By Tina M. Kibbe
Happy New Year! As another year ends, I wanted to take a look at three news stories involving eugenics and genetics in 2013 that you may have missed.
By Carolyn Herbst Lewis
There is much talk these days about girls and STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. In 2009, only 24% of scientists and engineers were women. This is not surprising, given the fact that women comprise only about 17% of the students earning degrees in these subjects, as compared to the 79% of students earning bachelor's degrees in education. There are material benefits to building careers in STEM. A woman in a STEM-related career earns, on average, 33% more than a woman in a non-STEM field. Given the continued gender wage gap, and the high numbers of women in poverty in this country, it makes sense to encourage an interest in STEM. How to do so has been the tricky part. Colleges and universities -- as well as prospective employers -- actively recruit women to enroll in STEM programs. But getting young women interested in these fields has been more difficult. The old maxims that girls don't pursue these interests because “Math class is tough,” and their brains are not “hardwired” for it, no longer suffice. Researchers have found ample evidence that demonstrates that it is a combination of gender conditioning and a lack of role models that make girls feel that they don’t “belong” in STEM. This isn’t just about finding gender equity in the workplace or the college classroom, then; it's also about reframing the gendered messages we send to young girls and women about femininity and science.
By Jacqueline Antonovich
Recently, my daughter lost her very first baby tooth. It happened one afternoon while eating lunch; her loose tooth just popped right out of her mouth and into her bowl of ramen noodles. After I fished out the tooth with my fingers and wiped away her tears, my sweet little daughter looked up at me with her new toothless grin and exclaimed: "This means the Tooth Fairy is coming tonight! I'm gonna be rich!" Well, maybe not exactly rich. I'm still in grad school, so despite the fact that inflation has driven up the price of a tooth to nearly four dollars, in my house the Tooth Fairy only pays a measly buck.
By Heather Munro Prescott
Last weekend I attended the 2013 annual meeting of the History of Science Society in Boston, Massachusetts. I tweeted periodic comments throughout the conference. Here are some further thoughts:
On Thursday afternoon, I started off with the Special Public Engagement Session: Science in the Streets, cosponsored by Boston University Center for the Philosophy and History of Science. This session consisted of two interdisciplinary panels aimed at exploring "innovative ways of connecting ordinary citizens with science, and how the history of science can inform and enrich these efforts." Presenters included Brian Malow (the science comedian) and Ari Daniel Shapiro of the science podcast The Story Collider. Conevery Valencius Bolton from the University of Massachusetts, Boston did a fine job as an emcee for the session.
By Adam Turner
Over the past weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in the Centre for Medical Humanities Imperfect Children conference at the University of Leicester. The conference included a wonderful mix of disciplines and both historical and present-day perspectives on the concept of "imperfection" and children. This usefully provocative focus led to an ongoing discussion during the two-day meeting about the definition of imperfection and how it relates to concepts like normality, health, and ability.
By Carolyn Herbst Lewis
Sixty years ago, a great many Americans spent the final weeks of the summer of 1953 thinking about sex. Five years earlier, a hefty scientific volume on the sexual experiences of men had become a surprise bestseller. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male detailed the sex lives of 12,000 American men, revealing incidences of masturbation, premarital and same-sex encounters, and sundry secrets that shocked, intrigued, reassured, and infuriated the nation. Now, it was the ladies’ turn.
By Sean Cosgrove
How do we convince people of the need to donate blood? It can be scary and uncomfortable, and I’ll be the first to admit, as someone who does not regularly donate, that it all seems like a lot of work. The answer, according to one comedian writing in a Sydney commuter magazine recently (which has unfortunately been lost to me and, to the best of my knowledge, is not reproduced online), at least in part, was to provoke people (especially men) into volunteering to roll up their sleeves. Rather than the softly-softly approach, the tugging on heart strings or outright begging, it suggested that we should try a more competitive approach: tell these people to drink their cup of concrete.
By Elizabeth Reis
It is exciting to read about promising new gene therapies that might make living with various disabilities easier or even render them extinct. Researchers at University of Massachusetts Medical School are working on a way to “turn off” the extra chromosome found in people with Down syndrome. If the gene therapy works as they hope, turning off the chromosome would mitigate some of the effects of Down’s. So far this possibility has only been glimmered in a laboratory dish, but ultimately the goal would be to turn off the extra chromosome prenatally, so that the brain would form without developmental and intellectual encumbrances.
By Tina M. Kibbe
Now that I am back in my home state of Texas after being gone for several years, I wanted to write about a topic that might touch upon summertime, gender, and the history of medicine . . . so obviously, I decided to write about beer! Beer and barbeque in the Texan summer are about as ubiquitous as heat and humidity. While I’m not really going to focus on the summer specifically, I primarily wanted to use it as a springboard of sorts to begin this post on the history of medicinal beer.
By Adam Turner
In the past few weeks I've heard the "born this way" argument pop up all over the place in classes and everyday conversation. I quite appreciate its value as a strong, proud anthem of self-empowerment (implicitly in the face of an unaccepting world). It's also a pretty sweet jam. The foundation associated with it seems also to be up to some great things, and I certainly agree with their mission "to foster a more accepting society, where differences are embraced and individuality is celebrated." I'm not here to critique the song. But it is a handy jumping-off point for a larger issue