Spinning the Risk: ‘The Effects of Nuclear Weapons’ Handbook

The Effects of Nuclear Weapons was by far the most popular handbook of nuclear defense during the Cold War. Adapted from an original publication of the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (1950),[1] the handbook was amended and made commercially available for popular use (1957),[2] revised (1962), [3] reprinted (1964), [4] expanded (1977),[5] and even illicitly translated … Continue reading Spinning the Risk: ‘The Effects of Nuclear Weapons’ Handbook

Maurice H. Dobb’s ‘Wages’: A Journey Ahead of the Standardization of Labor Economics

The Making of a Cambridge Handbook

In 1928, the Cambridge academic Marxist Maurice Dobb published a short textbook on wages that underwent five revised editions by 1959, many reprints, and diverse translations, including into Japanese (1931), Arabic (1957), Italian (1974), and Spanish (1986). As historians of economics, our naive idea was that it would be possible... Continue reading

Timing the Textbook: Capitalism, Development, and Western Knowledge in the Nineteenth-Century

Circa 1835, following a survey of recent Dutch publications in shogunal collections, the Japanese physician Koseki San'ei (1787–1839) concluded that among the strengths of new European approaches to education, a proactive attitude toward the power of cheap pedagogical print was paramount. European countries, Koseki declared, "produce affordable and easy-to-understand books on all arts and sciences, … Continue reading Timing the Textbook: Capitalism, Development, and Western Knowledge in the Nineteenth-Century

Taking Human Genetics Digital: ‘Mendelian Inheritance in Man’ and the Genealogy of Electronic Publishing in Biomedicine

As of my writing on April 12, 2018, there are 24,506 known or suspected human genes out of roughly 3 billion base pairs in the reference sequence of the human genome.[1] While the bulk of these were identified during the course of the Human Genome Project (HGP), which ran from 1990–2003, a majority of the … Continue reading Taking Human Genetics Digital: ‘Mendelian Inheritance in Man’ and the Genealogy of Electronic Publishing in Biomedicine

Recipes for Recombining DNA. A History of ‘Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual’

Since Warren Weaver coined the term “molecular biology” in the late 1930s, technological innovation has driven the life sciences, from the analytical ultracentrifuge to high-throughput DNA sequencing. Within this long history, the invention of recombinant DNA techniques in the early 1970s proved to be especially pivotal. The ability to manipulate DNA consolidated the high-profile focus … Continue reading Recipes for Recombining DNA. A History of ‘Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual’

Mediators of Knowledge: WPA Folklorists and 1930s Migrant Culture

What kind of knowledge are we addressing when we talk about folk culture? What can we extract from work songs, ballads, lullabies, and reels? What do stories of various kinds, relayed by word of mouth, tell us about the communities they sprang from? What do they reveal about how migrants organized themselves, how they navigated … Continue reading Mediators of Knowledge: WPA Folklorists and 1930s Migrant Culture

Developing Knowledge Societies: Africa Needs a Linguistic Revolution

African societies are on the brink of changing from postcolonial societies into global knowledge societies. Digitalization and globalization could enhance their transformation from knowledge-consuming to knowledge-producing societies, which would also help bring full mental decolonization to Africa. Just as important, it would open the way for African indigenous knowledge systems to enjoy recognition in the … Continue reading Developing Knowledge Societies: Africa Needs a Linguistic Revolution

Diffusing Knowledge about Poland in Britain in the First Half of the 19th Century

Europe in the 1830s and 1840s was marked by political ferment, with various kinds of nationalism and political ideology challenging the international system established by the Congress of Vienna in 1814–15. One potential tool at the disposal of revolutionaries was public opinion abroad, insofar as the international order depended on enforcement by the great powers—Prussia, … Continue reading Diffusing Knowledge about Poland in Britain in the First Half of the 19th Century

Translating Sex: ‘Spartacus’ and the Gay Traveler in the 1970s

Writing in the age of Yelp from Dupont, the historic center of gay life in Washington, DC, I can have trouble fully imagining the difficulty that many gay men had in accessing gay spaces. Even in the second half of the twentieth century, when gay scenes were expanding in major metropolitan areas across North America … Continue reading Translating Sex: ‘Spartacus’ and the Gay Traveler in the 1970s