Photo taken in the Bourbaki Congress of 1938 in Dieulefit

The Mathematical Pranksters behind Nicolas Bourbaki

Bourbaki was gnomic and mythical, impossible to pin down; his mathematics just the opposite: unified, unambiguous, free of human idiosyncrasy.
Quaker tobacco farmers in Barbados

The Invention of the “Healthy” Caribbean

Europeans used to believe that "bad air" caused diseases, so they distrusted the Caribbean's air quality and land features like swamps.
Medieval depiction of Caesarian birth

How Medieval Surgeons Shaped Sex and Gender

Our ideas about surgically “correcting” intersex conditions go back to a shift in the profession of surgery seven centuries ago.
Suprematist Painting (with Black Trapezium and Red Square) by Kazimir Malevich

Dreaming of Spaceflight in 1920s Russia

Early in the 20th century, Cosmism was all the rage in Russia, inspiring a utopian and mystical view of interstellar travel.
Two scientists in a hot air balloon

When Victorian Scientists Caught Ballomania

In a moment when scientists were working to fashion a credible identity for themselves, they had to decide how much showmanship was too much.
Lick Observatory

The Women Who Made Male Astronomers’ Ambitions Possible

In the late 19th century, Elizabeth Campbell helped her astronomer husband run the Lick Observatory and lead scientific eclipse-viewing expeditions.
Fire Blazes At Iconic National Museum of Brazil

Brazil’s Museu Nacional Was More Than Just a Museum

Brazil's oldest natural history museum has burned down. The institution played a crucial part in creating Brazil's identity as a country.
Atom earth

Atoms for… Peace?

Iran's nuclear program is in the news, again. But what's the backstory on how the country went nuclear in the first place?
Portrait of Sir Thomas Browne

Sir Thomas Browne’s Vulgar Errors

If you're suffering from exhaustion, hallucination, or a coma, then you have Sir Thomas Browne, dead 335 years now, to thank.
Periodic elements

The Ever-Evolving Periodic Table of Elements

Four new elements--113, 115, 117, and 118--have been added to the periodic table. But the search for new elements hasn't always been so systematic.