Eating Drugs: An Interview

Drugs exist that are meant to help people feel better. The doctors who prescribe them might believe that they work, while their patients do not. In explaining the drugs to their patients, should those doctors use the medical terminology they themselves use – which might not be immediately understandable to their patients – or should they translate the description into terms more comfortable and familiar … Continue reading Eating Drugs: An Interview

Bitter Roots: An Interview

Abena Dove Osseo-Asare’s wonderful new book is a thoughtful, provocative, and balanced account of the intersecting histories and practices of drug research in modern Ghana, South Africa, and Madagascar. Bitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa (University of Chicago Press, 2014) tells the stories of six plants, all sourced in African countries, that competing groups of plant specialists have tried to transform into pharmaceuticals since … Continue reading Bitter Roots: An Interview

Commercial Visions: An Interview

Dániel Margócsy’s beautiful new book explores the changing world of entrepreneurial science in the early modern Netherlands. Commercial Visions considers scientific knowledge as a commodity, looking carefully at how the growth of global trade in the Dutch Golden Age shaped anatomy and natural history as commercial practices. We had a chance to talk about it recently for the New Books in STS podcast, and you can find our conversation … Continue reading Commercial Visions: An Interview

Bolatu’s Pharmacy: An Essay

I’m interested in the ways that recipes and other drug literature were spaces of translation and exchange for people who spoke and wrote different languages and lived in different healing contexts in the early modern world. Some years ago I wrote an essay on this that used the translation of theriac (an extraordinarily important compound drug and poison antidote in medieval and early modern Europe) into … Continue reading Bolatu’s Pharmacy: An Essay

The Monkey And the Inkpot

The Monkey and the Inkpot: Natural History and its Transformations in Early Modern China (Harvard University Press, 2009) The Monkey and the Inkpot introduces natural history in sixteenth century China through the iconic Bencao gangmu (Systematic materia medica) of Li Shizhen (1518–1593). The encyclopedic Bencao gangmu is widely lauded as a classic embodiment of pre-modern Chinese medical thought. This first book-length study in English of Li’s text reveals a “cabinet of curiosities” of … Continue reading The Monkey And the Inkpot