Category Archives: Giants’ Shoulders

Alea Iacta Est!

The final edition of the history of science blog carnival, On the Shoulders of Giants #72, has been posted by Greg Gbur, aka Dr SkySkull, its originator, on his Skulls in the Stars blog. I explained my reasons for ending Giants’ Shoulders here. The Seven Wonders edition lives up to its name and is truly a wonder horn full of the best of the histories of science, technology and medicine that have appeared in cyberspace in the last month.

You can read about a Longitude exhibition in Lisbon, Victorians searching for Gorillas in the Land of Canibals, Alexander Graham Bell’s Wireless Phone powered by sunlight, Wolfgang Pauli’s speculations on Ghosts and Neutrinos, The Godfather of Ecstasy, Bed Shortages in Bedlam, Halley’s ailment in Barbados, Mary Somerville, Queen of Science, Mary Anning’s contribution to French Palaeontology, Natural Born Killers, Darwin on Worms, a Religion Devoted to Evolution, 500 years of Trinity House, Bombs filled with Bats, and Grand Visions and Messy Realities along with a host of other fascinating posts and articles.

At this end of an era of the history of science blog carnival Greg, its founder, has given us some personal thoughts on the creation and life of his baby on the Giants’ Shoulders website.

The Giant is dead, long live the Gazette! A round up of the best in Internet #histstem will continue to appear in the future in weekly rather than monthly form at the Whewell’s Ghost blog. For more details stay turned to this space.

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It’s The Final Countdown.

In case you’ve missed it Giants’ Shoulders the history of science, technology and medicine blog carnival is closing down at the end of six glorious years of aggregating the best of STEM history every month. Giants’ Shoulders #72 the Doomsday Edition will be hosted by the blog carnival’s founder Dr SkySkull (@drskyskull) on his Skulls in the Stars blog on 16th June 2014. This means you have just ten days left to submit those great history of science, technology or medicine blog posts that you’ve read or written either straight to the host or to me here at RM or to either of us on Twitter.

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Chopping down the Beanstalk

The history of science Giant has now descended the beanstalk seventy-one times carrying the best the Internet has to offer in history of science, technology and medicine on his shoulders, however on the sixteenth of next month he will climb down for the last time. It is with a mixture of regret and relief that I have decide to chop down the beanstalk and to end the monthly history of science blog carnival, On The Shoulders of Giants, to give it its full name.

This has not been an easy decision and I have been considering it for a long time. How long can be judged by the fact that I had intended to close it down last year with the sixtieth edition making for a nice round five years. In the end I did not do so only because the Wellcome Library Blog asked to host the sixty-first edition, an honour for the Giants’ Shoulders Blog Carnival that I felt I couldn’t turn down and so I have kept it alive for another complete year. I did this because I like clean endings and prefer to stop at the completion of a year rather that at some arbitrary point.

Some of you are probably wondering why I have decided to bring Giants’ Shoulders to an end. The editions over the last twelve months have shown that there is a large quantity of high quality history of science being produced across the Internet and the carnival certainly doesn’t lack for potential content. I can also confirm that there are enough people out there in cyberspace willing to take on the task of hosting the carnival, although I must admit that finding hosts is rather like waiting for busses in London. You search and search and nobody volunteers and then just as you are reaching the point of despair three people all volunteer at the same time. No, the problem is one of submissions. Over most of the last two years and probably longer I have personally made between ninety and ninety-five per cent of all the submissions for each edition of the carnival. Some hosts have searched out potential post themselves but there have been very few genuine submissions and on some occasions none at all! Quite a long time ago I wrote a blog post complaining about the apathy amongst history of science bloggers when it come to making submission for the blog carnival but since then the situation has not improved. If anything it has got worse. I can’t force people to submit to the carnival and so I have decided to end the sham.

Giants’ Shoulders was called into life six years ago on a bit of a whim by physicist, historian of science, skydiver and lover of truly dreadful pulp literature Greg Gbur, aka gg, aka Dr Skyskull and so I thought it would be fitting if he hosted the final edition, it being his baby so to speak. I got in touch with Greg and informed him of my intentions to end the carnival and asked him if he would host the final edition, Giants’ Shoulders #72, he said yes.

So the final Doom’s Day edition of the best history of science carnival in the known cosmos, Giants’ Shoulders #72, will be hosted by your very own Dr SkySkull at his Skulls in the Stars Blog on 16th June 2014. Submissions if there are any(!) can be made either directly to the host or to me here at RM by the 15th of the month at the latest. Let’s send Giants’ Shoulders off in style.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who have sacrificed time and energy to host Giants’ Shoulders and all of those historians who have supplied the contents, all of you are wonderful people and I hope you will keep on filling cyberspace with the histories of science technology and medicine for many, many years to come. Keep on keeping on!

The Giant is dead, long live Whewell’s Weekly! Although I am carrying the Giant to his grave I will not cease to collect and anthologise the best that the Internet has to offer in the way of the histories of science, technology and medicine. Following the example of Ed Yong on his Not Exactly Rocket Science Blog I will publish these as a weekly links list not here but on the Whewell’s Ghost blog, which was set up originally as a collective history of science blog, under the title Whewell’s Weekly: your seven day digest of the best in Internet history of STEM. Should you wish to make sure that your latest historical pearl of wisdom is included then you just need to contact me here at RM or on Twitter (@rmathematicus) or Facebook.


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Giants’ Shoulders #71: The better late than never, crack of doom, almost didn’t make it at all, sometimes life is like that, SNAFU edition.

Sometimes life just doesn’t pan out the way it should. Having decided to host this edition of Giants’ Shoulders I thought nothing more of it having hosted several editions in the past; it just a routine exercise I thought to my self. Famous last words! Firstly I have been hit by various bits of work to earn money, a necessary evil, which have stolen my time to work on the blog. Then just to complicate matters I have blocked vertebrae in my neck, which have been supplying me with daily visual distortions, extreme headaches and migraines making working on the computer for longer than five minutes impossible. Having postponed the appearance of Giants’ Shoulders until I could look at the monitor screen for longer periods without my brain dissolving into a painful psychedelic nightmare I discovered that the links that I had collected for the first ten days of this carnival period had, through no vault of mine, gone missing without leave! If you posted something interesting on the history of science, technology or medicine between the 16th and 27th of April and it’s not included here all I can say is sorry!

So having cried my eyes out and blamed god and the world for all my short comings let us proceed with this edition of Giants’ Shoulders the history of science blog carnival.

As always the history of medicine Internet division have been busy little bees this month producing their usual fascinating array of medicinal bloggage. Samantha Sandassie tells all about Drinking Bath Water, and it’s not what you think! The wizard of Welsh medical history, Alan Withey, tells all about the problems of doing historical research when there is a distinct lack of sources. Madame Gilflurt takes us into the eighteenth-century where Edward Jenner first experimented with inoculation. For those with a strong stomach Joanna Bourke discusses medical pain before anaesthetics. On the same topic Daniel Goldberg thinks about medicines that ‘worked’ in the history of pain. Adam Richter introduces us to Early Modern Danish physician Ole Worm. Guesting at the H-Word Dora Vargha discusses Polio’s history with conflict. When he does manage to find a source Dr Alun produces such intriguing stories as The Case of the Severed Finger. The historians on Twitter having had a collective moan about their respective bouts of hay fever, Lisa Smith produced this little gem Spring: when thoughts of fancy turn to itchy, watery eyes. Atlas Obscura shows that medicine can have an aesthetic side with The Most Beautiful Anatomical Theaters. Matt Simon takes on the history of that female malady hysteria. Benjamin Ehrlich introduces us to Santiago Ramón y Cajals early neuroscientist. Lindsay Keiter waxes lyrical about The Familiar and Foreign Eighteenth-Century Body.

The Embryo Project introduces us to an opponent of Darwin’s St George Jackson Mivart.

Our man for the esoteric Andreas Sommer takes for a stroll through the history of Enchanted Cambridge. You can’t get much more esoteric that Athanasius Kircher as this post on Combinatorial Music, Augmented Face-Substitution & Projection Systems Illustrated in the 17th-Century amply demonstrates. Paul Engle has started a fascinating blog on the Early Modern glassmaker Antonio Neri called Conciatore. I have linked to his first post Book of Secrets but read them all I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. An esoteric section without John Dee would be somehow incomplete so here’s a podcast on the Elizabethan magus.

Yovisto introduces us to Igor Sikorsky and his helicopter.

In amongst the physicists and astronomers, Classicist Llewelyn Morgan holds a passionate speech in defence of Lucretius the Roman poet who introduced atomism to medieval Europe. Physics blogger Cad Orzel, who is becoming more and more of a historian of physics, tells why you can’t have Millikin without Einstein and Planck. Joe Hanson tells us all about Galileo and the sunspots (a blog post that I might be forced to criticise when I can find the time!). Glen van Brummelen celebrates the 400th anniversary of the logarithm, which might appear to be about the history of maths but is really part of the history of astronomy. Alok Jha explains Newton’s second law of motion. Brain Pickings reviews a biography of France’s most famous female physicist, Voltaire’s lover, Émilie du Châtelet. Giants’ Shoulders founder Dr SkySkull threatens us all with Death by ball lightning. Moving into the era of modern physics Natalie Walters looks at Radiation Science in the Atomic Age. Adam Richter is back again this time amongst the physicist looking at invisible light: prism experiments through the centuries. Physics blogger turned historian Chad Orzel has been delivering a series of running commentaries on the rebooted Cosmos and we have Cosmos, Just-So Stories, and Hindsight and Cosmos and Women. Thom McLeish clears up some misunderstandings created by press reports on the University of Durham Grosseteste Project. For all fans of Early Modern science Cultures of Knowledge announce the launching of the Kasper Schotts Netzwerk an important seventeenth-century natural philosopher, doesn’t ring any bells then go and educate yourself! Moving from the seventeenth into the eighteenth century we have Joseph Priestly on experimental philosophy and empiricism. The other side of scientific genius, Newton the man.

On the chemistry front the Google Doodle celebrated the birthday of Dorothy Hodgkin, which led to articles in the L A Times and The Washington Post.

For cartography fans like myself Julia Bourke takes a look at Medieval Mappaemundi. In my curiosity cabinet cartography and geology belong together and Sauropod Vertebra deliver some Poetry for palaeontologists. Historian of geology David Bressan who likes to combine geology and cartography takes a look at Vitruvian Geology – Leonardo da Vinci and the Realistic Depiction of the Earth’s Surface.

In the odds and sods department, where all the really good stuff lurks, Philip Ball declares his love for scientific instruments of a bygone age. This is part of an interesting discussion with Stephen Curry so follow the links to get the full story. An episode that played a role in the history of science was The Dust Veil AD 536. Recent Giants’ Shoulders host Rohit Gupta takes a look at the history of the microscope in India. Caroline Crampton introduces us to Caroline of Ansbach: the Georgian queen who brought the Enlightenment to Britain; good article with a bad title about the woman who initiate the Clerke-Leibniz correspondence amongst other things. A Beautiful, Complex Mess Illustrating, the Entire Development of Human Society (1926) discovered by John Ptak. A fascinating history of fictional inventions from Rebecca Onion. Philip Ball unlocks James Lovelock. Melinda Baldwin asks if Isaac Newton needed peer review. The people who saw evolution are Peter and Rosemary Grant who studied Darwin’s Finches for 40 years. We have attribute to John Houbolt the man behind the lunar module. Georgian Gent, Mike Rendell, introduces us to the inventor of the sewing machine. Cornelis J Schilt brings us some photos from Scientiae 2014. On his voyages through the South Atlantic Edmond Halley is now amongst the hoggs!

Something very special, a PDF and not a blog but too good to miss, Francis Crick’s letter to James Watson criticising The Double Helix, a real history of science gem.

This months book reviews include Science: A Four Thousand Year History, Hermaphrodites and The medical Invention of Sex, Dorothy Hodgkin a Life, When science stopped being literature, 400 Years of Beautiful, Historical and Powerful Globes,

That’s all for this edition the host of Giants’ Shoulders #72 will be announced in another post about the future of the history of science blog carnival that will be posted here in a couple of days.

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The Giant Delayed!

Actually the history of science blog carnival Giants’ Shoulders #71 should appear here today. However due to pressure of work and ill health I regret to inform all of his fans that the Giant has been delayed. I hope to have him here by Monday at the latest so just hang in there and you’ll soon be able to enjoy the best #histsci, #histtech and #histmed bloggage from the last thirty days.

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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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