Category Archives: History of science or medicine

God’s perfume

IN THE EARLY 1990s, the then Mayor of Versailles, André Damien, discovered a folded paper in the drawer of an antique desk he had just bought at auction. When he opened the paper up, he saw that it had written on it a formula for what seemed to be a perfume, so he took it to Jean Kerléo, the founder of the Osmothèque – the world’s only conservatory of perfumes, which is also located in Versailles…

This article first appeared in British Vogue online on 13 April 2020. To continue reading, click here.

Scientists make ethical decisions too

SOMETIMES the parallels between this pandemic and previous ones are uncanny.

Take hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug that regulatory agencies all over the world are now hastily authorising for the treatment of hospitalised Covid-19 patients. Outside hospitals, Donald Trump and the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, have expressed enthusiasm for the drug, people are breaking social distancing rules to get it, and there have been cases of poisoning due to inappropriate self-medication…

Didier Raoult

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 5 April 2020. To continue reading, click here.

Outbreaks of all kinds: The Rules of Contagion review

DID you notice? There was a moment when something shifted, and all topics of conversation besides Covid-19 started to sound trivial. Things will surely shift again, as people realise that the self-confinement could last and escapism becomes our collective goal, but for now Adam Kucharski’s The Rules of Contagion is the book you might want to reach for. Not least – given that the present pandemic is very much in the ascendant – for its subtitle: Why Things Spread – and Why They Stop

Even loneliness is catching

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 25 March 2020. To continue reading, click here.

Closed borders and black weddings

PLAGUES – or, to use a more modern term, epidemics of infectious disease – pluck at our most primal fears. We have lived with them for at least 10,000 years, ever since our ancestors took up farming and built the first semi-permanent settlements. And they have always had the upper hand. They know us intimately, preying on our strengths – our sociability, our love of gossip – and turning them into weaknesses. They are always a step ahead, and once they are out, like the genie, we can’t get them back in. All we can do is limit the damage. So here we are again…

Poor advice

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 11 March 2020. To continue reading, click here.