Science History


Not the one we have fixed in our imaginations. Peter Paul Rubens, 1638

By Helen King, The Open University

Hippocrates is considered the father of medicine, enemy of superstition, pioneer of rationality and fount of eternal wisdom.

Statues and drawings show him with a furrowed brow, thinking hard about how to heal his patients.


Since the dawn of time, man has interacted with the environment. Observation without interaction is and always was a logical impossibility. Questions ensue; answers have not always been forthcoming, although they do emerge through incremental shifts and the occasional bout of sudden inspiration. Scientists and researchers look for answers every day. It is the very pervading core and definition of our vocation; much like that of a Philosopher. We pursue an almost primal need to understand the universe and thereby make people’s lives easier.

The eruption of 1815 Tambora volcanic eruption is famous for its impact on climate worldwide. As a result, the year 1816 was given memorable names such as 'Eighteen-Hundred-and-Froze-to-Death', the 'Year of the Beggar' and the 'Year Without a Summer' because of cold weather and unseasonable frosts, crop failure and famine across Europe and North America.

Some even claim the conditions inspired literary works such as Byron's 'Darkness' and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.



Or abandon hope? Credit: chrisdorney

By Tim Crook, Goldsmiths, University of London

The Old Bailey’s Central Criminal Court is an Edwardian building that bears the inscription “Defend the children of the poor and Punish the wrongdoer.”

An Italian visitor more than 100 years ago suggested it should be replaced with an aphorism from Dante’s Inferno: “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter here.”

By Mark Beeson, Murdoch University

Like him or loathe him, the late Samuel Huntington was one of the towering figures in political science and international relations. Even those who disagreed with his ideas were forced to engage with them. He helped shape a number of key debates about areas as diverse as civil-military relations, political order, institutional development and the spread of democracy.

But if there is one ‘big idea’ for which he is likely to be remembered more than any other it is the now infamous claim that the future was going to be defined by a looming ‘clash of civilizations’.

By Tom McLeish, Durham University; Giles Gasper, Durham University, and Hannah Smithson, University of Oxford

A 13th century bishop’s theory about the formation of the universe has intriguing parallels with the theory of multiple universes. This was uncovered by the the Ordered Universe project at Durham University, which has brought together researchers from humanities and the sciences in a radically collaborative way.

While James Watson and Francis Crick are rightfully celebrated for discovery of the double-helical structure of DNA, recognition of others has been inconsistent. Rosalind Franklin has practically been beatified, even though she never pieced together what she was looking at. 
Everyone has heard of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a stand-off over missiles off the shores of America. It's considered a highwater mark during a Cold War culture that was concerned about mutual assured destruction.

Outside testing, nuclear weapons have not been detonated since 1945 but there have been ‘disturbing near misses in which nuclear weapons were nearly used inadvertently’ owing to miscalculation, error or sloppy practices. 

Not once, but nearly 13 times since 1962 - and the risk of nuclear weapons being detonated today is higher than people know.
Harvard Divinity School Professor Karen L. King believes that an ancient Coptic fragment, the first-known explicit reference to a married Jesus Christ, is authentic, and supports the argument with an article in Harvard Theological Review.

The fragment, announced at the International Coptic Congress in Rome in 2012, contains a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples in which Jesus speaks of “my wife” and so it was informally given the title The Gospel of Jesus's Wife.

Here is the translation: