Distillations podcast

Deep Dives into Science Stories, Both Serious and Eccentric

The Mothers of Gynecology

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


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.

Photograph of Mark Stevenson in blue suit and red tie.
Health & Medicine

Interview with Mark Stevenson

The Thermo Fisher Scientific executive tells us what it took for his instrumentation company to design a diagnostic test for the novel coronavirus.

Photograph of John Maragnore in plaid jacket, clasping hands together and looking to the side.
Inventions & Discoveries

Interview with John Maraganore

“When you’ve got a public health crisis like this, you’ve got no choice but to deploy all of your resources toward finding a solution.”

Photograph of Katrine Bosley.
Health & Medicine

Interview with Katrine Bosley

The longtime biotech executive talks to us about how CRISPR can be used to make a faster diagnostic test for COVID-19 and how she’s advising a hospital in creating a vaccine. 

Photograph of William Haseltine.
Health & Medicine

Interview with William Haseltine

The scientist, entrepreneur, and author has lived through three epidemics. He tells us how this pandemic compares with his earlier experiences: “It is a tragedy that never needed to happen.”

Photograph of Susan Weiss.
Health & Medicine

Interview with Susan Weiss

The University of Pennsylvania microbiology professor talks about her 40 years of experience researching coronaviruses.

Photograph of Sue Desmond-Hellman speaking on stage.
Health & Medicine

Interview with Sue Desmond-Hellmann

The former CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recalls the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the Ebola pandemic: “Early pandemic science is filled with uncertainty.”

John C. Martin holds up a bottle of pills.
Health & Medicine

Interview with John C. Martin

The former CEO of Gilead Sciences tells us about remdesivir, an older drug showing promise in the fight against COVID-19.

Black and white photograph of a trolley with a sign on front that says "spit spreads death".
Health & Medicine

Spit Spreads Death

Mütter Museum historical curator Jane E. Boyd discusses the parallels between the 1918–1919 flu pandemic and the coronavirus.

Lithograph of a view of the Fairmount Water Works with the Schuylkill River in the distance, 1838.

How Philadelphia’s Water Pollution Problems Shaped the City

The way the city tackled its water pollution problems has made it an unexpected pioneer.  

Black and white photograph of adults and children waiting to get inside a building. A sign reads "Danbury German measles vaccination clinic".
Health & Medicine

Roe v. Wade v. Rubella

The virus that made America talk about abortion.

Health & Medicine

The Alzheimer’s Copernicus Problem

Thirty years of research have failed to solve the Alzheimer’s riddle. Is the problem a blind embrace of scientific dogma?

"Mr. Wizard" does an experiment with two children watching.
Arts & Culture

Science on TV: An Interview with Ingrid Ockert

Historian of science and media Ingrid Ockert discusses the exact moment Carl Sagan began wearing turtlenecks, how NOVA changed television, and the key to any successful show: respect the audience.

Color illustration of a rare earths mine, with people looking distressed.

Rare Earths: The Hidden Cost to Their Magic

Rare earth elements are essential to modern life. Luckily the world has plenty of them; unfortunately, getting them out of the ground leaves behind massive environmental damage.

Black and white photograph of a boat on fire in a river and a small hose attempting to extinguish it.

The Myth of the Cuyahoga River Fire

The blaze that sparked the modern environmental movement . . . or did it?

Collage illustration of a cow, a fence, and a map.

High Steaks at the Border

When the United States and Mexico resolved their beef.

Collage illustration showing desalination technology and face of John F. Kennedy Jr.

Making the Deserts Bloom

Harnessing nature to deliver us from drought.

Science history photo collage
People & Politics

Love, Hate, and Sex from the History of Science

This is not just another sappy love story from science’s past.

Photo illustration of woman with migraine
Health & Medicine

Sex(ism), Drugs, and Migraines

We know migraines have afflicted people for at least three thousand years. Still, the condition continues to mystify us today.