Distillations magazine

Unexpected Stories from Science’s Past

Health & Medicine

Bodies, minds, and the things that help and harm them

black and white photo of a seated man in a lab coat
Health & Medicine

Joe Hin Tjio Counts Chromosomes

A basic scientific error hid in plain sight for decades until an Indonesian geneticist spent Christmas break on a lab bender.

Drug packaging with label
Health & Medicine

Dreams and Nightmares

Oxycodone’s early years.

Engraving of young Victorian woman crouch at feet of seated older woman
Health & Medicine

How Notorious Abortionist Madame Restell Built a Drug Empire

Desperate women, mistreated by the 19th century’s medical establishment, risked black-market remedies and the wrath of Anthony Comstock’s moralizing thugs.

Ink and watercolor illustration of a modern surgical procedure
Health & Medicine

Prison Plastic Surgery

Can a new look unlock a new life?

Back of a 7 of spades card featuring witches riding broomsticks with golden birds
Health & Medicine

The Big Business of Wish Fulfillment

Essential oils have long straddled the lines between magic, medicine, and scam.

Health & Medicine

The Rotten Science Behind the MSG Scare

How one doctor’s letter and a string of dodgy studies spurred a public health panic.

Health & Medicine

The Murky Ethics of Wastewater Surveillance

By monitoring sewage, scientists can track disease outbreaks in near real time. But will the technology leave long-term privacy risks in its wake?

Health & Medicine

Fighting through the Fear

Lessons from the Polio Pioneers in an era of misinformation.

Large, damaged ancient Egyptian statue
Health & Medicine

Diagnosing the Dead

Can scrutinizing the ailments of historical figures really teach us anything?

Health & Medicine

Does Louis Pasteur Still Matter?

Or will the scientist’s 200th birthday be his last hurrah?

illustration of a person with cholera
Health & Medicine

John Snow Hunts the Blue Death

In showing that cholera spreads through tainted water, an English doctor helped lay epidemiology’s foundations.

Health & Medicine

Bacteriophages and the Fight Against Cholera in Cold War Afghanistan

Could a Soviet-era therapy offer a new defense against antibiotic-resistant superbugs?

Health & Medicine

Searching for Isabel Morgan

Reconsidering the fate of an overlooked polio fighter.

Cartoon of men in powdered wigs fighting
Health & Medicine

Vicious Doctors and Cruel Diseases in 18th-Century Jamaica

A scientific dispute takes a violent, absurd turn.

Health & Medicine

Wayne Woolley’s Marvelously Equipped Mind

What drove a blind biochemist to experiment with LSD?

Health & Medicine

COVID-19 Health Passports: What’s Old Is New Again

To speed reopening, government and business leaders are pushing a modern version of a centuries-old idea.

Health & Medicine

Quacks, Plagues, and Pandemics

What charlatans of the past can teach us about the COVID-19 crisis.

Health & Medicine

Joseph Goldberger’s Filth Parties

A crusading doctor’s stomach-churning efforts to beat back pellagra in the American South.