Category Archives: History of science or medicine

History lessons

ns_logo“MY NAME is Ozymandias, king of kings: look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” So run the famous lines of Percy Shelley’s poem about Ramses the Great, a pharaoh who ruled Egypt’s New Kingdom in the 13th century BC, when it was the world’s most sophisticated society. But the poem’s theme is the transience of glory. It describes the ruins of a giant statue to Ramses that lie scattered in the desert: “Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away…”

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 15 October 2016. To continue reading, click here.

Seshat, ancient Egyptian goddess of wisdom
Seshat, ancient Egyptian goddess of wisdom

 

 

In death, there is life

the-economist-logoMAX PLANCK, the inventor of quantum theory, once said that science advances one funeral at a time. He meant—or, at least, is presumed to have meant—that the death of a dominant mind in a field liberates others with different points of view to make their cases more freely, without treading on the toes of established authority. It might also rearrange patterns of funding, for they, too, often reflect established hierarchies…

This article first appeared in The Economist on 26 March 2016. To continue reading, click here.

Max Planck, 1933
Max Planck, 1933

China and the Great War

IMPERIAL War Museum, London, 4 May 2016. China’s participation in the First World War was a defining moment in modern Chinese and world history and the beginning of China’s journey toward internationalisation. The aim of this symposium was to extend the dimensions of our collective memory of the war – and the ensuing ‘flu pandemic – along with investigations of the significance of these to China’s subsequent role in international relations. Held on May Fourth, the date of the symposium commemorates the May Fourth Revolution which followed China’s betrayal at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919…

I spoke at the symposium on the possible Chinese origins of the flu that wasn’t Spanish.

Chinese Labour Corps graves
Chinese Labour Corps graves

 

On shared memories

WHAT were the greatest human catastrophes of the 20th century? When asked this question, most people answer the Second World War, followed by the First World War. The former killed around 50 million people, the latter 17 million. But there was another catastrophe that dwarfed both of these, that is rarely mentioned. The influenza pandemic of 1918-1920, better known as the Spanish flu, killed at least 50 million people worldwide, and perhaps as many as 100 million…

This article first appeared in the BPS Research Digest on 22 January 2016. To continue reading, click here.

The USS Arizona burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 1941. Image: Wikipedia
The USS Arizona burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 1941. Image: Wikipedia