the history of science.

Galileo and Experimental Philosophy.  Galileo’s work in some ways anticipated the experimental philosophy of the later 17th century;  Early Modern Experimental Philosophy explains.


Examples of Colossally Bad Ideas–Sterilization, Eugenics and Soviet Racial/Genetic Domination Theory.   Over at Ptak Science Books, Ptak takes a look at some nasty Soviet books on eugenics.

The greatest show on Earth.  In a post at the History of geology, the history of the freak show is examined.

Why is water considered ghost-proof? (1884).  At this very blog, I look at a curiously-titled paper from 1884 which is simultaneously more and less than it appears…

Social Science

The “Separate But Equal” War.  At Providentia, Romeo Vitelli looks at the historical battle for equality in education.

A Clockwork Controversy Also at Providentia, Romeo Vitelli looks at the old controversy, “Does movie violence inspire copycat killings?”

People of Science

Constance Naden’s deep Darwinian lays. Over at Nick’s Café Canadien, a relatively-forgotten 19th century poet and Darwinian scientist is discussed.

The Darwins’ Christmas Fayre.  In a short charming post at Darwin and Gender, we learn of what the Darwin family would have for Christmas dinner!

Captured by C. Darwin, Esq.  Over at The Dispersal of Darwin, Michael Barton looks at the insect-collecting habits of Charles Darwin!

What more do you want? A knighthood? So why didn’t Darwin get knighted?  A post at Whewell’s Ghost argues that he got plenty of recognition in his lifetime, thank you very much, and that knighthoods were reserved for very specific duties.


That’s it for this month’s carnival!  Next month’s host has yet to be scheduled, but check the carnival website for details.

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10 Responses to The Giant’s Shoulders #32

  1. Pingback: The Giant’s Shoulders #32 is out! « The Giant’s Shoulders

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  8. darwinsbulldog says:

    Nice edition!

  9. Pingback: Giants’ Shoulders #60 Part I: Five Full Years: A Retrospective | The Renaissance Mathematicus

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