Science Diction: The Origin Of ‘Tuberculosis’

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Friday, February 24, 2012 When doctors autopsied tuberculosis patients, they described finding round, white swellings, especially in and around the lungs. Medical historian Howard Markel describes how those potato-like growths led to the disease being called tuberculosis, from the Latin tuber. Read more and listen to the episode at ScienceFriday.com February 24, 2012

Science Diction: The Origin Of The Word ‘Moon’

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Friday, January 20th, 2012 Science historian Howard Markel discusses the origins of the word moon and some of the lore surrounding it, including a 1638 book by the English bishop Francis Godwin entitled The Man in the Moone, which recounts a science fiction-style voyage to the moon. Read more and listen to the episode at ScienceFriday.com

Science Diction: The Origin Of The Petri Dish

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Friday, December 16th, 2011 In 1887, Julius Petri invented a simple pair of nesting glass dishes, ideal for keeping specimens of growing bacteria sterile–the ‘Petri dish.’ Science historian Howard Markel recounts the history of this ubiquitous lab supply, and the serendipitous discovery of the stuff in it, agar. Read more and listen to the episode […]

Science Diction: The Origin Of ‘Stethoscope’

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Friday, November 25th, 2011 French physician René Laennec, was simply a hollow wooden or ebony tube. Laennec named the device using the Greek roots stethos, or chest, and skopein, to look at or to observe. Medical historian Howard Markel discusses how Laennec came up with the invention. Read more and listen to the episode at […]

Science Diction: The Origins of the Bunsen Burner

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Friday, October 21st, 2011 Every high school chemist has no doubt fiddled with a Bunsen burner–but where did the apparatus get its name? Science historian Howard Markel talks about the German chemist Robert Bunsen, and why his experiments necessitated the invention of the gas burner still in use today. Read more and listen to the […]

Science Diction: The Origin Of The Word ‘Epilepsy’

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Friday, September 30th, 2011 Hercules, on the face of this coin, was said by Aristotle to have suffered from epilepsy. Wikimedia Commons. Humans have long suffered from epilepsy, the neurological disorder hallmarked by sudden seizures. Medical historian Howard Markel discusses the condition’s names through the millenia, from the “sacred disease” of ancient texts to its […]

Science Diction: The Origin Of ‘Chemistry’

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Friday, August 26th, 2011 The word chemistry is said to have roots in either ancient Egypt or Greece. Science historian Howard Markel discusses the word’s origin, and the modern naming of the field of chemistry by British natural philosopher and alchemist Robert Boyle in his 1661 treatise, The Skeptical Chymist. Read more and listen to the episode at […]

A Tale Of Two Addicts: Freud, Halsted And Cocaine

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Friday, July 22nd, 2011 In his book An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine, medical historian Howard Markel tells the story of how Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, and Halsted, the acclaimed surgeon, fell under the addictive spell of cocaine. And, in a bonus edition of  ‘Science Diction,’ Dr. Markel […]

Science Diction–The Origin Of The Word ‘Radio’

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Friday, June 24th, 2011 The Origin Of The Word ‘Radio’ — Scientists originally used the prefix ‘radio’ to refer to the electromagnetic radiation used in innovations like radio-telegraphy, a way of sending messages without wires, cables and poles. Science historian Howard Markel discusses the origin of the word radio, and the history of its invention: Radio […]

Science Diction: The Origin Of The Word “Syphilis”

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Friday, May 27th, 2011 In a 1530 epic poem, Italian physician and poet Hieronymus Fracastorius coined ‘Syphilis’ as the name of the poem’s main character, a shepherd afflicted with the dreaded disease. Medical historian Dr. Howard Markel and STD expert Dr. Peter Leone discuss the disease’s history and its resurgence today. Dr. Markel writes: Half […]

Science Diction: The Origin Of The Word ‘Robot’

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Friday, April 22nd, 2011 Robot is a relative newcomer to the English language. It was the brainchild of the Czech playwright, novelist and journalist Karel ?apek, who introduced it in his 1920 hit play, R.U.R., orRossum’s Universal Robots. Science historian Howard Markel discusses how ?apek thought up the word. For many, the word robot conjures an […]

Science Diction: The Origin Of The Word ‘Clone’

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Friday, March 11th, 2011 In 1903, plant physiologist Herbert J. Webber coined the term ‘clone,’ from the Greek klon, to refer to the technique of propagating new plants using cuttings, bulbs or buds. Science historian Howard Markel discusses how the term later came to refer to a bevy of genetic manipulations. The word clone, literally, has […]

Science Diction: The Origin Of ‘Antibiotic’

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Friday, February 11th, 2011 Selman Waksman, the microbiologist who discovered streptomycin, first used the word antibiotic in the medical sense in 1943. Science historian Howard Markel talks about how it was actually a Naval officer who first coined antibiotic in 1860, to describe an opposition to the belief in life beyond Earth. Antibiotics, one of the great miracles of […]

Science Diction: The Origin Of ‘Physician’

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Friday, January 28th, 2011 In the 13th century, Anglo-Normans appropriated the French physique, or remedy, to coin the English physic, or medicine, which is still in dictionaries today. Science historian Howard Markel discusses how physic became physician, and the parallel evolution of the word physics. Upon discovering a sick person, most people are compelled to […]

Science Diction: Comet

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Friday, December 17th, 2010 Look – up in the sky! How did the ‘comet’ get its name? Howard Markel, a physician, medical educator, and historian of medicine at the University of Michigan, explains: Although they were sighted in the ancient world, at least as early as 1000 B.C., Greek natural philosophers coined the word comet […]

Science Diction: Atom

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Friday, November 19th, 2010 It’s the basis of our physical world But how did the ‘atom’ get its name? Howard Markel, a physician, medical educator, and historian of medicine at the University of Michigan, explains: Some historians have credited sixth-century B.C. East Indian Jainism philosophers for originating the concept of an atom. Sir Isaac Newton […]

Science Diction: Cancer

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Friday, October 22nd, 2010 It’s one of the most feared medical conditions. But how did ‘cancer’ get its name? Howard Markel, a physician, medical educator, and historian of medicine at the University of Michigan, explains: Only a few decades ago, many hesitated to say the word cancer aloud, as if merely mentioning it might invite […]

Science Diction: Cell

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Friday, September 17th, 2010 The cell is the smallest, functional unit of life classified as a living thing. The human body, for example, contains more than 100 trillion, or 10^14 cells, with an average size of 10 micrometers and mass of 1 nanogram. But how did the word ‘cell’ come to be? Howard Markel, a […]

Science Diction: Evolution

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Friday, August 13th, 2010 Howard Markel, physician, medical educator and historian of medicine at the University of Michigan, explains the origin of the word “evolution:” Scientists use the word evolution when describing the genetic adaptation of species to the environment as a result of natural selection, breeding and mutation. Nearly everyone attributes the word to […]

Science Diction: Genome

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Friday, July 9th, 2010 In our monthly series on the words of science, we’ll talk about how the word “genome” came to be. Howard Markel, a physician, medical educator, and historian of medicine at the University of Michigan, explains: Much of our ‘genetic’ terminology stems from the Greek word, genesis, for origin or creation. Yet […]

Science Diction: X-Ray

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Friday, June 18th, 2010 X-rays—the technology that allows doctors to peer into the human body while the engine is still running—represent one of the most revolutionary advances in the history of science. But where did its quaint name come from? The short answer is that it is really a story of connections. Read more and […]