Summer 2013, Vol. 31, No. 2
In this issue of Chemical Heritage we explore the history of poison ivy, a despised plant with, perhaps, some redeeming qualities. We delve into CHF’s image archives to examine the history of the Hercules Powder Company, which went from making explosives to building rockets. And we look at the parallel lives of Dmitri Mendeleev and Julius Lothar Meyer to figure out why one is a household name and the other is now mostly forgotten. As always we offer treasures from CHF’s collections, book and museum reviews, and more. Enjoy!
A Short History
The folks at Kentucky’s Creation Museum create their own version of history.
An Element of Order
Many scientists devised periodic systems in the 1860s, but Dmitri Mendeleev is today recognized as the father of the periodic table. How did this Russian provincial come to possess one of the most famous names in science?
Bad men, maybe, but they practice good chemistry: that’s the goal of one scientist who consults with the entertainment industry on its depiction of science.
Behind the Curtain
From CHF’s oral history archives, tales of three Hungarian scientists who survived the Nazi occupation of their country and escaped Soviet oppression.
Follow the birth, life, and demise of the Hercules Powder Company, which once dominated the explosives industry in the United States.
Dress for Success
For thousands of years silk symbolized wealth and style. But in the 1930s DuPont gave Americans the next best thing.
Video artist Roderick Coover uses a camera and a kayak to explore the effects of rising sea levels.
War left a lasting impression on early American chemist James Woodhouse. For one thing, it showed him that doctors needed a proper understanding of chemistry to save lives.
Nineteenth-century writers, such as Mary Shelley and Jules Verne, employed many of the elements we now recognize as sci-fi. But John Cheng pins the invention of science fiction onto one magazine, Amazing Stories, and to its iconoclast of a founder, Hugo Gernsback.
A new collection of essays explores the ways scientific couples through history have navigated notions of how and by whom science should be practiced.
Nearly 56 million gallons of nuclear waste lies underground in rural Washington. How did the Hanford nuclear facility become one of America’s most vexing environmental challenges? Jennifer Weeks explores the history and future of the site.
Mind and Matter
In the early 1950s French physician Henri Laborit experienced a moment of serendipity that would fundamentally alter the landscape of psychiatry and mental illness.
No Ill Nature
Do you think of poison ivy as a scurrilous weed to be avoided at all costs? Think again! There was a time when the daring and curious found promise in poison ivy and its rash-inducing relatives.
In the 1950s hearing aids shrank from the size of a cigarette packet to the size of a lighter. The secret behind this shrinkage? The mighty transistor.
Stamp of Approval
What do postage stamps say about the countries that produce them? Plenty. These tiny bits of patriotism can reveal a country's geopolitical aspirations and even its energy policy.
Newborn screening saves lives. But does it also ruin lives? The book Saving Babies explores the realities of newborn genetic screening.
Up in the Air
Some of the greatest technological achievements from the 18th through the 20th century required the public to look up—from the first balloon flights of the Montgolfier brothers to the birth of the ocean-crossing behemoths built by Ferdinand, Graf von Zeppelin.
In space no one can hear ice scream! For more than 100 years scientists have been discovering and creating bizarre, exotic ices. Ices that can even burn a hole in you!