April 2021 Newsletter

Artistic rendition of a collective portrait of five women commissioned by the American Scientist to accompany Pnina Abir-Am’s article about these women in their September/October 2020 issue. Image used with permission of American Scientist.

To Be or Not to Be?

When a historian of science writes an invited article for a widely circulated science journal on a hot topic such as women in science, and when the article’s key message is that women who made a major discovery—RNA splicing—are still unrecognized for it more than four decades later, it is understandable that the author hoped that some, if not all, of these women would be proudly displayed on the journal’s cover.

2021 AAAS Sarton Lecture: Pandora’s Pandemic

Fifty years ago, the blockbuster du jour was The Andromeda Strain, a film based on a new kind of biomedical thriller that depicted a plague of putatively extraterrestrial origins. The film—directed, perhaps incongruously, by Robert Wise of The Sound of Music fame—would in time be hailed by the Infectious Diseases Society of America as the “most significant, scientifically accurate, and prototypic of all films of this genre.”

Roundtable with 2020 Pfizer Prize Winner, Theodore Porter

Cited as much for its style or “graceful writing” as for its significance and “expansive scholarship,” Ted Porter’s Genetics in the Madhouse: The Unknown History of Human Heredity (Princeton University Press, 2018) was named the recipient of the 2020 Pfizer Award, one of HSS’s oldest prizes, awarded annually since 1959 for an outstanding book in the history of science. A panel of distinguished interlocutors including Ken Alder, Soraya de Chadarevian, Nathaniel Comfort, Diane Paul, and Andrew Scull had plenty of questions for the author, to which he responded with the same style and grace he showed in the book. 

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