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.

A vintage ad for deodorant called Mum Cream. It features a woman crying and hiding her face while a man looks over at her, frowning. The ad copy focuses on how the deodorant stops perspiration.
Arts & Culture

The Smell of Shame

How deodorant became omnipresent in America.

Photo of a shelf display of vintage soda bottles. Some bottles are clear, while others are tinted green or blue.
Health & Medicine

Fizzy Water

The unnatural history of a carbonated drink.

Sketch of a sports bra with parts labeled by number.
Inventions & Discoveries

Second Skin

The unexpected origin of the sports bra.

Anatomical drawing of a baby in the womb being removed with forceps.
Health & Medicine

(Natural) Childbirth

Once upon a time all births were natural. A lot has happened since then.

Old illustration of a woman making tortillas with tools and handwritten notes.
Arts & Culture

The Ancient Chemistry Inside Your Taco

Dive into the world of nixtamalization, a chemical process that allowed the Mesoamerican empires to thrive and tacos to taste good.

Engraving of a man at a table with another man standing next to him giving instruction. On the table is a small animal and a series of tools with letter labels.
Health & Medicine

Power in the Blood: When Religion and Medicine Meet in Your Veins

Blood is powerful, but it can also be dangerous.

Image depicting a woman dancing with farm animals and fruits with the lyrics "DDT is good for me!"

DDT: The Britney Spears of Chemicals

We loved it. We hated it. Now we kind of maybe like it again.

Detail of an engraving from a 17th-century text depicting a figure that is both male and female holding the letter Y.
Inventions & Discoveries

Sex and Gender: What We Know and Don’t Know

Society has long had strict ideas about sex and gender binaries, but even nature doesn’t always comply.

Painting of two men in an alchemical laboratory examining a flask.
Early Science & Alchemy

Science and the Supernatural in the 17th Century

Travel back in time with us and find out what the world was like when science and the supernatural weren’t so far apart.

Black and white photograph of men in suits sitting around table holding beers with two barrels in front. Writing on photo says "Nice to have been waited on."
Arts & Culture

Intoxication and Civilization: Beer’s Ancient Past

This episode takes on the frothy subject of beer, and explores the science, culture, and history behind the suds.

Photo of the Olympic rings with the sky in the background
Arts & Culture


On today’s show, we investigate Olympic mysteries, from the flame of the torch to the composition of those so-called gold medals.

Photo of Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw standing in front of the Biocon building.
Health & Medicine

Wonder Drugs

From antibiotics to chemotherapy, modern pharmaceuticals transformed the experience of illness in the 20th century.

Engraving of Michael Faraday
Arts & Culture

Communicating Chemistry

How do scientists explain what they do to the larger public, and how can historians help?