Marie Curie’s Research Papers Are Still Radioactive a Century Later

Image by The Well­come Trust

When research­ing a famous his­tor­i­cal fig­ure, access to their work and mate­ri­als usu­al­ly proves to be one of the biggest obsta­cles. But things are much more dif­fi­cult for those writ­ing about the life of Marie Curie, the sci­en­tist who, along her with hus­band Pierre, dis­cov­ered polo­ni­um and radi­um and birthed the idea of par­ti­cle physics. Her note­books, her cloth­ing, her fur­ni­ture (not to men­tion her lab), pret­ty much every­thing sur­viv­ing from her Parisian sub­ur­ban house, is radioac­tive, and will be for 1,500 years or more.

If you want to look at her man­u­scripts, you have to sign a lia­bil­i­ty waiv­er at France’s Bib­lio­theque Nationale, and then you can access the notes sealed in a lead-lined box. The Curies didn’t know about the dan­gers of radioac­tive mate­ri­als, though they did know about radioac­tiv­i­ty. Their research attempt­ed to find out which sub­stances were radioac­tive and why, and so many dan­ger­ous elements–thorium, ura­ni­um, plutonium–were just sit­ting there in their home lab­o­ra­to­ry, glow­ing at night, which Curie thought beau­ti­ful, “like faint, fairy lights,” she wrote in her auto­bi­og­ra­phy. Marie Curie car­ried these glow­ing objects around in her pock­ets. She and her hus­band wore stan­dard lab cloth­ing, noth­ing more.

Marie Curie died at age 66 in 1934, from aplas­tic ane­mia, attrib­uted to her radioac­tive research. The house, how­ev­er, con­tin­ued to be used up until 1978 by the Insti­tute of Nuclear Physics of the Paris Fac­ul­ty of Sci­ence and the Curie Foun­da­tion. After that it was kept under sur­veil­lance, author­i­ties final­ly now aware of the dan­gers inside. When many peo­ple in the neigh­bor­hood noticed high can­cer rates among them, as report­ed in Le Parisien, they blamed the Curie’s home.

The lab­o­ra­to­ry and the build­ing were decon­t­a­m­i­nat­ed in 1991, a year after the Curie estate began allow­ing access to Curie’s notes and mate­ri­als, which had been removed from the house. A flood of biogra­phies appeared soon after: Marie Curie: A Life by Susan Quinn in 1995, Pierre Curie by Anna Hur­wic in 1998, Curie: Le rêve sci­en­tifique by Loïc Bar­bo in 1999, Marie Curie et son lab­o­ra­toire by Soraya Boudia in 2001, Obses­sive Genius: The Inner World of Marie Curie by Bar­bara Gold­smith in 2005, and Radioac­tive: Marie and Pierre Curie, a Tale of Love and Fall­out by Lau­ren Red­niss in 2011.

Still, pass­ing away at 66 is not too shab­by when one has changed the world in the name of sci­ence. Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize (1903), the only woman to win it again (1911), the first woman to become a pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Paris, and the first woman to be entombed (on her own mer­its) at the Pan­théon in Paris. And she man­aged many of her break­throughs after the pass­ing of her hus­band Pierre in 1906–who slipped and fell in the rain on a busy Paris street and was run over by the wheels of a horse-drawn cart.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2015.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to the Life & Work of Marie Curie, the First Female Nobel Lau­re­ate

Marie Curie’s Ph.D. The­sis on Radioactivity–Which Made Her the First Woman in France to Receive a Doc­tor­al Degree in Physics

An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to the Life & Work of Marie Curie, the First Female Nobel Lau­re­ate

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

How to Be Happier in 5 Research-Proven Steps, According to Popular Yale Professor Laurie Santos

Nature doesn’t care if you’re hap­py, but Yale psy­chol­o­gy pro­fes­sor Lau­rie San­tos does.

As Dr. San­tos points out dur­ing the above appear­ance on The Well, the goals of nat­ur­al selec­tion have been achieved as long as humans sur­vive and repro­duce, but most of us crave some­thing more to con­sid­er life worth liv­ing.

With depres­sion ris­ing to near epi­dem­ic lev­els on col­lege cam­pus­es and else­where, it’s worth tak­ing a look at our ingrained behav­ior, and maybe mak­ing some mod­i­fi­ca­tions to boost our hap­pi­ness lev­els.

Psy­chol­o­gy and the Good Life, Dr. San­tos’ mas­sive twice week­ly lec­ture class that active­ly tack­les ways of edg­ing clos­er to hap­pi­ness, is the most pop­u­lar course in Yale’s more than 300-year his­to­ry.

Do we detect some resis­tance?

Pos­i­tive psy­chol­o­gy — or the sci­ence of hap­pi­ness — is a pret­ty crowd­ed field late­ly, and the over­whelm­ing demand cre­at­ed by great throngs of peo­ple long­ing to feel bet­ter has attract­ed a fair num­ber of grifters will­ing to impart their proven method­olo­gies to any­one enrolling in their paid online cours­es.

By con­trast, Dr. San­tos not only has that Yale pedi­gree, she also cites oth­er respect­ed aca­d­e­mics such as the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chicago’s Nicholas Epley, a social cog­ni­tion spe­cial­ist who believes under­so­cial­i­ty, or a lack of face-to-face engage­ment, is mak­ing peo­ple mis­er­able, and Harvard’s Dan Gilbert and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Virginia’s Tim­o­thy Wil­son, who co-authored a paper on “mis­want­i­ng”, or the ten­den­cy to inac­cu­rate­ly pre­dict what will tru­ly result in sat­is­fac­tion and hap­pi­ness.

Yale under­grad Mick­ey Rose, who took Psy­chol­o­gy and the Good Life in the spring of 2022 to ful­fill a social sci­ence cred­it, told the Yale Dai­ly News that her favorite part of the class was that “every­thing was cit­ed, every­thing had a cred­i­ble source and study to back it up:”

I’m a STEM major and it’s kind of my over­all per­son­al­i­ty type to ques­tion claims that I find not very believ­able. Obvi­ous­ly the class made a lot of claims about mon­ey, grades, hap­pi­ness, that are coun­ter­in­tu­itive to most peo­ple and to Yale stu­dents espe­cial­ly.

With Psy­chol­o­gy and the Good Life now avail­able to the pub­lic for free on Cours­era, even skep­tics might con­sid­er giv­ing Dr. San­tos’ rec­om­mend­ed “re-wire­ment prac­tices” a peek, though be fore­warned, you should be pre­pared to put them into prac­tice before mak­ing pro­nounce­ments as to their effi­ca­cy.

It’s all pret­ty straight­for­ward stuff, start­ing with “use your phone to actu­al­ly be a phone”, mean­ing call a friend or fam­i­ly mem­ber to set up an in per­son get togeth­er rather than scrolling through end­less social media feeds.

Oth­er com­mon sense adjust­ments include look­ing beyond your­self to help by vol­un­teer­ing, resolv­ing to adopt a glass-is-half-full type atti­tude, cul­ti­vat­ing mind­ful­ness, mak­ing dai­ly entries in a grat­i­tude jour­nal, and becom­ing less seden­tary.

(You might also give Dr. San­tos’ Hap­pi­ness Lab pod­cast a go…)

Things to guard against are mea­sur­ing your own hap­pi­ness against the per­ceived hap­pi­ness of oth­ers and “impact bias” — over­es­ti­mat­ing the dura­tion and inten­si­ty of hap­pi­ness that is the expect­ed result of some hot­ly antic­i­pat­ed event, acqui­si­tion or change in social stand­ing.

Below Dr. San­tos gives a tour of the Good Life Cen­ter, an on-cam­pus space that stressed out, social­ly anx­ious stu­dents can vis­it to get help putting some of those re-wire­ment prac­tices into play.

Sign up for Coursera’s 10-week Sci­ence of Well-Being course here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Sci­ence of Well-Being: Take a Free Online Ver­sion of Yale University’s Most Pop­u­lar Course

Free Online Psy­chol­o­gy & Neu­ro­science Cours­es, a sub­set of our col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties

What Are the Keys to Hap­pi­ness? Lessons from a 75-Year-Long Har­vard Study

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Death-Cap Mushrooms are Terrifying and Unstoppable: A Wild Animation

Mush­rooms are just­ly cel­e­brat­ed as vir­tu­ous mul­ti­taskers.

They’re food, teach­ers, movie stars, design inspi­ra­tion

…and some, as any­one who’s spent time play­ing or watch­ing The Last of Us can read­i­ly attest, are killers.

Hope­ful­ly we’ve got some time before civ­i­liza­tion is con­quered by zom­bie cordy­ceps.

For now, the ones to watch out for are amani­ta phal­loide, aka death cap mush­rooms.

The pow­er­ful ama­tox­in they har­bor is behind 90 per­cent of mush­room-relat­ed fatal­i­ties world­wide. It caus­es severe liv­er dam­age, lead­ing to bleed­ing dis­or­ders, brain swelling, and mul­ti-organ fail­ure in those who sur­vive. 

A death cap took the life of a three-year-old in British Colum­bia who mis­took one for a tasty straw mush­room on a for­ag­ing expe­di­tion with his fam­i­ly near their apart­ment com­plex. 

In Mel­bourne, a pot pie that test­ed pos­i­tive for death caps result­ed in the deaths of three adults, and sent a fourth to the hos­pi­tal in crit­i­cal con­di­tion.

As the ani­ma­tors feast on mush­rooms’ lim­it­less visu­al appeal in the above episode of The Atlantic’s Life Up Close series, author Craig Childs deliv­ers some sober­ing news:

We did it to our­selves. Humans are the ones who’ve enabled death caps to spread so far beyond their native habi­tats in Scan­di­navia and parts of north­ern Europe, where the poi­so­nous fun­gi feed on the root tips of decid­u­ous trees, spring­ing up around their hosts in tidy fairy rings.

When oth­er coun­tries import these trees to beau­ti­fy their city streets, the death caps, whose frag­ile spores are inca­pable of trav­el­ing long dis­tances when left to their own devices, tag along.

They have sprout­ed in the Pacif­ic North­west near import­ed sweet chest­nuts, beech­es, horn­beams, lin­dens, red oaks, and Eng­lish oaks, and oth­er host species.

As bio­chemist Paul Kroeger, cofounder of the Van­cou­ver Myco­log­i­cal Soci­ety, explained in a 2019 arti­cle Childs penned for the Atlantic, the inva­sive death caps aren’t pop­ping up in deeply wood­ed areas. 

Rather, they are set­tling into urban neigh­bor­hoods, fre­quent­ly in the grass strips bor­der­ing side­walks. When Childs accom­pa­nied Krueger on his rounds, the first of two dozen death caps dis­cov­ered that day were found in front of a house fes­tooned with Hal­loween dec­o­ra­tions. 

Now that they have estab­lished them­selves, the death caps can­not be roust­ed. No longer mere tourists, they’ve been seen mak­ing the jump to native oaks in Cal­i­for­nia and West­ern Cana­da.

Childs also notes that death caps are no longer a North Amer­i­can prob­lem:

They have spread world­wide where for­eign trees have been intro­duced into land­scap­ing and forestry prac­tices: North and South Amer­i­ca, New Zealand, Aus­tralia, South and East Africa, and Mada­gas­car. In Can­ber­ra, Aus­tralia, in 2012, an expe­ri­enced Chi­nese-born chef and his assis­tant pre­pared a New Year’s Eve din­ner that includ­ed, unbe­knownst to them, local­ly gath­ered death caps. Both died with­in two days, wait­ing for liv­er trans­plants; a guest at the din­ner also fell ill, but sur­vived after a suc­cess­ful trans­plant.

For­agers should pro­ceed with extreme cau­tion.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Beau­ti­ful­ly Illus­trat­ed Atlas of Mush­rooms: Edi­ble, Sus­pect and Poi­so­nous (1827)

A Stun­ning, Hand-Illus­trat­ed Book of Mush­rooms Drawn by an Over­looked 19th Cen­tu­ry Female Sci­en­tist

Alger­ian Cave Paint­ings Sug­gest Humans Did Mag­ic Mush­rooms 9,000 Years Ago

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Albert Einstein Appears in Remarkably Colorized Video & Contemplates the Fate of Humanity After the Atomic Bomb (1946)

We lived in one world before August 6, 1945, and have lived in anoth­er ever since. Nobody under­stood this more clear­ly than Albert Ein­stein, who had advo­cat­ed for the research that cul­mi­nat­ed in that day. “A let­ter from Dr. Ein­stein in 1939 informed Pres­i­dent Roo­sevelt that the Ger­mans were engaged in the devel­op­ment of an atom­ic bomb and urged that sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy in the Unit­ed States be mobi­lized on a sim­i­lar effort,” says a 1946 New York Times arti­cle. “This [1939] let­ter gave the first impe­tus to the devel­op­ment of the Atom­ic Bomb.” This sto­ry was includ­ed by way of con­text of a new call to action by Ein­stein and oth­er promi­nent sci­en­tists, one meant to secure human­i­ty’s future in a world with the bomb.

“Our world faces a cri­sis as yet unper­ceived by those pos­sess­ing pow­er to make great deci­sions for good or evil,” declares a telegram sent by Ein­stein to what the Times calls “sev­er­al hun­dred promi­nent Amer­i­cans.” “The unleashed pow­er of the atom has changed every­thing save our modes of think­ing and we thus drift toward unpar­al­leled cat­a­stro­phe. We sci­en­tists who released this immense pow­er have an over­whelm­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty in this world life-and-death strug­gle to har­ness the atom for the ben­e­fit of mankind and not for humanity’s destruc­tion.”

Hence the for­ma­tion of the Emer­gency Com­mit­tee of Atom­ic Sci­en­tists, chaired by Ein­stein and includ­ing as mem­bers such fig­ures as Hans A. Bethe, who’d direct­ed the The­o­ret­i­cal Divi­sion at Los Alam­os, and Leo Szi­lard, Ein­stein’s col­lab­o­ra­tor on the 1939 let­ter to Roo­sevelt.

Szi­lard also appears along Ein­stein in the col­orized short film clip above, in which they lis­ten to a ver­sion of their telegram read aloud “We beg you to sup­port our efforts to bring real­iza­tion to Amer­i­ca that mankind’s des­tiny is being decid­ed today, now, this moment,” reads the announc­er. The telegram itself spec­i­fies that “we need two hun­dred thou­sand dol­lars at once for a nation-wide cam­paign to let the peo­ple know that a new type of think­ing is essen­tial if mankind is to sur­vive and move toward high­er lev­els.” In oth­er words, one mind­set had enabled the cre­ation of nuclear weapons, and quite anoth­er was need­ed to pre­vent them from ever being used again. In 1954, the year before his death, Ein­stein wrote that “I made one great mis­take in my life — when I signed the let­ter to Pres­i­dent Roo­sevelt rec­om­mend­ing that atom bombs be made.” It’s one kind of ambi­tion to change the mind of a politi­cian, and quite anoth­er to change the mind of human­i­ty.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Albert Ein­stein in Four Col­or Films

Hear Albert Ein­stein Read “The Com­mon Lan­guage of Sci­ence” (1941)

Albert Ein­stein Explains Why We Need to Read the Clas­sics

Hear the Voice of Albert Ein­stein: Vin­tage Album Fea­tures Him Talk­ing About E=MC2, World Peace & More

“The Most Intel­li­gent Pho­to Ever Tak­en”: The 1927 Solvay Coun­cil Con­fer­ence, Fea­tur­ing Ein­stein, Bohr, Curie, Heisen­berg, Schrödinger & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Why Einstein Was a “Peerless” Genius, and Hawking Was an “Ordinary” Genius: A Scientist Explains

Genius sells. Pub­lish­ers of biogra­phies and stu­dios behind Oscar-win­ning dra­mas can tell you that. So can net­work sci­en­tist Albert-Lás­zló Barabási, who has actu­al­ly con­duct­ed research into the nature of genius. “What real­ly deter­mines the ‘genius’ label?” he asks in the Big Think video above. When he and his col­lab­o­ra­tors “com­pared all genius­es to their sci­en­tif­ic peers, we real­ized that there are real­ly two very dif­fer­ent class­es: ordi­nary genius and peer­less genius.” Con­sid­er­ing the lat­ter, Barabási points to the per­haps unsur­pris­ing exam­ple of Albert Ein­stein.

“When we looked at the sci­en­tists work­ing at the same time, rough­ly in the same areas of physics that he did,” Barabási explains, “there was no one who would have a com­pa­ra­ble pro­duc­tiv­i­ty or sci­en­tif­ic impact to him. He was tru­ly alone.” Illus­trat­ing the class of “ordi­nary genius” is a fig­ure almost as well-known as Ein­stein: Stephen Hawk­ing. “To our sur­prise, we real­ized, there were about six oth­er sci­en­tists who worked in rough­ly the same area, and had com­pa­ra­ble, often big­ger impacts than Stephen Hawk­ing had” — and yet only he was pub­licly labeled a “genius.”

“The ‘genius’ label is a con­struct that soci­ety assigns to excep­tion­al accom­plish­ment, but excep­tion­al accom­plish­ment is not suf­fi­cient to get the genius label.” Through­out his­to­ry, “remark­able indi­vid­u­als were always born in the vicin­i­ty of big cul­tur­al cen­ters, and every­thing that is out­side of the cul­tur­al cen­ters was typ­i­cal­ly a desert of excep­tion­al accom­plish­ments.” Today, as ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist and essay­ist Paul Gra­ham once wrote, “a thou­sand Leonar­dos and a thou­sand Michelan­ge­los walk among us. If DNA ruled, we should be greet­ed dai­ly by artis­tic mar­vels. We aren’t, and the rea­son is that to make Leonar­do you need more than his innate abil­i­ty. You also need Flo­rence in 1450.”

What would it take to dis­cov­er the “hid­den genius­es” who may have been born into unpro­pi­tious cir­cum­stances? This is one con­cern behind Barabási’s inquiry into the nature of sci­en­tif­ic promi­nence. The ques­tion of “how does the qual­i­ty of the idea that I picked, and the ulti­mate suc­cess, and my abil­i­ty as a sci­en­tist con­nect to each oth­er” led him to devel­op the “Q fac­tor,” the mea­sure of “our abil­i­ty to turn ideas into dis­cov­er­ies.” His analy­sis of the data shows that, through­out a sci­en­tist’s career, the Q fac­tor remains more or less sta­ble. Apply­ing it to big data “could help us to dis­cov­er those that real­ly had the accom­plish­ment and deserve the genius label and put them in the right place.” If he’s cor­rect, we can expect a bumper crop of books and movies on a whole new wave of genius­es in the years to come.

Relat­ed con­tent:

What Char­ac­ter Traits Do Genius­es Share in Com­mon?: From Isaac New­ton to Richard Feyn­man

“The Most Intel­li­gent Pho­to Ever Tak­en”: The 1927 Solvay Coun­cil Con­fer­ence, Fea­tur­ing Ein­stein, Bohr, Curie, Heisen­berg, Schrödinger & More

This is What Richard Feynman’s PhD The­sis Looks Like: A Video Intro­duc­tion

Neil deGrasse Tyson on the Stag­ger­ing Genius of Isaac New­ton

Explore the Largest Online Archive Explor­ing the Genius of Leonard da Vin­ci

“The Matil­da Effect”: How Pio­neer­ing Women Sci­en­tists Have Been Denied Recog­ni­tion and Writ­ten Out of Sci­ence His­to­ry

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Explore the Largest Online Archive Exploring the Genius of Leonard da Vinci

We dare not spec­u­late as to what Leonar­do DaVin­ci would make of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence.

We are, how­ev­er, fair­ly con­fi­dent that he would love the Inter­net.

The Renais­sance-era genius applied his sophis­ti­cat­ed under­stand­ing of the human body and the nat­ur­al world to oth­er types of sys­tems, includ­ing plans for civ­il engi­neer­ing projects, mil­i­tary pro­jec­tiles, and fly­ing machines.

Google Arts & Culture’s new ini­tia­tive Inside a Genius Mind offers an inter­ac­tive expe­ri­ence of the codices in which Da Vin­ci made his sketch­es, dia­grams, and notes.

It’s also a cura­to­r­i­al col­lab­o­ra­tion between a human — Oxford art his­to­ry pro­fes­sor Mar­tin Kemp  — and arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence.

Pro­fes­sor Kemp, author of Liv­ing with Leonar­do: Fifty Years of San­i­ty and Insan­i­ty in the Art World and Beyond, brings a life­time of rig­or­ous study and pas­sion for the sub­ject.

His non-human coun­ter­part used machine learn­ing to delve into the note­books’ con­tents, inves­ti­gat­ing some 1040 pages from 6 vol­umes and “draw­ing the­mat­ic con­nec­tions across time and sub­ject mat­ter to reflect Leonardo’s spir­it of inter­dis­ci­pli­nary imag­i­na­tion, inno­va­tion and the pro­found uni­ty at the heart of his appar­ent­ly diverse pur­suits.”

Upon launch­ing the exper­i­ment, you bush­whack your way through the indi­vid­ual codices by click­ing on the sketch­es float­ing toward you like ele­ments in a clas­sic space-themed video game, or choose to enjoy one of five curat­ed sto­ries.

We went with Earth as Body, which gath­ers sev­en pages from the UK’s Roy­al Col­lec­tion Trust’s Codex Wind­sor, and one from the Codex Leices­ter, which inspired an ani­mat­ed mod­el that should sure­ly please its cur­rent own­er, Bill Gates.


Using a dis­creet and some­what fid­dly nav­i­ga­tion bar on the left side of the screen, we toured Leonardo’s ren­der­ings of the flayed mus­cles of the upper spine, the ves­sels and nerves of the neck and liv­er, the Arno val­ley with the route of a pro­posed canal that would run from Flo­rence to Pisa, a view of the Alps from Milan, the fall of light on a face, stud­ies of optics and men in action, and obser­va­tions of the moon and earth­shine.

How are these things relat­ed?

“Leonar­do believed that the human body rep­re­sent­ed the whole nat­ur­al world in minia­ture” and the selec­tions do offer food for thought that Leonardo’s pas­sion for the under­ly­ing laws of nature is the com­mon thread run­ning through his research and art.

Each image is accom­pa­nied a but­ton invit­ing you to “explore” the work fur­ther. Click it for infor­ma­tion about dimen­sions, prove­nance, and media, as well as some tan­ta­liz­ing bio­graph­i­cal tid­bits, such as this, adapt­ed from the cat­a­logue for the 2019 exhib­it Leonar­do da Vin­ci: A Life in Draw­ing:

Leonar­do had first stud­ied anato­my in the late 1480s. By the end of his life he claimed to have per­formed 30 human dis­sec­tions, intend­ing to pub­lish an illus­trat­ed trea­tise on the sub­ject, but this was nev­er com­plet­ed, and Leonardo’s work thus had no dis­cernible impact on the dis­ci­pline. His only doc­u­ment­ed dis­sec­tion was car­ried out in the win­ter of 1507–8, when he per­formed an autop­sy on an old man whose death he had wit­nessed in a hos­pi­tal in Flo­rence. The stud­ies on this page from Leonardo’s note­book are based on that dis­sec­tion: on the ver­so Leonar­do depicts the ves­sels of the liv­er; and in notes else­where in the note­book he gives the first known clin­i­cal descrip­tion of cir­rho­sis of the liv­er.

Per­haps you’d like to cir­cum­vent the machine learn­ing and use your own genius mind to make  con­nec­tions a la Da Vin­ci?

Try mess­ing around with the AI tags. See what you can cob­ble togeth­er to forge a cohe­sive alliance between such ele­ments as wing, horse, map, musi­cal instru­ments, and spi­ral.

Or cleanse your palate by putting a mash-up of two codex sketch­es on a dig­i­tal sticky with the help of Google AI, mind­ful that the mas­ter, who lived to the ripe old age of 67, was prob­a­bly a bit more inten­tion­al with his time…

Begin your explo­rations of Google Arts & Culture’s Inside a Genius Mind here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Inge­nious Inven­tions of Leonar­do da Vin­ci Recre­at­ed with 3D Ani­ma­tion

Leonar­do Da Vinci’s To Do List (Cir­ca 1490)

A Com­plete Dig­i­ti­za­tion of Leonar­do Da Vinci’s Codex Atlanti­cus, the Largest Exist­ing Col­lec­tion of His Draw­ings & Writ­ings

How Leonar­do da Vin­ci Made His Mag­nif­i­cent Draw­ings Using Only a Met­al Sty­lus, Pen & Ink, and Chalk

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

The Map of Medicine: A Comprehensive Animation Shows How the Fields of Modern Medicine Fit Together

The Hip­po­crat­ic Oath is pop­u­lar­ly imag­ined as begin­ning with, or at least involv­ing, the com­mand “First, do no harm.” In fact, noth­ing like it appears among the orig­i­nal Greek words attrib­uted to Hip­pocrates; the Latin phrase pri­mum non nocere seems to have been added in the sev­enth cen­tu­ry. But the prin­ci­ple makes a high­ly suit­able start­ing point for Dominic Wal­li­man’s video tour above of his new Com­pre­hen­sive Map of Med­i­cine. A physi­cist and sci­ence writer, Wal­li­man has pre­vi­ous­ly been fea­tured many times here on Open Cul­ture for his Youtube chan­nel Domain of Sci­ence and his maps of oth­er fields, from physics, chem­istry, and biol­o­gy to math­e­mat­ics, engi­neer­ing, and com­put­er sci­ence.

This new map marks a return after what, to Wal­li­man’s fans, felt like a long hia­tus indeed. The pro­longed absence speaks to the ambi­tion of the project, whose sub­ject demands the inte­gra­tion of a large num­ber of fields and sub-fields both the­o­ret­i­cal and prac­ti­cal.

For med­i­cine exist­ed long before sci­ence — sci­ence as we know it today, at least— and two and a half mil­len­nia after the time of Hip­pocrates, the con­nec­tions and inter­ac­tions between the realm of med­i­cine presided over by doc­tors and that presided over by sci­en­tists are com­plex and not eas­i­ly under­stood by the pub­lic. Hence the impor­tance of Wal­li­man’s clar­i­ty of visu­al expla­na­tion, as it has evolved through­out his sci­en­tif­ic map-mak­ing career, as well as his clar­i­ty of ver­bal expla­na­tion, on dis­play through all 50 min­utes of this video.

As Wal­li­man empha­sizes right at the out­set, he isn’t a med­ical doc­tor — but he is a “doc­tor” in the sense that he has a PhD, and intel­lec­tu­al­ly, he comes more than well-placed to under­stand how each part of med­i­cine relates to the oth­ers. This is espe­cial­ly true of a less­er-known area of study like med­ical physics, whose fruits include imag­ing tech­niques like X‑ray, MRI, CT, and ultra­sound, with which many of us have first-hand expe­ri­ence as patients. Few non-spe­cial­ists will ever be direct­ly involved in the prac­tice of, say, biol­o­gy or engi­neer­ing, but in the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry, it’s the rare human being indeed who nev­er encoun­ters the real­i­ty of med­i­cine. The next time you find your­self in treat­ment, it cer­tain­ly could­n’t do any harm to ori­ent your­self on its map.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Map of Biol­o­gy: Ani­ma­tion Shows How All the Dif­fer­ent Fields in Biol­o­gy Fit Togeth­er

Every­thing You Need To Know About Virus­es: A Quick Visu­al Expla­na­tion of Virus­es in 9 Images

The Map of Chem­istry: New Ani­ma­tion Sum­ma­rizes the Entire Field of Chem­istry in 12 Min­utes

Down­load 100,000+ Images From The His­to­ry of Med­i­cine, All Free Cour­tesy of The Well­come Library

Info­graph­ics Show How the Dif­fer­ent Fields of Biol­o­gy, Chem­istry, Math­e­mat­ics, Physics & Com­put­er Sci­ence Fit Togeth­er

The Archive of Heal­ing Is Now Online: UCLA’s Dig­i­tal Data­base Pro­vides Access to Thou­sands of Tra­di­tion­al & Alter­na­tive Heal­ing Meth­ods

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Cats Migrated to Europe 7,000 Years Earlier Than Once Thought

The ani­mals were imper­fect,


unfor­tu­nate in their heads.

Lit­tle by lit­tle they

put them­selves togeth­er,

mak­ing them­selves a land­scape,

acquir­ing spots, grace, flight.

The cat,

only the cat

appeared com­plete and proud:

he was born com­plete­ly fin­ished,

walk­ing alone and know­ing what he want­ed.

- Pablo Neru­da, excerpt from Ode to the Cat

We find our­selves in agree­ment with Nobel Prize-win­ning poet, and cat lover, Pablo Neru­da:

Those of us who pro­vide for felines choose to believe we are “the own­er, pro­pri­etor, uncle of a cat, com­pan­ion, col­league, dis­ci­ple or friend of (our) cat”, when in fact they are mys­te­ri­ous beasts, far more self-con­tained than the com­pan­ion­able, inquis­i­tive canine Neru­da immor­tal­ized in Ode to the Dog.

We can bestow names and social media accounts on cats of our acquain­tance, chan­nel them on the steps of the Met Gala, attach GPS track­ers to their col­lars, give them pride of place­ment in books for chil­dren and adults, and try our best to get inside their heads, but what do we know about them, real­ly?

We even got their his­to­ry wrong.

Com­mon knowl­edge once held that cats made their way to north­ern Europe from the Mediter­ranean aboard Roman — and even­tu­al­ly Viking — ships some­time between the 3rd to 7th cen­tu­ry CE, but it turns out we were off by mil­len­nia.

In 2016, a team of researchers col­lab­o­rat­ing on the Five Thou­sand Years of His­to­ry of Domes­tic Cats in Cen­tral Europe project con­firmed the pres­ence of domes­tic cats dur­ing the Roman peri­od in the area that is now north­ern Poland, using a com­bi­na­tion of zooar­chae­ol­o­gy, genet­ics and absolute dat­ing.

More recent­ly, the team turned their atten­tion to Felis bones found in south­ern Poland and Ser­bia, deter­min­ing the ones found in the Jas­na Strze­gows­ka Cave to be Pre-Neolith­ic (5990–5760 BC), while the Ser­bian kit­ties hail from the Mesolith­ic-Neolitic era (6220–5730 BC).

In addi­tion to clar­i­fy­ing our under­stand­ing of how our pet cats’ ances­tors arrived in Cen­tral Europe from Egypt and the Fer­tile Cres­cent, the project seeks to “iden­ti­fy phe­no­typ­ic fea­tures relat­ed to domes­ti­ca­tion, such as phys­i­cal appear­ance, includ­ing body size and coat col­or; behav­ior, for exam­ple, reduced aggres­sion; and pos­si­ble phys­i­o­log­i­cal adap­ta­tions to digest anthro­pogenic food.”

Regard­ing non-anthro­pogenic food, a spike in the Late Neolith­ic East­ern Euro­pean house mouse pop­u­la­tion exhibits some nifty over­lap with these ancient cat bones’ new­ly attached dates, though Dr. Dani­jela Popović, who super­vised the pro­jec­t’s pale­o­ge­neti­cians, reports that the cats’ arrival in Europe pre­ced­ed that of the first farm­ers:

These cats prob­a­bly were still wild ani­mals that nat­u­ral­ly col­o­nized Cen­tral Europe.

We’re will­ing to believe they estab­lished a bulk­head, then hung around, wait­ing until the humans showed up before imple­ment­ing the next phase of their plan — self-domes­ti­ca­tion.

Read the research team’s “his­to­ry of the domes­tic cat in Cen­tral Europe” here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

An Ani­mat­ed His­to­ry of Cats: How Over 10,000 Years the Cat Went from Wild Preda­tor to Sofa Side­kick

A 110-Year-Old Book Illus­trat­ed with Pho­tos of Kit­tens & Cats Taught Kids How to Read

Cats in Medieval Man­u­scripts & Paint­ings

via Big Think

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day, human ser­vant of two feline Mail­room Böyz, is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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