Pigtails, Duckbills and Roasted Guinea Pigs

The invention of the duckbill speculum in 1845 revolutionized gynaecology. Up until then, doctors had been using the bills of actual ducks (usually dead ones). American doctor and animal rights activist J. Marion Sims felt there had to be a better way and set out to find it. After numerous experiments on volunteers (South Carolina slaves volunteered by their owners, …

America's Next Top Model

Scientists have always relied on models -simplified renditions of reality- to help them understand, explain or predict. Over the past decades, more and more of these models have been replaced by digital versions, which are said to be more accurate and flexible. A few traditionalists remain sceptical, however, as computer models don’t always yield the desired outcomes. They still prefer …

The Sun beneath the Clouds

In 1962, Berlin astronomer Johann Dunkeldorf, a 15-year-old Wunderkind and Nobel laureate, made a shocking discovery: our sun will expire one day and then Earth will be shrouded in eternal darkness. Dunkeldorf was a unique product of the Cold War, as he had been conceived and later born in the no-man’s land between the American and Soviet zones of Berlin. …