The Inspiring History of Women in Firefighting in the U.S.

The first known woman to join a firefighting brigade may not have done so by choice. Introduction Are there female firefighters? How many, and who was the first? The history of organized firefighting began all the way back in Ancient Rome. Since then, most organized firefighting forces have been made up of men… until recently.[…]

In the Early 19th Century, Firefighters Fought Fires … and Each Other

Fighting fires in early America was about community, property, and rivalry. By Jackson Landers In a scene from the film Gangs of New York, set in Civil War-era Manhattan, a crowd gathers in the night as a fire breaks out. A volunteer fire department arrives, and then another. Instead of cooperating to extinguish the blaze, the rival fire companies head[…]

Greenland Unicorns and the Magical Alicorn

When the existence of unicorns, and the curative powers of the horns ascribed to them, began to be questioned, one Danish physician pushed back through curious means — by reframing the unicorn as an aquatic creature of the northern seas. Natalie Lawrence on a fascinating convergence of established folklore, nascent science, and pharmaceutical economy. This[…]

Mother Machine: An ‘Uncanny Valley’ in Eighteenth-Century Medicine

This curious machine was meant to answer the problem of the moment: how to provide sufficient training for new (male) midwives. The eighteenth century was an age of mechanization, from Cartesian conceptions of animals as machines to nerve theory and early experiments in electricity. Mechanists argued that interaction among the body’s parts, its “animal machinery,”[…]

Overpromise, Lie, and Other Hairy Political Advice from Quintus Cicero in 64 BCE

His brother, Marcus (the famed orator), was running for consul, the loftiest office in the Roman Republic. If Karl Rove had lived in ancient Rome, he might have written something like Commentariolum Petitiones, a down-and-dirty electioneering guide from 64 B.C. published in English by Princeton University Press as How to Win an Election: An Ancient Guide[…]

Lessons in the Decline of Democracy from the Ruined Roman Republic

A new book argues that violent rhetoric and disregard for political norms was the beginning of Rome’s end. By Jason Daley The U.S. Constitution owes a huge debt to ancient Rome. The Founding Fathers were well-versed in Greek and Roman History. Leaders like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison read the historian Polybius, who laid out[…]