Behind the Beaker

Science History Institute

Research fellows at the Science History Institute study the history of environmental politics, alchemical experiments, and the science of the senses. In the Behind the Beaker video series, we interview research fellows about their projects, what inspires them as historians, and some of their favorite archival finds.

Alchemy! Experiments! War!

Alchemy! Experiments! War! A Talk with Joel Klein

“I don't like the modern assumption that everyone in the past was stupid.” Historian of early modern science and medicine Joel Klein talks about the role historians of science should play in shaping modern perceptions, and discusses his research on influential seventeenth-century scientist Daniel Sennert.


Weird Electronics

Weird Electronics: A talk with Ben Gross

The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) creates vinyl records that play video, and a subversive scientist covertly ruins an RCA technical report. Hear about the odd discoveries historian Ben Gross has made through his research on the development of liquid crystal displays (LCDs) at RCA.

Poison and Pigments

Poisons and Pigments: A Talk with Elisabeth Berry Drago

Think art and science have nothing in common? Elisabeth Berry Drago explores the connections between chemistry, art, and history in this discussion of artist workshops and alchemical laboratories.

What's in a Name?

What's in a Name? A Talk with Evan Hepler-Smith

Have you ever looked at the ingredients list on a bottle of household cleaner and wondered what all those long chemical names mean? Evan Hepler-Smith shares the surprising story of how many synthetic chemicals got their names. Why do names matter? What do literature and science have in common? And what happened when a bunch of chemists got together and decided to turn chemistry into a song?