Science History Podcast

Informações:

Synopsis

Interviews on important moments in the history of science.

Episodes

  • Episode 29. Green Chemistry: Terry Collins

    Episode 29. Green Chemistry: Terry Collins

    11/04/2020 Duration: 01h43min

    Chemistry has given the world the incredible diversity of fuels, pharmaceuticals, and household products that we rely on every day, along with tremendous advances in fighting infectious diseases and ensuring an abundant food supply. But the products of chemistry also include tens of thousands of toxic compounds that compromise human health, degrade the environment, and drive species to extinction. The advent of the modern environmental movement in the 1960s and 1970s produced a new field of chemistry dedicated to providing for the needs of society with less toxic and less environmentally damaging alternatives. This intellectual endeavor coalesced into the field of green chemistry. My guest, Terry Collins, is a leading green chemist and one of the founders of the field. His education includes a bachelor of science in 1974 and a PhD in 1978, both from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. He held a faculty position at the California Institute of Technology in the 1980s before joining the faculty at Carnegi

  • Episode 28. Environmentalism: Paul Ehrlich

    Episode 28. Environmentalism: Paul Ehrlich

    11/03/2020 Duration: 01h06min

    Rachel Carson alerted the world to the dangers of pollution with the publication of her book Silent Spring in 1962, and in the process, she helped to launch the environmental movement. My guest, Paul Ehrlich, alerted the world to the dangers of human population growth and resource consumption with the publication of his book The Population Bomb in 1968, and in the process, he accelerated the environmental movement. He has played a major role in that movement ever since, authoring dozens of influential books and many more articles. Ehrlich received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1953 and a PhD from the University of Kansas in 1957. He has been a professor at Stanford University since 1959, where he is the president of the Center for Conservation Biology. He is the recipient of numerous environmental prizes, such as a MacArthur Fellowship, the John Muir Award of the Sierra Club, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, the Blue Planet Prize, and the Eminent Ecologist Award of t

  • Episode 27. Biodiversity: Thomas Lovejoy

    Episode 27. Biodiversity: Thomas Lovejoy

    11/02/2020 Duration: 40min

    Global biodiversity is in the midst of a mass extinction driven by rapid human population growth and over-consumption of resources. These forces drive habitat loss, pollution, invasive species, climate change, and the many other proximate causes of species losses. The study of these forces, and how they can be mitigated to preserve biodiversity, is the responsibility of scientists engaged in the field of conservation biology. My guest, Thomas Lovejoy, is a founding scientist of this field, and often referred to as the Godfather of Biodiversity. Tom received B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in biology at Yale. He then held many prominent positions related to conservation, including with the World Wildlife Fund, the Smithsonian Institution, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank. He served in many scientific advisory roles for the U.S. government, and as a Conservation Fellow and Explorer at Large for National Geographic. Tom is a professor in the Environmental Science and Policy department at George Mas

  • Episode 26. Linguistics: Noam Chomsky

    Episode 26. Linguistics: Noam Chomsky

    11/01/2020 Duration: 53min

    Nothing is more human than language, and no one has done more to advance the science of linguistics than Noam Chomsky. Noam was born in 1928, and completed undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Pennsylvania just after the Second World War. He earned his PhD in 1955, and by 1957, he was already publishing landmark works in linguistics that disrupted the field and fundamentally altered the understanding of language. His work also devastated the field of behaviorism, led by the likes of B.F. Skinner. Noam is known as the father of modern linguistics, but his influence extends well beyond the study of language to include fundamental applications in computer science, philosophy, cognitive science, and many other fields. Noam has taught at MIT since 1955, and at the University of Arizona since 2017.

  • Episode 25. Space Science: Pam Melroy

    Episode 25. Space Science: Pam Melroy

    11/12/2019 Duration: 38min

    Space exploration thrills kids and adults alike. Today I discuss the history of NASA and space science with Pam Melroy. Pam piloted the Space Shuttle missions STS-92 in 2000 and STS-112 in 2002, and she commanded STS-120 in 2007. We discuss the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Apollo-Soyuz programs, the Mariner 9 mission, Landsat satellites, Skylab, the Space shuttle, and the International Space Station. We also discuss scientific advances achieved in space in telemedicine, microgravity and health, protein crystal growth and drug development, and materials science, as well as the future of space science.

  • Episode 24. Conservation of Freshwater Ecosystems: Ian Harrison

    Episode 24. Conservation of Freshwater Ecosystems: Ian Harrison

    11/11/2019 Duration: 55min

    Freshwater ecosystems and their resident species have declined more rapidly than either terrestrial or marine systems and their species. Freshwater ecosystems face myriad stressors, from habitat loss and pollution to dams and climate change. Today I discuss the state of freshwater conservation science with Ian Harrison. Ian obtained his Ph.D. in systematic ichthyology at the University of Bristol in the UK. He has conducted research on marine and freshwater fishes in Europe, Central and South America, Africa, the Philippines, and the Central Pacific. He has worked for Conservation International and the IUCN’s Global Species Programme since 2008 and he is currently the freshwater specialist for Conservation International’s Moore Center for Science. Ian publishes extensively on the biology and conservation of fishes and the conservation of freshwater ecosystems.

  • Episode 23. Human Evolutionary Genetics: Jason Wilder

    Episode 23. Human Evolutionary Genetics: Jason Wilder

    11/10/2019 Duration: 58min

    Due to recent technological advances, scientists have revolutionized our understanding of human evolutionary history. What appeared to be a relatively simple story of divergence from ancient hominids is instead a tangled mess involving repeated cycles of divergence and hybridization between evolving human species. Today my guest is Jason Wilder, who researches human evolutionary genetics and genomics. We discuss the genetics of malaria resistance and parallel evolution, CCR5 deficiency and resistance to HIV infection, gene editing and the creation of designer babies, gene editing to treat disease, and introgression between modern humans and archaic forms, including Neanderthals and Denisovans. Jason received his B.A. in biology at Williams College and his Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. He then worked at the University of Arizona and Williams before joining the faculty at Northern Arizona University, where he is a professor of genetics and the Interim Dean of the College of

  • Episode 22. Sex Differences in the Brain: Margaret McCarthy

    Episode 22. Sex Differences in the Brain: Margaret McCarthy

    11/09/2019 Duration: 50min

    The brain is the most enigmatic of organs – it is really a collection of organs that undergoes a remarkable coordinated development that is driven in part by sex steroids. Today my guest is Margaret McCarthy, one of the leading researchers on sex differences in the brain. Here, we cover the history of research on sex and the brain, including the utility of animal models, the roles of hormones and sensitive periods in brain development, masculinization vs. feminization of the brain, epigenetic regulation of sex differences in the brain, differences between the sexes in the prevalence and age of onset of mental illnesses, and even the role of politics in the field of neurobiology. Margaret received her BS and MA degrees in biology at the University of Missouri in 1981 and 1984, respectively, and her PhD in behavioral neuroscience at Rutgers University in 1989. She then worked at Rockefeller University and the National Institutes of Health before joining the faculty at the University of Maryland, where she holds

  • Episode 21. Plutonium: Frank N. von Hippel

    Episode 21. Plutonium: Frank N. von Hippel

    11/08/2019 Duration: 01h04min

    Today we explore the history of plutonium with Frank von Hippel, a retired but always active professor at Princeton University, where, in 1975, he co-founded Princeton’s Program on Science and Global Security in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. In the 1980s, Frank was the chairman of the Federation of American Scientists, and in the Clinton Administration he was the Assistant Director for National Security in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Frank has worked on nuclear arms control and nonproliferation since the 1980s, and received many awards for this work, including a MacArthur Fellowship. Frank received his B.S. in physics at MIT in 1959 and his Ph.D. in theoretical physics at the University of Oxford in 1962, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. Frank is also a co-author of the forthcoming book, “Plutonium: How nuclear power’s dream fuel became a nightmare.” We discuss the history of all things nuclear – the development of the bomb, the attacks on Hiroshima

  • Episode 20. Gravitational Waves: Nobel Laureate Rai Weiss

    Episode 20. Gravitational Waves: Nobel Laureate Rai Weiss

    11/07/2019 Duration: 01h38min

    We explore the history of the discovery of gravitational waves with Rai Weiss, including the relevance to special and general relativity, pulsars, supernovae, merging and binary black holes, space and time, neutron star collisions, dark matter, cosmic background radiation, gamma ray bursts, and even the viscosity of neutrinos. We also discuss really small numbers, the origin of the NSF and NASA, the LIGO scientific collaboration, the politics of science, and what all this has to do with Albert Einstein. Rai received his PhD at MIT in 1962, and taught at Tufts University and Princeton before returning to MIT. Among Rai’s many distinguished awards is the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, which he received along with Kip Thorne and Barry Barish “for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves.”

  • Episode 19. Yellow Rain: Matthew Meselson

    Episode 19. Yellow Rain: Matthew Meselson

    11/06/2019 Duration: 34min

    In this supplemental episode with Matthew Meselson, I accepted his invitation to visit him in his office at Harvard, where we discussed yellow rain incidents in Southeast Asia. Meselson received his appointment as an Associate Professor of biology at Harvard in 1960 and his full professorship in 1964. He has been at Harvard ever since. Meselson has received many prominent awards throughout his career, including from the National Academy of Sciences, the Federation of American Scientists, the New York Academy of Sciences, and the Genetics Society of America, as well as the Guggenheim Fellowship and MacArthur Fellows Program Genius Award. 

  • Episode 18. Herbicidal Warfare: Matthew Meselson

    Episode 18. Herbicidal Warfare: Matthew Meselson

    11/05/2019 Duration: 02h30min

    Matthew Meselson organized the Herbicide Assessment Commission in 1970, which investigated the use of Agent Orange and other defoliants in Vietnam. The work of the commission helped to end Operation Ranch Hand, in which the United States sprayed nearly 20 million gallons – about 73 million liters - of herbicides and defoliants over the rainforest and mangrove forest canopies of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. I called Meselson to ask about his role in the Herbicide Assessment Commission, along with a host of other fascinating investigations to do with chemical and biological weapons, such as the anthrax accident in the Soviet Union and the yellow rain incident in Laos.  I also asked him about the U.S. Army’s insane plan in 1969 to ship 800 railroad cars filled with 27,000 tons of poison-gas weapons from the Rocky Mountain Arsenal to New Jersey for disposal at sea. Meselson completed his Ph.D. in 1957 under Linus Pauling at CalTech.  In 1958, in a classic experiment, he and Frank Stahl showed that DNA is replicate

  • Episode 17. Cooperation: Robert Axelrod

    Episode 17. Cooperation: Robert Axelrod

    11/04/2019 Duration: 33min

    We live in a surreal and dangerous time – autocrats are on the rise and societies are regressing toward ethnic competition. Given this political moment, I decided to dedicate an episode of the podcast to the history of research on cooperation. My guest, Robert Axelrod, has been a professor of political science and public policy at the University of Michigan since 1974.  Prior to that, he was a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, among many other awards. Pertinent to today’s episode, he received the 1990 National Academy of Sciences Award for Behavioral Research Relevant to the Prevention of Nuclear War. He also received the National Medal of Science from President Barack Obama. Axelrod is the author of seminal books in the field, such as The Evolution of Cooperation, published in 1984. In this episode, we discuss the famous computer competition on the prisoner’s dilemma that Axelrod

  • Episode 16. Forensic Science: Interview with Bruce Budowle

    Episode 16. Forensic Science: Interview with Bruce Budowle

    11/03/2019 Duration: 01h15min

    How did modern molecular biology become an integral component of forensic science? My guest, Bruce Budowle, played key roles in the development of genetic and microbial forensics, and he explains significant events in forensic science over the past four decades. Bruce joined the research unit of the FBI Laboratory Division in 1983 and rose in the ranks to become the Chief of the Forensic Science Research Unit and the Senior Scientist for the Laboratory Division. In 2009, Bruce left the FBI to become the Executive Director of the Institute of Applied Genomics at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. Bruce directs the Center for Human Identification and he is the Vice Chair of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Genetics. He has published about 500 scientific articles and testified in over 250 criminal cases. Bruce and I discuss the missing children of Argentina’s Dirty War, the O.J. Simpson trial, the 9/11 terror attack on the World Trade Center, the subsequent anthrax letter attacks

  • Episode 15. Bioterrorism: Interview with Paul Keim

    Episode 15. Bioterrorism: Interview with Paul Keim

    11/02/2019 Duration: 01h33min

    Shortly after the al-Qaida terror attacks of September 11, 2001, a second wave of terror swept the United States – this time bioterrorism with anthrax mailed in letters as the weapon. Today my guest is Paul Keim, the scientist who conducted the genetic sleuthing and tracked down the source of the anthrax. Paul is the recipient of numerous scientific honors, and he is a professor of biological sciences at Northern Arizona University, where he directs the Pathogen and Microbiome Institute. In addition to the anthrax terror attacks, in today’s episode we discuss the Soviet and Iraqi anthrax weapons programs, the Haitian cholera outbreak sourced to Nepalese peacekeepers, virulent avian influenza, Scottish heroin addicts, and the Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo.

  • Episode 14. Aquaporins: Interview with Nobel Laureate Peter Agre

    Episode 14. Aquaporins: Interview with Nobel Laureate Peter Agre

    11/01/2019 Duration: 27min

    One of the greatest mysteries in biology, until 1991, was how water moves across cell membranes. Today’s episode focuses on the history of the discovery of aquaporins, or proteins that act as water channels in cell membranes. My guest is Peter Agre, recipient of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of aquaporins. Among many other honors and leadership roles across his career, Peter became a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2000 and served as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science from 2009-2010. He is the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology and in the School of Medicine at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Peter is also the Director of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute.

  • Episode 13. Water Sanitation: Interview with Dennis Warner

    Episode 13. Water Sanitation: Interview with Dennis Warner

    11/12/2018 Duration: 52min

    In 1854, in the Soho district of London, cholera swept through the population. The physician John Snow investigated the cause of the outbreak and hypothesized that it was due to contaminated water. So began the field of epidemiology. Today’s episode focuses on water quality, sanitation and disease. My guest is Dennis Warner, who has worked for forty years in the field of water supply and sanitation, including for Catholic Relief Services, the Peace Corps, the University of Dar es Salaam, Duke University, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and the United States Agency for International Development.

  • Episode 12. Climate Change: Interview with John Matthews

    Episode 12. Climate Change: Interview with John Matthews

    11/11/2018 Duration: 49min

    The effects of human induced climate change, predicted over a century ago, are already with us. My guest, John Matthews, is the coordinator at the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation, which is a network of water and climate professionals working towards solutions for sustainable water resources management on both technical and policy fronts. In today’s episode, we look back at some of the history of climate change research and water resources management, and peer a little into the future of a changing world.

  • Episode 11. Winston Churchill’s Science, Part 2: Interview with James Muller

    Episode 11. Winston Churchill’s Science, Part 2: Interview with James Muller

    11/10/2018 Duration: 53min

    Winston Churchill’s outsized role and oratory in wartime, from the Great Boer War at the turn of the century to World War II, are well known. Beyond politics and battle, Churchill also displayed a keen interest in technological development and scientific advancement, the subject of today’s podcast, which is part 2 of a two-part series. To explore Churchill’s connection to science and technology, I interviewed Jim Muller. Jim is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He is one of the world’s foremost authorities on Winston Churchill as well as the academic chairman of the Churchill Centre and the author of many works on Churchill.

  • Episode 10. Winston Churchill’s Science, Part 1: Interview with James Muller

    Episode 10. Winston Churchill’s Science, Part 1: Interview with James Muller

    11/09/2018 Duration: 56min

    The 20th century was a time of unparalleled advancement in science and technology, along with the associated destruction caused by two world wars.  I think the most important person to positively influence the 20th century was Winston Churchill.  His importance was especially pronounced during World War II, in which his leadership may well have saved the world from long-term Nazi tyranny.  But Churchill played key roles in many realms of life, and especially in literature.  Indeed, Churchill was awarded the 1953 Nobel Prize for literature, which is certainly not the typical achievement of a politician.  Churchill also displayed a keen interest in technological development and scientific advancement, the subject of today’s podcast, which is part 1 of a two-part episode.  To explore Churchill’s connection to science and technology, I interviewed Jim Muller.  Jim is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alaska Anchorage.  He is one of the world’s foremost authorities on Winston

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