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Literature & Scholarship

Science as Cumulative Cultural Evolution

According to this article, historians of science have demonstrated that science is a process of cultural acquisition: A well-documented example of cumulative cultural evolution is seen in the growth of scientific knowledge. Historians of science have detailed how scientific knowledge has gradually accumulated over successive generations of scientists, with each new generation building on the […]

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History

Complex and Mysterious Mechanism

In 1938 when Dr. Jayne’s used the Mensch als Industriepalast image, the company was recycling an image it used at least as early as 1934. The description at the top emphasized modern, mechanized picture of the human body: “A picture of the World’s most complex and mysterious mechanism.” By 1938 the image had lost that […]

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Literature & Scholarship

Johannes Schöner—Neither Medieval nor Modern

Johannes Schöner will never be a household name, but it’s nice to see him get some attention in John Hessler’s A Renaissance Globemaker’s Toolbox. Schöner attracted Hessler’s attention less for his own work than his compliations of material, which included the now famous 1507 Waldseemüller map of the world. Hessler seems to have combed through […]

Categories
History

Dr. Jayne’s Mensch als Industriepalast

In 1926 Fritz Kahn created his famous “Mensch als Industriepalast,” a fascinating, modernist depiction of the human being as a chemical factory, staffed with industrious little workers, replete with control centers, machines, conduits, communication wires (see the copy at the NLM). In an impressive display plagiarism, Dr. Jayne’s almanac for 1939 included a strikingly similar […]

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Press and Pop Culture

Math is Always a Weapon

The authors of “Justices Flunk Math” worry that math—or more narrowly, statistics and probabilities—is being misused in the courtroom. After looking at a few examples, they conclude: The challenge is to make sure that the math behind the legal reasoning is fundamentally sound. Good math can help reveal the truth. But in inexperienced hands, math […]

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History

Cosmas, the Tabernacle, and the Flat Earth

The Flat Earth Myth remains a compelling story despite continued efforts by historians to debunk it (I’ve discussed it before). Typically, it combines two fables: first, people in the middle ages believed that the earth was flat; second, Columbus proved that the earth was round. Washington Irving’s popular biography of Columbus, A History of the […]

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Literature & Scholarship

Illustrating Galileo, ca. 1955

In 1952 F. Sherwood Taylor delivered the Christmas lectures at the Royal Institution on “How Science has Grown.” These became the basis for his book, An Illustrated History of Science. One reviewer praised Taylor for having “simply and concisely presented the panorama of science from the ancient Sumeria of some 7,000 years ago up to […]

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History

Dr. Miles and Alka-Seltzer

The Dr. Miles Medical Company in Elkhart, Indiana, made a fortune selling the Dr. Miles’ Nervine, a patent medicine that calmed the nerves. Like most patent medicine companies, Dr. Miles marketed its medicines through pamphlets and almanacs. And like most patent medicines, Dr. Miles’ Nervine seemed to cure any ailment and to improve your general […]

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Press and Pop Culture

Assassin’s Creed and Historical Fidelity

What liberties should video games take with the historical record and who gets to decide? Or, as some of the people interviewed in “Are Video Games like Assassin’s Creed Rewriting History?” suggest, is there no meaningful historical record beyond the interpretations that we put forward? A commonplace—“History is no longer a set of disputable, footnoted […]

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Teaching

The MORU as Precursor to the MOOC

MOOCs are all the rage right now—academics generally upset or unimpressed and disruptors generally optimistic. What intrigues me is how familiar the kook-aid (sorry, typo) Kool-aid tastes. The latest technology becomes the mechanism to democratize learning, to bring the best college and university lectures to the underprivileged, and to expand learning to hundreds of thousands […]