Category Archives: History of science or medicine

Disaster memories fade fast

AFTER Hurricane Betsy pummelled New Orleans in 1965, causing damage so severe that “Betsy” was retired from the rotating list of names given to Atlantic hurricanes, the Governor of Louisiana, John McKeithen, pledged that nothing like it would happen in his state again. Exactly 40 years later Hurricane Katrina brought even greater destruction to the city, and hazard planners were deemed to have ignored the lessons of the past. New research suggests that far from being an exception, Louisiana’s forgetfulness is the rule…

Hurricane Katrina

This article first appeared in The Economist on 19 April 2019. To continue reading, click here (paywall). It was also featured in the Babbage podcast.

 

Centenary of a catastrophe

ON June 29th 1918 Martín Salazar, Spain’s inspector general of health, stood up in front of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Madrid and declared, not without embarrassment, that the disease which was ravaging the country was to be found nowhere else in Europe…

This article first appeared in The Economist on 27 September 2018. To continue reading, click here.

 

Adventurer in time

IN JULY 1962, Michel Siffre took off his watch and descended into the abyss of Scarasson in the French Alps. There, in a cave 130 metres below the surface, he set up camp next to a glacier. With a torch as his only light source, and deprived of all reminders of the passage of time, he lived underground, alone, for 63 days…

Michel Siffre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 8 August 2018. To continue reading, click here.

Spanish lessons please

WITH hopes high that the northern hemisphere flu season is about to recede, it seems a good time to point out that, unlike annual outbreaks that fade as spring arrives, flu pandemics don’t respect seasons. A hundred years ago, the worst such pandemic on record was just starting – the first case was recorded on 4 March 1918 – and north of the equator it wouldn’t peak until the autumn…

Credit: Andrzej Krause/New Scientist

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 3 March 2018. To continue reading, click here.

Amelia Earhart redux

JULY 2nd of last year marked the 80th anniversary of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, a pioneering aviatrix, and her navigator Fred Noonan over the Pacific Ocean, as they attempted a circumnavigation of the globe in a twin-engined Lockheed Electra monoplane. The many theories about the pair’s demise, aired once more on that occasion, fall into two broad groups: they crashed into the sea and drowned, or they crashed onto Nikumaroro, a remote island, where they perished from hunger. An American forensic anthropologist has new evidence that greatly increases the likelihood of their having suffered the second fate…

This article appeared in The Economist print edition of 10 February 2018. To continue reading, click here.