Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection

      Deborah Blum

Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection

In this meticulously researched and masterfully written book, Pulitzer Prize-winner Deborah Blum examines the history of love through the lens of its strangest unsung hero: a brilliant, fearless, alcoholic psychologist named Harry Frederick Harlow. Pursuing the idea that human affection could be understood, studied, even measured, Harlow (1905-1981) arrived at his conclusions by conducting research-sometimes beautiful, sometimes horrible-on the primates in his University of Wisconsin laboratory. Paradoxically, his darkest experiments may have the brightest legacy, for by studying "neglect" and its life-altering consequences, Harlow confirmed love's central role in shaping not only how we feel but also how we think. His work sparked a psychological revolution. The more children experience affection, he discovered, the more curious they become about the world: Love makes people smarter. The biography of both a man and an idea, The Measure of Love is a powerful and at times disturbing narrative that will forever alter our understanding of human relationships.

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    The Poison Squad

      Deborah Blum

The Poison Squad

From Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times -bestselling author Deborah Blum, the dramatic true story of how food was made safe in the United States and the heroes, led by the inimitable Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, who fought for change

By the end of nineteenth century, food was dangerous. Lethal, even. "Milk" might contain formaldehyde, most often used to embalm corpses. Decaying meat was preserved with both salicylic acid, a pharmaceutical chemical, and borax, a compound first identified as a cleaning product. This was not by accident; food manufacturers had rushed to embrace the rise of industrial chemistry, and were knowingly selling harmful products. Unchecked by government regulation, basic safety, or even labelling requirements, they put profit before the health of their customers. By some estimates, in New York City alone, thousands of children were killed by "embalmed milk" every year. Citizens--activists, journalists, scientists, and women's groups--began agitating for change. But even as protective measures were enacted in Europe, American corporations blocked even modest regulations. Then, in 1883, Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, a chemistry professor from Purdue University, was named chief chemist of the agriculture department, and the agency began methodically investigating food and drink fraud, even conducting shocking human tests on groups of young men who came to be known as, "The Poison Squad."

Over the next thirty years, a titanic struggle took place, with the courageous and fascinating Dr. Wiley campaigning indefatigably for food safety and consumer protection. Together with a gallant cast, including the muckraking reporter Upton Sinclair, whose fiction revealed the horrific truth about the Chicago stockyards; Fannie Farmer, then the most famous cookbook author in the country; and Henry J. Heinz, one of the few food producers who actively advocated for pure food, Dr. Wiley changed history. When the landmark 1906 Food and Drug Act was finally passed, it was known across the land, as "Dr. Wiley's Law."

Blum brings to life this timeless and hugely satisfying "David and Goliath" tale with righteous verve and style, driving home the moral imperative of confronting corporate greed and government corruption with a bracing clarity, which speaks resoundingly to the enormous social and political challenges we face today.

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    The Poisoner's Handbook

      Deborah Blum

The Poisoner's Handbook

Deborah Blum, writing with the high style and skill for suspense that is characteristic of the very best mystery fiction, shares the untold story of how poison rocked Jazz Age New York City. In The Poisoner's Handbook Blum draws from highly original research to track the fascinating, perilous days when a pair of forensic scientists began their trailblazing chemical detective work, fighting to end an era when untraceable poisons offered an easy path to the perfect crime.

Drama unfolds case by case as the heroes of The Poisoner's Handbook—chief medical examiner Charles Norris and toxicologist Alexander Gettler—investigate a family mysteriously stricken bald, Barnum and Bailey's Famous Blue Man, factory workers with crumbling bones, a diner serving poisoned pies, and many others. Each case presents a deadly new puzzle and Norris and Gettler work with a creativity that rivals that of the most imaginative murderer, creating revolutionary experiments to tease out even the wiliest compounds from human tissue. Yet in the tricky game of toxins, even science can't always be trusted, as proven when one of Gettler's experiments erroneously sets free a suburban housewife later nicknamed "America's Lucretia Borgia" to continue her nefarious work.

From the vantage of Norris and Gettler's laboratory in the infamous Bellevue Hospital it becomes clear that killers aren't the only toxic threat to New Yorkers. Modern life has created a kind of poison playground, and danger lurks around every corner. Automobiles choke the city streets with carbon monoxide; potent compounds, such as morphine, can be found on store shelves in products ranging from pesticides to cosmetics. Prohibition incites a chemist's war between bootleggers and government chemists while in Gotham's crowded speakeasies each round of cocktails becomes a game of Russian roulette. Norris and Gettler triumph over seemingly unbeatable odds to become the pioneers of forensic chemistry and the gatekeepers of justice during a remarkably deadly time. A beguiling concoction that is equal parts true crime, twentieth-century history, and science thriller, The Poisoner's Handbook is a page-turning account of a forgotten New York.

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    Ghost Hunters: The Victorians and the Hunt for Proof of Life After Death

      Deborah Blum

Ghost Hunters: The Victorians and the Hunt for Proof of Life After Death

In Victorian Britain, a group of eminent scientists got together to found a society expressly to prove the existence of ghosts.

The age of Darwin represented the greatest scientific advances known to man. The tension between science and religion was exposed by Darwin's On the Origin of the Species in 1859, which challenged the basic tenets of belief.

Yet many of those in the forefront of the scientific revolution could not give up the idea of a higher reality. Life after death was the unknown frontier. Victorian society was full of mediums claiming they could communicate with the spirits of the dead. Baffling psychic phenomena occurred every day at séances: mysterious rappings were heard, furniture moved, ghostly forms appeared, the mediums spoke in the altered voices of the dead with information only their nearest could possibly know. Pyschometry involving locks of hair and watches and children's toys; telepathy; ouija boards; apparitions; astral projection: all were commonplace.

In 1882 the Society of Psychical Research was founded in London to investigate all these phenomena: it was a group led by some of the greatest scientists of the age but its membership also included Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Leslie Stephen, Virginia Woolf's father, John Ruskin, the Reverend Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain). Six months later William James, Professor of Psychology at Harvard, and the brother of Henry James visited London and went on to set up American branch.

Their experiments went on for years. Many mediums, like the notorious Madame Blavatsky, were exposed as charlatans yet there were some mediums who continued to communicate directly with another world, who despite every rigorous scientific test seemed to prove that souls survived death. This is the story of this group of forward thinkers: many of whom were driven to the spirit world by personal tragedy, some whose feeling of loss lead to their own suicides. It is the story of the greatest ghost hunt of any age.

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    Angel Killer

      Deborah Blum

Angel Killer

In the mid-1920s, young children began to vanish from neighborhoods around New York City. It took the police a decade to find their abductor, an unassuming 64-year-old handyman named Albert Fish. Fish had committed crimes of unspeakable horror: He had not only abducted and murdered the children, but also tortured and, in some cases, eaten them. During Fish's trial, some of the country's most prominent psychiatrists debated the exact nature of Fish's crimes. Was he evil or insane? Who had the power to determine where one ended and the other began? At stake was not just the prospect of justice for Fish and his victims, but also the future of the new science of criminal behavior—the idea that society’s worst monsters needed to be both punished and understood. Award-winning journalist Deborah Blum tells the story of a notorious cannibal killer, the detective who brought him to justice, and the scientists who tried to make sense of his crimes.

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    The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014

      Deborah Blum

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014

"Undeniably exquisite . . . The essays in the collection [are] meditations that reveal not only how science actually happens but also who or what propels its immutable humanity." — Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

"A stimulating compendium." — Kirkus Reviews

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author Deborah Blum selects the year's top science and nature writing from writers who balance research with humanity and in the process uncover riveting stories of discovery across the disciplines.

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    The Ghost Hunters

      Deborah Blum

The Ghost Hunters

SUMMARY: A Pulitzer Prize–winning author tells the amazing story of William James’s quest for empirical evidence of the spirit world What if a world -renowned philosopher and professor of psychiatry at Harvard suddenly announced he believed in ghosts? At the close of the nineteenth century, the illustrious William James led a determined scientific investigation into “unexplainable” incidences of clairvoyance and ghostly visitations. James and a small group of eminent scientists staked their reputations, their careers, even their sanity on one of the most extraordinary quests ever undertaken: to empirically prove the existence of ghosts, spirits, and psychic phenomena. What they pursued— and what they found—raises questions as fascinating today as they were then.
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