Monthly Archives: January 2009

The 87th Anniversary of Insulin

January 12, 2009
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The 87th Anniversary of Insulin

On January 11, 1922, a diabetic patient at Toronto General Hospital was given the first injection of insulin. Though the first dose caused an allergic reaction, the insulin was purified and, twelve days later, Leonard Thomspon received a second injection and his symptoms began to disappear. The treatment of diabetes with insulin transformed the disease from a death sentence to a manageable condition, and today the nearly 24 million people with diabetes in the United States rely on insulin injections to treat their disease. Michael Bliss chronicles all this and more in The Discovery of Insulin: Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition. In this now-classic study, Bliss unearths a wealth of material, ranging from scientists’ unpublished memoirs to the confidential appraisals of insulin by members of the Nobel Committee. He also resolves a longstanding controversy dating to the awarding of the Nobel to F. G. Banting and J. J. R. Macleod for their work on insulin: because each insisted on sharing the credit with an additional associate, medical opinion was intensely divided over the allotment of credit for the discovery. Bliss also offers a wealth of new detail on such subjects as the treatment of diabetes before insulin and the life-and-death struggle to . . .

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Through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise—and now cyberspace

January 9, 2009
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Through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise—and now cyberspace

With Danteworlds: A Reader’s Guide to the Inferno, Guy P. Raffa decoded Dante’s epic poem for a new generation of readers. And with the forthcoming The Complete Danteworlds: A Reader’s Guide to the Divine Comedy Raffa has expanded his project to encompass the entire text, through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise—and into cyberspace. As the New Yorker‘s Vicky Raab notes in a recent article, Raffa’s online version of Danteworlds offers “an integrated multimedia journey” through Dante’s Divine Comedy, perfectly marrying medium with message to launch the reader “right into the allegorical action, heightening rather than dulling appreciation and comprehension.” Raab continues: Canto by canto, as Virgil and then Beatrice lead the benighted Dante through “circles of Hell, terraces of Purgatory, spheres of Paradise,” so the clear-eyed Guy P. Raffa, a classics professor at the University of Texas at Austin who conceived and developed the site, leads students in Dante’s steps, urging them to click on regions within each realm. I go straight to Circle Nine, of course, the lowest depths of the Inferno, peopled by the grisliest creatures: the giants Nimrod, Ephialtes, and Antaeus, the cannibalistic Ugolino, who eats the back of Ruggiero’s head, “so that one head to the other . . .

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Cass Sunstein is the regulatory czar

January 9, 2009
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Cass Sunstein is the regulatory czar

It was widely reported yesterday, including this story in the Chicago Tribune, that the Obama administration will appoint Cass R. Sunstein, faculty member of the U of C Law School from 1981 to 2008, and currently the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard, to head up its Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs—a key position responsible for overhauling a broad range of federal regulations, including those of financial markets. The Tribune quotes one of Obama’s transition officials: “This office is in charge of coordinating and overseeing government regulations… and a smarter approach to regulation is key to making government work better and getting better results in terms of protecting health, the environment, etc.” In addition to his academic credentials, Sunstein has also authored and contributed to a large corpus of books and articles “devoted to exploring the relationship between law and human behavior,” several of which have been published by the press—most recently he co-authored Punitive Damages: How Juries Decide. See a complete list of UCP’s Sunstein titles. . . .

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An Elusive Victorian’s Birthday

January 8, 2009
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An Elusive Victorian’s Birthday

Today marks the 186th anniversary of the birth of British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace. Best known for independently proposing the theory of evolution by natural selection, Wallace today remains less well-known than his more celebrated counterpart, Charles Darwin. Nevertheless, Wallace’s contributions continue to loom large over modern natural science, and his legacy is celebrated in many books published by the University of Chicago Press. For a reader looking to celebrate Wallace’s birthday by learning more about this unjustly over-shadowed scientist, the best place to start would be our own An Elusive Victorian: The Evolution of Alfred Russel Wallace by Martin Fichman. The first comprehensive analytical study of Wallace’s life and controversial intellectual career, An Elusive Victorian examines not only his scientific work as an evolutionary theorist and field naturalist but also his philosophical concerns, his involvement with theism, and his commitment to land nationalization and other sociopolitical reforms such as women’s rights. As Fichman shows, Wallace worked throughout his life to integrate these humanistic and scientific interests. His goal: the development of an evolutionary cosmology, a unified vision of humanity’s place in nature and society that he hoped would ensure the dignity of all individuals. To reveal the many aspects . . .

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The Chicagoan on Eight Forty-Eight

January 8, 2009
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The Chicagoan on Eight Forty-Eight

Author Neil Harris, joined Eight Forty-Eight host Richard Steele on this morning’s program to discuss how he stumbled upon several issues of the Chicagoan deep in the stacks at the University of Chicago’s Regenstein Library and his resurrection of the forgotten 1920’s publication in his new coffee table book, The Chicagoan: A Lost Magazine of the Jazz Age. Listen in on the conversation on the website for Chicago Public Radio’s Eight Forty-Eight. Also read an interview with the author, see a gallery of covers and illustrations from the magazine and sample pages in PDF (7mb) from the book. . . .

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Galileo, astronomer

January 7, 2009
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Galileo, astronomer

On this date in 1610, Galileo Galilei first observed the four moons of Jupiter, which are now known as the Galilean moons. To kick off the International Year of Astronomy—a global celebration of astronomy and its contributions to society and culture in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the first use of an astronomical telescope by Galileo—we highlight two titles on Galileo by Mario Biagioli, notable for their depiction of the great scientist as much more than a man focused on the stars. A fascinating cultural and social history of science highlighting the workings of power, patronage, and credibility in the development of science, Galileo, Courtier: The Practice of Science in the Culture of Absolutism argues that Galileo’s courtly role was integral to his science—the questions he chose to examine, his methods, even his conclusions. In the court of the Medicis and the Vatican, Galileo fashioned both his career and his science to the demands of patronage and its complex systems of wealth, power, and prestige. As Steven Shapin noted in the American Historical Review, “One achievement of this important book is that historians will no longer be able to sustain the traditional view of ‘science speaking truth to power.'” . . .

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Slogans that shape our lives

January 7, 2009
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Slogans that shape our lives

Jan R. Van Meter, author of Tippecanoe and Tyler Too: Famous Slogans and Catchphrases in American History, made an appearance earlier today on KCUR public radio’s Up to Date with Steve Kraske to discuss his new book and some of the fascinating stories it contains about the various slogans and catch phrases that have helped define American public life. Archived audio of the show will be available on the KCUR website after the show. And If you’re in Kansas City this evening you can catch more of Van Meter this evening at 6:30pm at the Kansas City Public Library, Central Location. Navigate to our author events page or to the Kansas City Public Library website for more info. Also, read a web feature on contemporary slogans that we’ll remember and listen to another audio interview with Van Meter for the Chicago Audio Works podcast. . . .

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Press Release: Denis Wood and John Fels, The Natures of Maps

January 7, 2009
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Press Release: Denis Wood and John Fels, The Natures of Maps

Any time we plan a trip, whether it’s as simple as a trek to the other side of town or as complicated as a cross-country drive, our journeys are influenced, guided, and even inspired by maps. Road maps get us to our destinations, while maps of attractions like national parks and wilderness areas entice us to include such wonders in our vacation plans. But do those maps do more than just show off the natural beauties they describe? Could there be hidden agendas at work in even a map as seemingly benign as a National Park Service map of the Grand Canyon? According to Denis Wood and John Fels, the answer is a resounding yes. Cartographers have agreed for decades that territorial or political maps are far from objective representations of reality; rather, maps can’t help but reflect the agendas and intentions of their creators. Until now, however, maps of nature—from depictions of bird migration routes to state park campground maps—have been left out of this analysis. Both researchers and map users—including many who should know better—have wrongly presumed that such maps are strictly scientific, free from the subtexts or biases that mar other maps. With The Natures of Maps, . . .

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Running to replace Rahm Emmanuel: Tom Geoghegan

January 6, 2009
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Running to replace Rahm Emmanuel: Tom Geoghegan

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The Audacity of Literary Studies

January 5, 2009
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The Audacity of Literary Studies

The Modern Language Association held its annual meeting in San Francisco December 28 through 30, and its theme, “The Way We Teach Now,” was selected by MLA president Gerald Graff, whose classic Professing Literature the Press re-published in 2007 as a 20th anniversary edition. Teaching, as both a concept and an occupation, was a central concern of the convention; for those seeking faculty positions in the humanities, job prospects were bleak: according to the Los Angeles Times, search committees often received upwards of two hundred applications for each vacant position, and many positions were canceled due to funding cuts. But outside the interview rooms, talk of teaching was more intellectual. Among the several conference sessions devoted to the subject, one of the liveliest featured a talk by Marjorie Perloff, “Why Teach Literature Anyway?” Perloff answers the question not, as her fans might expect, by reference to poetic language (the subject of her Wittgenstein’s Ladder) or the Futurists (see her The Futurist Moment), but with a compelling close reading of Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father. Professor Perloff kindly granted us permission to reprint her comments here; we hope her take on teaching is instructive, pardon the pun. THE CENTRALITY OF . . .

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