What’s in a name? On embryology, developmental biology and discipline naming

Last week Philip Ball asked an interesting question on Twitter which provoked a lot of responses and comments: “when did ‘embryology’ start to become ‘developmental biology’? I bet Philip will post an excellent answer to that question soon. I am not Philip and I am not a historian of biology; I am just a magpie. …

Andrea Wulf’s ‘Magnificent Rebels’ (2022)

The situation in this country and around the world is quite depressing and I wondered what could cheer me up. Then I started to read Andrea Wulf’s Magnificent Rebels: The First Romantics and the Invention of the Self and that did the trick (I had previously read her biography of Alexander von Humboldt and enjoyed that too). …

Marianne North: On the trail of a Victorian painter and adventurer

A while ago, my husband listened, rather by chance, to Thought for the Day, where Rev Marie-Elsa Bragg mentioned a book called ‘A Vision of Eden’ by Marianne North (as an aside, North was an atheist). My husband later told me about the book, as he knew I was ’into such things’. He also knew …

Francis Willughby and me

You have probably all heard of Newton or Halley or Hooke or Pepys … But have you heard of Willughby? I had, vaguely, but I did not look hard enough. They were all early members of the Royal Society (founded in 1660) and involved in a little scandal to which I’ll come later. But first …

Science, philosophy and metaphor (a post by Andrew Reynolds)

Soon a book will appear that will be of interest to life scientists and metaphor scientists alike. It is by Andrew Reynolds and entitled Understanding Metaphors in the Life Sciences (please click through for more information!). It is one of the many interesting books in Cambridge University’s Understanding Life series, including, for example, Understanding Genes, …

Grace de Laguna: A forgotten pioneer in the history of the language sciences

Recently I was asked to write something about Grace de Laguna. Grace de what… I wondered… until I googled myself and found that I had written a few pages about her work in my 1996 book on the history of pragmatics. That was a blast from the past! But this also made me think. I …

Triangulating the history of science communication: Faraday, Marcet and Smart

This post first appeared on the History and Philosophy of Language Sciences blog. I am reposting it on the Making Science Public blog with permission, where it can rub shoulders with other posts relating to science communication. ••• The 19th century was a time of monumental change in science, industry and also communication. In this …

Cassini: Space probes, history and women

I have just read a lovely article by Rebekah Higgitt on the various Cassinis that worked in France as astronomers. One of them was Giovanni Domenico (or Jean Dominique) Cassini (8 June 1625 – 14 September 1712), the first director of the observatory founded by Louis XIV, and discoverer, amongst other things, of four satellites of the planet …

Hybrids and chimeras: Mythology, history and science

Last week two papers were published about human and other chimeras, one in Cell on ‘Interspecies chimerism with mammalian pluripotent stem cells’ and one in Nature entitled ‘Interspecies organogenesis generates autologous functional islets’. The first one caused a bit of a stir in the newspapers. About 70 newspaper articles covered this potential scientific breakthrough in All …