Science History

Teaching any sort of academic program with religious content can be a tricky undertaking. Religious passions, whether pro or con, can be volatile; religion is a matter about which people can become upset.

My doctoral studies were in the relatively safe arena of Greek philosophy – no-one really cares what you say about Socrates and his mates these days – but I taught Religious Studies for many years and it was, by comparison, a minefield of sensitivities. In all those years, however, I managed to only really upset somebody once.

We sometimes have to wonder about the decision-making of government agencies. Senator Tom Coburn produced an annual list of waste and duplication that included science and it made sense to address those flaws, unless you actually favor National Science Foundation money being used so someone could play Everquest instead of doing actual science. Likewise, energy researchers were not thrilled that the Department of Energy funded the Human Genome Project.

But sometimes it makes total sense. Case in point: Dr. Ernest M. Allen, Chief, Division of Research Grants at the NIH, who once agreed to fund a rocket. For a 10-year-old.

Everyone has heard of Louis Pasteur - most people know that pasteurization is a process of sterilizing food to make it safer. (1) And today is Darwin Day, when Charles Darwin is fêted for his work on evolution and natural selection.

Fewer people have heard of Robert Koch, though he is responsible for keeping billions of people alive in much the same way Pasteur is.

Cavendish torsion balance and Cavendish Signature image via Wikimedia Commons. Composite image by Lalena Lancaster

Drawn directly from the flesh Public Domain Review/
Flickr, CC BY-SA

By Richard Gunderman, Indiana University-Purdue University

The Greeks hailed Dionysus (also known as Bacchus) as their patron god of wine, said to provide ecstasy and spiritual vision to his devotees. Pictured is Caravaggio's 1595 masterpiece Bacchus. Wikimedia

By Robert Fuller, Bradley University

Alexander von Humboldt. Self portrait

By Richard Gunderman, Indiana University-Purdue University

Due to a loss of scientific relevance, which has led to scarcity of personnel
and thus decreasing government funding, Italian natural history museums are on the verge of collapse. 

A new paper in Zookeys proposes that the existing museums associate and collaborate to form a diffused structure, able to better manage their scientific collections and share resources and personnel. Basically, they need to be a little more corporate and start consolidating rather than relying on government to some day boost funding.

Instead of dying out, Anti-Semitic myths have withstood the test of time.

By Asa Simon Mittman, California State University, Chico

Abraham Lincoln. Wikipedia

By Joanna Cohen, Queen Mary University of London