Category Archives: History of science or medicine

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.

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.

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.

Anthony Allison, unsung hero

il_logoSIXTY years ago, a young graduate was kicking his heels in Oxford, waiting to embark on his medical studies, when he was invited to join an expedition to a country he knew well. Kenya was his childhood home, but this would be more than a nostalgia trip for him. His head stuffed with new-fangled notions about human evolution, he saw it as an opportunity to put his ideas to the test. Thus began one of the great unsung scientific journeys of the last century, whose impact continues to be felt in this one…

This article first appeared in Intelligent Life in spring 2009. To continue reading, click here.