Distillations magazine

Unexpected Stories from Science’s Past

Health & Medicine

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

Health & Medicine

Counting Calories

Thin became “in” during the 1920s, and the calorie became a vital tool in the battle to lose weight. Yet before becoming a fashion necessity, the calorie had a decidedly less glamorous role.

Health & Medicine

Painless Dreams

In the 19th century, chemical oblivion replaced liquor, opiates, and bleeding as the numbing agent of choice for surgeons.

Health & Medicine

Taking Control

Insulin was first used to treat diabetes in the 1920s. Since then doctors have used a multitude of tests to screen for the disease.

Health & Medicine

The Devil in a Little Green Bottle: A History of Absinthe

Absinthe, an alcoholic drink introduced to France in the 1840s, developed a decadent though violent reputation.

Old medicine container tube
Health & Medicine

Soldier Sulfa

Prontosil Rubrum was the first drug to cure bacterial infections and the first of many sulfa drugs.

Figurine of a man in rain gear carrying large fish on his back
Health & Medicine

The Man with a Fish on His Back

In the late 19th century cod-liver oil was proclaimed the cure for many ailments. One problem: the oil’s foul taste.

Health & Medicine

Bad Air

Malaria and the benefits and pitfalls of government-funded biomedical research.

Health & Medicine

Salt’s Fat Chance

Are salt alternatives scarier than the substance they are replacing? A brief history of a “terrifying” food.

Lafarge arsenic trial
Health & Medicine

Prefiguring the Arsenic Wars

An 1828 murder trial provides insight into the moral ambiguity of forensic science and scientific testimony.

Amphetamine tablets
Health & Medicine

Amphetamine’s Missing History

David Healy reviews Nicholas Rasmussen’s On Speed: The Many Lives of Amphetamine.

Worn metal medicine tin
Health & Medicine

Aspirin: Turn-of-the-Century Miracle Drug

Aspirin has had a long history as a pain reliever—2,000 years of history. But only in the 1970s did scientists begin to uncover its chemical secrets.

SmithKline & French Pharmaceuticals
Health & Medicine

Understanding Pharmaceutical Relations and the Limits of Regulatory Reform

Interactions between the pharmaceutical industry, the biomedical sciences, and legislators is a longstanding hot topic in Washington.

Health & Medicine

The Lingering Heat over Pasteurized Milk

The history of pasteurization and the controversy surrounding it demonstrate the complexity of milk as a chemical substance.

Health & Medicine

Not-So-Great Moments in Chemical Safety

Fatal results of the lax safety standards of yesterday provide powerful lessons in the importance of safety in today’s labs.

Health & Medicine

Medicalizing Menopause

The rise and fall of hormone replacement therapy.

Health & Medicine

Powerful Effervescence

In the 18th century Joseph Priestley and others developed artificially carbonated mineral water, uniting the therapeutic powers of an ancient natural restorative with the emerging science of modern chemistry.

Health & Medicine

Gertrude Elion, Biochemist

With the curiosity of a scientist and the personal motivation of having lost family members to cancer and bacterial infection, Elion fulfilled a vital role in the fight against disease.

Health & Medicine

Getting the Lead Out

Our long history with a potent poison.