Category Archives: Giants’ Shoulders

Some first class history of science reading for the holiday weekend: Giants’ Shoulders #70: The Sir Hans Sloane Birthday Collection

At a lose end on Good Friday or Easter Monday? Read up on the best history of science bloggage from the last thirty days gathered from the far reaches of cyberspace for your pleasure.

Lisa Smith (@historybeagle) has put together a wonderful edition of the histories of science, medicine and technology blog carnival Giants’ Shoulders to celebrate the birthday of Augustan physician, scientific official, and collector, Sir Hans Sloane, just in time for the holiday weekend.

The next edition of Giants Shoulders #71 will be presented here at the Renaissance Mathematicus on 16 May 2014. Submission as ever to me here at RM or on Twitter by 15 May at the latest.

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Giants’ Shoulders #70 celebrates a birthday.

Hans Sloane is one of those figures in the history of science, who deserves to be much better known than he is. Although Sloane Square in London is named after him, giving name to one of the horrors of modern English culture, the Sloane Ranger, most people would be hard put to it to say who he was.

Sir Hans Sloane Gottfried Kneller

Sir Hans Sloane
Gottfried Kneller

An Irish physician who lived through the second half of the seventeenth century and the first half of the eighteenth, he was a central figure in the English scientific community that included Hooke, Wren, Halley, Flamsteed and Newton as well as many other less well known personages. He was secretary of the Royal Society when Newton became its president in 1704 and very much shared the power with the great Sir Isaac in that august body until he resigned in 1713, after a series of power struggles with other council members over the preceding years. He got his revenge however when he was elected president following Newton’s death in 1727, a post he retained until 1741.

He served three English monarchs, Anne, George I and George II, as royal physician and was appointed baronet for his services in 1716. He was also elected president of the Royal College of Physicians in 1719 a post he would hold for sixteen years. In 1722 he also became physician-general to the army.

From the modern point of view Sloan’s most important activity was that of collector. Scientific curiosity cabinets were very much en vogue in the Early Modern Period and Sloane collected scientific curiosities on an almost unbelievable scale. When he died, in 1753, he donated his monster collection to the nation on the condition that the government build a museum to house it. The government agreed and so the venerable British Museum was born. Later Sloane’s natural history collection was given a home of its own leading to the establishment of the Natural History Museum.

Like many of his contemporaries, and in particular the collectors, Sloane was a prolific letter writer and, as is befitting in this digital age, his correspondence has its own blog. To celebrate Sir Hans’ 354th birthday, on 16 April, Giants’ Shoulders #70, the history of science, medicine and technology blog carnival  will take place at The Sloane Letters Blog hosted by our favourite blogging beagle, Lisa Smith (@historybeagle). Submission for this special birthday edition of Giants’ Shoulders should be made either direct to the host or to me here at RM or to either of us on Twitter at the latest by 15 April.


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Giants’ Shoulders #69: The Tunnel Edition

It’s that day again, 16th of the month and time for a new edition of the world’s best history of science, medicine and technology bog carnival, Giants’ Shoulders. Number 69 in our series has now been posted at her Something by Virtue of Nothing blog by ane pixestos. The Tunnel Edition is a true giant; in fact it might well be the largest edition ever. If you work your way through everything listed there you should be finished just in time for Giants’ Shoulders #70!

Giants’ Shoulders #70 will be celebrating Sir Hans Sloane’s 354th birthday at The Sloane Letters Blog on 16th April 2014, hosted by mega blogger Lisa Smith (@historybeagle). Submission as ever direct to the host or to me here at RM or to either of us on Twitter by 15th of the month at the latest.

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Giants’ Shoulders #68: A Leaf on the Wind

Giants’ Shoulders took a trip to the Indian sub-continent and the journey turned into a history of science trip around the world. Giants’ Shoulders #68: A Leaf in the Wind is up at the Compasswallah Blog hosted by Fade Singh and a very spicy #histsci masala it is too. Fade Singh takes us on a history of science, technology and medicine journey through Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas stopping off at many a fascinating destination. Fade Singh reminds us that science, technology and medicine and their histories are truly global. So strap on your travelling shoes and go on a journey of discovery.

The history of science blog carnival Giants’ Shoulders #69 will be hosted by Ane Pixestos on her Something by Virtue of Nothing Blog on 16th March 2014. Submissions as always either to the host or to me here at RM by the 15th of the month at the latest.

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An Asiatic Giants’ Shoulders

As already announced for the next edition of Giants’ Shoulders, your favourite history of science, technology and medicine blog carnival, we are leaving our usual haunts of Europe and North America and following such figures of history as Alexander the Great, al Biruni and Vasco da Gama to the shrouded in legend half continent of Hindustan, where are host Fade Singh (@fadesingh) waits to greet us at his Compass Wallah Blog.

Unlike those historical figures named above we come in peace and it would be nice if the Giants’ Shoulders history of science community could write and submit posts related to the histories of science, technology and medicine in Asia for this the 68th edition of our carnival. You have just eleven days to make those submissions, as always, either direct to the host or to me here at RM or to either of us on Twitter (@rmathematicus).

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Giants’ Shoulders #67 under early modern medical care.

The #histsci, #histmed and #histtech blog carnival, Giants’ Shoulder #67, is residing at Early Modern Medicine and is very obviously thriving under the medical attention of Dr Jen (@historianjen). Despite the production of suitable blog post being in the doldrums during the holiday period a large crop of history of science reading matter has come together for your delectation. So wander on over and discover why Newton published so little, why people are fascinated by images of women with scientific instruments, how to cure the ‘Kink’, or all about Einstein’s interest in folklore, to name just a few of the fascinating topics to be found there.

Next months history of all things scientific blog carnival, Giants’ Shoulders #68, is going on a long journey following in the wake of Vasco da Gama all the way to the sub continent of India where it will be hosted by Fade Singh (@fadesingh) on his Compass Wallah blog on 16th February 2014. As always submission can be made either directly to the host or to me here at The Renaissance Mathematicus or on both of us on Twitter (@rmathematicus) by 15th February 2014 at the latest.

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Giants’ Shoulders #67 is approaching the runway.

OK all you history of STEM freaks the Twelve Days of Christmas are finally over, the goose has been well and truly cooked and devoured, the fireworks have been shot and the bubbly slurped, and the Christmas tree had been undecorated and dumped on the compost heap. It is now time to get off those overfed arses and write those first killer history of science, technology or medicine blog posts for 2014 and submit them to Giants’ Shoulders #67 the history of science blog carnival, the all year round festival.

You can make those submissions directly to your January host, Jen Evens (@HistorianJen), at Early Modern Medicine using the Guest Bloggers form or on Twitter or to me here at The Renaissance Mathematicus or on Twitter (@rmathematicus) up to the 15th of January.  So get those flabby writing muscles in gear and let’s make it a good start to the history of science year.

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On Giants’ Shoulders #66: Contagious History!

It’s the 16th again and Giants’ Shoulders #66 the biology and medicine special “Contagious History!” is up at Michelle Ziegler’s (@MZiegler3) excellent medical history blog Contagions and a bumper crop of #histmed, #histsci and #histtech to end the year it is too, enough to keep you reading all through the holiday season.

Giants’ Shoulders #67 returns in the New Year hosted by Jen Evans (@HistorianJen) of Early Modern Medicine on January 16, 2014. Submissions are due either directly to the host or to The Renaissance Mathematicus (@rmathematicus) no later than Jan. 15.



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Christmas is coming, Giants’ Shoulders #66 too!

The deadline is rapidly approaching for Giants’ Shoulders #66, a History of Medicine & Biology Special, hosted by Michelle Ziegler (@MZiegler3) at her Contagions Blog.  If you want to be part of the greatest yuletide #histsci, #histsmed, #histtech blog carnival this side of Santa’s Grotto then submit those killer history of medicine or biology posts either to me here or direct to the host or to either of us on Twitter by the 15th December at the very latest. As always posts on other #histsci or #histtech topics are also welcome.

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Giants’ Shoulders #65: The Wallace Edition

History of science in the last month circled around the 100th anniversary on 7th November of the death of Wallace:


Not that Wallace you idiot Alfred Russel Wallace co-discovery of the concept of evolution by natural selection:

Alfred Russel Wallace 1862

Alfred Russel Wallace 1862

His death was announced in this letter by his son. The New York Times presented The Animated Life of A R WallaceA podcast by David Attenborough The forgotten story of Alfred Russel WallaceThe Nature Conservancy: Remembering Alfred Russel WallaceThe National Council for Scientific Education: WallaceanaA podcast at Scientific American: The man who wasn’t DarwinA book review: Letters from the Malay Archipelago

You can help save his home at The Dell, or visit an exhibition in Dorset County Museum: Alfred Russel Wallace A Centenary Celebration

To close up our look at Wallace John van Wyhe asks: Will the real Alfred Russel Wallace please stand up?

Appropriate to this celebration Myrmecos presents a graphic on How Field Naturalists Die  

Staying with the life sciences John Wilkins told us how Noah Ark inspired the species concept.

Nature tells us that Linnaeus’ Asian elephant was the wrong species. A research project that involved Lincoln Universities own Dr Anna-Marie Roos: Research discovers new ‘type specimen’ for the Asian elephant

Grrl Scientist offers us a review of a natural history classic The Natural History of Selborne

At the end of October (and a week later in America) daylight saving time came to an end for this year prompting this thoughtful post from Becky Higgitt: Clock Change Challenge. Which in turn prompted me to write about the unique system of time keeping in early modern Nürnberg: Counting the Hours. In America somebody linked to this appropriate article on Benjamin Franklin’s invention of daylight saving time. Also on the theme of time Dissertation Reviews told us about Clocks and Time in Edo Japan.

Thankfully we've got the Royal Observatory at Greenwich keeping an eye on the time for us.

Thankfully we’ve got the Royal Observatory at Greenwich keeping an eye on the time for us.


As the last edition of Giants’ Shoulders went to press and the period for this one started the Internet community celebrated this years Ada Lovelace Day and the majority of the posts have slipped through the net but we have a small collection of post on women in science and technology. Guardian Science Blogs gave us Women in Science: a difficult history . Somerville College honoured Ada Lovelace Day. Melissa Terras gave us Father Busa’s Female Punch Card Operatives. Again at the Guardian Sharon Ruston discussed Mary Wollstonecraft, feminism, and the nature v nurture debate. The New York Times is Honoring female pioneers in science. The Telegraph gives us an obituary of Mavis Batey a Bletchley Park code breaker.

Mavis Batey with an Enigma Machine

Mavis Batey with an Enigma Machine

Amanda Herbert tells us that there are Never Too Many Cooks: Female Alliances in Early Modern Recipes. The lady archaeologists and geologists are also represented: Wikipedia gets the TrowelBlazer Treatment

Continuing in the earth sciences we celebrate Charles Lyell’s birthday Happy Birthday Charles Lyell and we have A geological Halloween Special: Lovecraft and The Mountains of Madness

On Halloween

Lisa Smith, Hobgoblin Classification in the Eighteenth Century, Felicity Roberts, An Early Eighteenth Century Ghost and Sean Cosgrove, Feeling Lonesome this Halloween? Nineteenth-Century Love Charms and Halloween Games.

In physics Chad Orzel found a book of old theses in his department and presents the Old Thesis Club: Monte Carlo Simulation in 1960, Secondary Emission of Electrons from Molybdenum (1928), Gravitation (1932), The Hyperfine Structure and Zeeman Efeect (1932) showing us that history of science can be fairly modern and must not be about famous people. John Gribbin goes in the other direction and celebrates one of the giants Henry Cavendish: An Unsung Hero of Science . Aaron Wright takes a look at Dirac and mathematical beauty (1) [there’s more to come]

With the Science Museum opening their collider exhibition The Independent presented Harry Cliff: The man who’s making an exhibition of the Higgs boson at the Science Museum. Whilst the New York Times are Explaining a Collider and Poison’s Power

Stephen Curry fulfilled a dream of many of us and held a Friday night lecture at the Royal Institution on the history of x-ray crystallography. He blogged about the experience and a video of his excellent lecture is embedded in his post: A night at the theatre of science

Stephen Curry in The Theatre of Science

Stephen Curry in The Theatre of Science

As usually the history of medicine blogging community has been very busy this month (come on science historians they’re beating us into a cocked hat!)

Hans Sloane was checking tongues in the 18th century and Miley Cyrus sticking her’s out in the 21st.  Hans Sloane didn’t just look at tongues: A Welsh doctor, Sir Hans Sloane and the disappearing catheterIn the Guardian Katherine Wright asked Where did syphilis come from?  For those with other sexual problems than syphilis we have Anthony Lewis and the Aphrodisiac Remedy. Continuing the subject of fertility we move on to my personal favourite cooking ingredient: Garlic and fertility testing in the ancient world. On the subjects of medicine and recipes we had An early modern Portuguese recipe book of pharmaceutical “secrets”. To grow medicinal herbs you of course need a garden, which can have other restorative powers: Why every hospital should have a garden. Whilst the Quack Doctor offers us a tonic for the blood: For the blood is the life. The Royal Socity delivered up a video of one of their Friday lunch time history of science lectures: Physicians, chemists and experimentalists: the Royal Society and the rise of modern medicine c. 1600 – 1850. Yovisto celebrated Alzheimer’s birthday: Alzheimer’s A disease of advanced civilisation and Alphonse Laveran’s discovery and fight against malariaFakes and Frauds in medicine is not a modern phenomenon

On Children & Medicine: Hannah Newton, Wet Beds and Hedgehogs and Jen Evans, Sleeping Like a Baby

The Wellcome Library sweetens up the medical department: Diagnosing diabetes: a wee taste of honey. Lastly in the medical department Dissertation Reviews gives us a look at early modern medical researcher Reinier de Graaf: Experimenting with chemical bodies

The odds and ends department has early modern polymath Edmond Halley meeting his crew and we learn about Halley’s role in Newton’s Principia . We also learn: How the clouds were named. Will Thomas ruminates on the problems of writing history of science for scientists: New Article in Climate Change

Considering all the posts celebrating anniversaries: History Matters gives us an entire conference: On this day in history: Why do anniversaries matter?

Clarissa Ai Ling Lee brings us an intriguing essay with a positively 19th century title: Emmy Noether, Maria Goeppert Mayer, and their Cyborgian Counterparts: Triangulating Mathematical-Theoretical Physics, Feminist Science Studies, and Feminist Science Fiction

Guthrie Stewart takes into the world of medieval alchemy: Contradictory alchemical recipes are really annoying. On a related note Laura Mitchell tells us about The Disappearance of Charms from a Fifteenth-Century Notebook. Sally Osborn puts the meta-question What is a Recipe?

As the enfant terrible of history of science myth busting I’ve saved my favourite posts of the month until last.

Paleofuture explains why: Making Nikola Tesla a Saint Makes us all Dumber. Chad Orzel takes on the lone genius myth in a superb takedown Individualists working together. Kees-Jan Schilt tells all about Newton’s dirty little secrets: “Not fit to be Printed”. On the Reception of Newton’s Unorthodox Works and to close out my personal choice for blog post of the month, True Anomalies tackles the tangled web of Errors and Expertise in science and the history of science

A piece of meta-blogging:  The American Mathematical Society in the form of Evelyn J Lamb has written a review of The Renaissance Mathematicus!

Last year Michelle Ziegler (@MZiegler3) played Mother Christmas and brought us a whole sleigh load of history of science, technology and medicine goodies in the December edition of Giants’ Shoulders. In fact she was so good that she is making a return appearance to host Giants’ Shoulders #66 a ‘History of Medicine and Biology Special’ at her Contagions Blog on 16th December 2013. Submissions as usually, and non-special posts are also welcome, either to the host or to me here at RM by 15th December.


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