Distillations podcast

Deep Dives into Science Stories, Both Serious and Eccentric

The Ames Test

Environmentalists championed biochemist Bruce Ames for his test’s ability to weed out potential cancer-causing chemicals. Then he seemingly turned his back on them.


Distillations is the Science History Institute’s critically acclaimed flagship podcast. We take deep dives into stories that range from the serious to the eccentric, all to help listeners better understand our world. Hear about everything from the crisis in Alzheimer’s research to New England’s 19th-century vampire panic in compelling, sometimes-funny, documentary-style audio stories. Don’t miss the new season, dropping June 4, 2024.

Health & Medicine

Is Ozempic Different?

The weight-loss drug has become well known, but many others have come before, often with horrific results.

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Traffication: An Interview with Paul Donald

In this episode, Distillations spotlights a significant factor impacting our environment and the world’s ecology: roads.

Collage of archival and drawn images related to dye making and drug manufacturing
Health & Medicine

Dyes, Drugs, and Psychosis

The first antipsychotic was discovered through a series of mistakes, starting with—of all things—a breakthrough dye.

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People & Politics

Pink: An Interview with Dominique Grisard

In this bonus episode, the gender studies professor discusses the popular color and its history, including ties to prison experiments.

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Health & Medicine

Can Color Heal Us?

For centuries people have been fascinated by the potential healing powers of color, but is there any truth to it?

Arts & Culture

The Word for Blue

From Homer’s Odyssey to the internet’s great dress debate, our perception of the color blue has both fascinated and frustrated us.

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Health & Medicine

Exploring ‘Health Equity Tourism’

With a new public interest in health equity research, who is actually receiving recognition and funding in the field?

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Health & Medicine

The Mothers of Gynecology

Why are Black women in America three times more likely to die during childbirth than White ones?

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Health & Medicine

Correcting Race

A group of medical students wants to take racial bias out of the equation.

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Health & Medicine

‘That Rotten Spot’

When the plague struck San Francisco in 1900, public health officials blamed Chinatown, as if the disease itself had a racial component.

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Health & Medicine

Black Pills

If there’s no such thing as biological race, why would the FDA approve a drug just for Black patients?

Collage showing news clips about Tuskegee syphilis experiment, and photograph of patients.
Health & Medicine

Bad Blood, Bad Science

The word “Tuskegee” has become shorthand for the Black community’s mistrust of the medical establishment. But what really happened?

Collage illustration showing map of African Burial Ground in Manhattan, human skull illustration, man's face wearing mask, MOVE bombing in West Philadelphia.
People & Politics

The African Burial Ground

A seminal archaeology project proves it is possible to study human remains ethically.

Collage illustration showing map of African Burial Ground in Manhattan, illustration of human skull, man wearing a mask, and a photograph of the MOVE bombing in West Philadelphia
People & Politics

Return, Rebury, Repatriate

Anthropological museums were built on the bodies of marginalized, non-consenting people. Can they ever exist ethically?

Collage illustration showing news clippings about genetic research and indigenous groups.
Inventions & Discoveries

The ‘Vampire Project’

The population geneticists who led the Human Genome Diversity Project wanted to “hammer the final nail in the coffin of race,” but instead they wound up reaffirming it.

Collage illustration showing news clipping from Neo-Nazi publication, academic article about race science, and image of Barry Mehler and Philipe Rushton.
People & Politics

Keepers of the Flame

For decades, nearly all race science was funded by one man. His goal? To ensure the intellectual continuity of a dubious field.

Collage illustration showing portrait of Richard Allen, a mosquito, and image of yellow fever virus
Health & Medicine

Calamity in Philadelphia

When yellow fever struck the city in 1793, faulty race logic almost destroyed it.

Collage illustration showing clip of Systema Naturae by Carl Linnaeus, botanical illustration, crop of a cave.
Arts & Culture

Origin Stories

The surprising scientific and religious origins of the myth of race.