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    ABSTRACT: The Aschheim–Zondek reaction is generally regarded as the first reliable hormone test for pregnancy and as a major product of the ‘heroic age’ of reproductive endocrinology. Invented in Berlin in the late 1920s, by the mid 1930s a diagnostic laboratory in Edinburgh was performing thousands of tests every year for doctors around Britain. In her classic history of antenatal care, sociologist Ann Oakley claimed that the Aschheim–Zondek test launched a ‘modern era’ of obstetric knowledge, which asserted its superiority over that of pregnant women. This article reconsiders Oakley’s claim by examining how pregnancy testing worked in practice. It explains the British adoption of the test in terms less of the medicalisation of pregnancy than of clinicians’ increasing general reliance on laboratory services for differential diagnosis. Crucially, the Aschheim–Zondek reaction was a test not directly for the fetus, but for placental tissue. It was used, less as a yes-or-no test for ordinary pregnancy, than as a versatile diagnostic tool for the early detection of malignant tumours and hormonal deficiencies believed to cause miscarriage. This test was as much a product of oncology and the little-explored world of laboratory services as of reproductive medicine.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
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    ABSTRACT: The Royal Society Conversaziones were biannual social evenings at which distinguished guests could learn about the latest scientific developments. The Conversazione in May 1952 featured an object that came to be called King Arthur's Table. It was a planetary equatorium, made in Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory at the behest of Sir Lawrence Bragg. Conceived by the historian of science Derek de Solla Price as a huge, tangible realization of Chaucerian astronomy, it was displayed at the new Whipple Museum of the History of Science, discarded, stored incognito, catalogued with that whimsical name, and finally re-identified in 2012. This article examines the biography of that object and, through it, the early, inchoate years of the discipline of history of science in Cambridge. The process of disciplinary establishment involved a range of actors beyond well-known figures such as Herbert Butterfield and Joseph Needham; the roles of Price and Bragg are highlighted here. Study of these individuals, and of the collaboration that brought about the reconstruction, reveals much about the establishment of a discipline, as well as changing scholarly and curatorial attitudes towards replicas.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2014 · Notes and Records of The Royal Society
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    Full-text · Article · May 2014 · Endeavour
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