346 episodes

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 the surprising science that is all around us. 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.

Distillations | Science History Institute Science History Institute

    • History
    • 4.5 • 83 Ratings

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 the surprising science that is all around us. 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.

    Cancer Virus Hunters: An Interview with Gregory J. Morgan

    Cancer Virus Hunters: An Interview with Gregory J. Morgan

    For more than 100 years, biologists who suggested that some cancers may be caused by viruses were the pariahs of genetics. However, they persevered and incrementally built their knowledge, leading to the discovery of retroviruses, the development of a test to diagnose HIV, and the creation of the HPV vaccine. Join us as we interview Gregory J. Morgan about his book Cancer Virus Hunters: A History of Tumor Virology.
    Credits Host: Alexis Pedrick
    Senior Producer: Mariel Carr
    Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez
    Associate Producer: Sarah Kaplan
    Audio Engineer: Jonathan Pfeffer
    “Color Theme” composed by Jonathan Pfeffer. Additional music by Blue Dot Sessions
    Note to Our Listeners We are aware of an issue with certain podcast players displaying the incorrect length for the episode. We're looking into it and hope to have the matter resolved soon. In the meantime, the actual run time of the episode is the length displayed in the feed before pressing play. We apologize for the inconvenience. 

    • 35 min
    The Ames Test

    The Ames Test

    In 1973 biochemist Bruce Ames created a simple test that showed if chemicals had the potential to cause cancer. The Ames test made him a hero of the emerging environmental movement. But then he completely changed course and said concerns about chemicals were overblown. So what happened? Did Ames change? Or did our understanding of what causes cancer change?
    Featured Oral History Bruce N. Ames, "Bruce N. Ames: The Marriage of Biochemistry and Genetics at Caltech, the NIH, UC Berkeley, and CHORI, 1954–2018" conducted by Paul Burnett in 2019 and 2020, Oral History Center, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2021.
    Credits Host: Alexis Pedrick
    Senior Producer: Mariel Carr
    Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez
    Associate Producer: Sarah Kaplan
    Audio Engineer: Jonathan Pfeffer
    “Color Theme” composed by Jonathan Pfeffer. Additional music by Blue Dot Sessions
    Note to Our Listeners We are aware of an issue with certain podcast players displaying the incorrect length for the episode. We're looking into it and hope to have the matter resolved soon. In the meantime, the actual run time of the episode is the length displayed in the feed before pressing play. We apologize for the inconvenience. 

    • 43 min
    Is Ozempic Different?

    Is Ozempic Different?

    Ozempic and others in this family of drugs are nothing short of miraculous. Meant to treat Type 2 Diabetes, the drug exploded in popularity after researchers found that patients were reporting losing 15-21% of their body weight in clinical trials. There were some side effects, but none so severe that it raised concerns. Doctors began prescribing it to people who weren't diabetic but could benefit from weight loss, and now, our only problem seems to be getting enough of it for all the people who need it. It all seems magical, but is it too good to be true? Join us as we dive into the history of weight loss drugs, drug manufacturing regulations, and the role we think medicine should play in our lives.
    Credits Host: Alexis Pedrick
    Senior Producer: Mariel Carr
    Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez
    Associate Producer: Sarah Kaplan
    Audio Engineer: Jonathan Pfeffer
    “Color Theme” composed by Jonathan Pfeffer. Additional music by Blue Dot Sessions
    Note to Our Listeners We are aware of an issue with certain podcast players displaying the incorrect length for the episode. We're looking into it and hope to have the matter resolved soon. In the meantime, the actual run time of the episode is the length displayed in the feed before pressing play. We apologize for the inconvenience. 

    • 43 min
    Traffication: An Interview with Paul Donald

    Traffication: An Interview with Paul Donald

    The impact of cars on wildlife extends beyond roadkill, affecting species that never venture near roads. Car noise disrupts bird communication and behavior, and tire and brake dust from pollutes waterways with microplastics. In this wide-ranging interview, we talk to the author of Traffication: How Cars Destroy Nature and What We Can Do About It, Paul Donald about how he coined the term "traffication," the history of road ecology, and what we can do about the problem.
    Credits Host: Alexis Pedrick
    Senior Producer: Mariel Carr
    Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez
    Associate Producer: Sarah Kaplan
    Audio Engineer: Jonathan Pfeffer
    “Color Theme” composed by Jonathan Pfeffer. Additional music by Blue Dot Sessions
    Note to Our Listeners We are aware of an issue with certain podcast players displaying the incorrect length for the episode. We're looking into it and hope to have the matter resolved soon. In the meantime, the actual run time of the episode is the length displayed in the feed before pressing play. We apologize for the inconvenience. 

    • 45 min
    Dyes, Drugs, and Psychosis

    Dyes, Drugs, and Psychosis

    In 1856, Henry Perkin's attempt to synthesize quinine led to something very different: a vibrant purple dye. Perkin’s mauve revolutionized the fashion industry when Queen Victoria wore a dress of the color to her daughter's wedding. And in an ironic twist, synthetic fabric dyes ultimately led to synthetic drugs, including the first antipsychotic. This drug, known by its trade name Thorazine, was a gamechanger. “Nobody thought there could be a drug that would treat schizophrenia effectively,” says sociologist Andrew Scull, “and then suddenly there was.” In this episode we explore the enduring relationship between dyes and drugs, and the role that mistakes and serendipity still play in drug development.
    Credits
    Host: Alexis Pedrick
    Executive Producer: Mariel Carr
    Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez
    Associate Producer: Sarah Kaplan
    Audio Engineer: Jonathan Pfeffer
    “Color Theme” composed by Jonathan Pfeffer. Additional music by Blue Dot Sessions.
    Note to Our Listeners We are aware of an issue with certain podcast players displaying the incorrect length for the episode. We're looking into it and hope to have the matter resolved soon. In the meantime, the actual run time of the episode is the length displayed in the feed before pressing play. We apologize for the inconvenience. 

    • 35 min
    Pink: An Interview with Dominique Grisard

    Pink: An Interview with Dominique Grisard

    The color pink has long been in vogue, and when Barbie hit theaters in 2023, its appeal only increased. But its popularity dates back much further than the Mattel doll. In this bonus episode, Dr. Dominique Grisard, a gender studies professor at the University of Basel, discusses the hue and its ties to femininity, class, and Whiteness, as well as how pink has been used to subdue men in detention centers.
    This episode was inspired by our museum exhibition, BOLD: Color from Test Tube to Textile, on view through August 3, 2024.
    Credits Host: Alexis Pedrick
    Senior Producer: Mariel Carr
    Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez
    Associate Producer: Sarah Kaplan
    Audio Engineer: Jonathan Pfeffer
    “Color Theme” composed by Jonathan Pfeffer. Additional music by Blue Dot Sessions
    Note to Our Listeners We are aware of an issue with certain podcast players displaying the incorrect length for the episode. We're looking into it and hope to have the matter resolved soon. In the meantime, the actual run time of the episode is the length displayed in the feed before pressing play. We apologize for the inconvenience. 

    • 23 min

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5
83 Ratings

83 Ratings

philonous ,

An Indispensable Podcast for Contested Times

This podcast comes from an institute I love and have supported for over a decade. The Science History Institute, formerly the Chemical Heritage Foundation, is making superb use of its endowment and its resources to produce concise, relevant, informative, incisive, insightful and engrossing series on topics that are important to our understanding and vital to our public discourse. If “mainstream media” makes you angry, then this is your remedy. Set aside time to take in these fantastic history lessons. An hour of Distillations is worth 10 lifetimes of “social media”.

Avid Listener and Learner ,

Great season

I’ve really enjoyed the latest season, especially how they tackle larger topics but also bring it back in to a Philly perspective. Even if you don’t live in Philly, though, these stories and histories are worth a listen.

public historian ,

Weird stories and cool facts

Love the range of topics they cover. Always strange things to learn about with compelling characters.

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