JHU Press Blog
by eea | Monday, February 19, 2018 - 12:40 PM
It is hard to think of another industry in which safety has taken such as roller coaster ride as it has on railroads. When I wrote Death Rode the Rails , which charted rail safety down to 1965, it was a great success story. I stopped in 1965 because that was the end of ICC safety regulation. Though I knew that safety had begun to fall apart by then, I didn’t know why. No one else has told more than parts of this story and so Back on Track is my effort at home schooling.
Until I began to dig I did not know how broadly and badly safety had collapsed. Like everyone else I had forgotten the hazmat accidents of the 1970s. Yet these were only the most spectacular instances of an upsurge in derailments that coincided with a rise in worker fatality rates and the growing slaughter at rail-highway crossings. One of the most important things I learned were the intimate connection between the railroads’ economic health and their safety, the second how difficult it was for those with a vested interest in economic regulation to grasp that. Many things caused the railroads’...Read More
by bjs | Saturday, February 17, 2018 - 10:00 AM
Today marks the 147th anniversary of the 1870 Education Act, which established compulsory schooling in England and Wales for children between the ages of 5 and 12. A recent special issue of Victorian Periodicals Review took a look at the relationship between periodical culture and the changes in educational opportunities for men, women, and children. Guest editor Janice Schroeder, associate professor of English at Carleton University, joined us to talk about the issue and the connection between publications and education in the late 19th century.
How did this issue come about?
The history of education and schooling in 19th-century England and its colonies is a vast field of study that has received much attention from historians, literary critics, and education and child studies specialists. At the same time, the study of the Victorian periodical and newspaper press attracts researchers from a range of disciplines. I pitched a special issue on education to the editor of Victorian Periodicals Review because I was interested in both Victorian schooling and 19th-century newspapers and magazines, but hadn’t seen a great deal of attention in the journal to the way the “Education Question,” as it was called,...Read More
by eea | Friday, February 16, 2018 - 12:00 PM
When World War Two ended in 1945, Americans found themselves with a mysterious new weapon. They quickly learned that the weapon, which destroyed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and effectively ended the war, had been built in the remote New Mexico desert, in utmost secrecy, by an assortment of physicists, mathematicians and other scientists many of whom were too young even to have earned their PhD's. The man whose photograph was displayed in all the newspapers and who was credited with leading this group was a slender, fragile-looking physicist by the name of Robert Oppenheimer. He became a hero, the man credited by many Americans for ending the war early and sparing their families the loss of a husband or brother or son.
Oppenheimer remained in the public eye. During the postwar decade he spoke out on the decisions facing the United States. And after the Soviet Union broke the American atomic monopoly by conducting its first test in 1949, Oppenheimer and other scientists were asked for their advice. Should the United States negotiate with the Soviet Union, led by Josef Stalin, or try to build a bigger bomb, the hydrogen bomb, a weapon said to...Read More
by eea | Thursday, February 15, 2018 - 12:00 PM
Writing the book, “Mountain lions of the Black Hills: History and Ecology” was a great experience that allowed me to pull together aspects of research projects that my students and I conducted from the late 1990’s to about 2014. During that period, graduate students working under my direction and in close association with biologists of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks radio collared over 300 mountain lions for the purpose of answering a variety of questions about the species. The information gained was critically important to the successful management of the species. These were amazing experiences that allowed us to learn much about the species as we addressed these questions and objectives.
The experience of getting up close and personal to immobilized lions while we collected biological information was facinating. Even the thought of encountering marked mountain lions when out in the field was an exhilarating experience. Yet, these short-term projects missed long-term patterns that became evident when I linked data and observations collected over the duration of our work on the species for the book. Weaving these studies of the species together over for such a long period allowed me to envision how...Read More
by bjs | Thursday, February 15, 2018 - 10:00 AM
What makes health care special? That’s the question driving an essay by Chad Horne in a recent issue of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal . Horne, currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, joined us for a Q&A about his essay .
What is the difficulty of coming to a conclusion on why health care costs should get special treatment?
When I talk about treating health care as special, what I have in mind is just the fact that citizens in most wealthy countries pay very little of their own health care costs out of pocket. Instead, either the government or a very heavily regulated private insurer foots most of the bill. Now of course there are lots of important goods, like food or housing, where the state steps in to provide targeted benefits for the disadvantaged, and that’s very important. But what makes health care unique is that health care programs typically cover all citizens, rich or poor (the U.S. being something of an outlier in this respect). Health care is typically universal program,...Read More
by eea | Wednesday, February 14, 2018 - 12:00 PM
A few years ago it suddenly hit me that, as an historian of the nineteenth century, I hadn’t been doing a very good job. Or rather, I had done only half a job. Because while I had been diligent in finding out everything there was to know about the intellectual, professional and emotional lives of various eminent Victorians, I didn’t have a clue about what it felt like to live in their bodies. Was George Eliot secretly pleased that she managed to stay slender right through her fifties? What steps did Prime Minister William Gladstone take to disguise the fact that the forefinger of his left hand was missing? And how did the poet Elizabeth Barret Browning deal with the experience of being mixed race (her family were Jamaican plantation owners) in a smart residential area of London that was over-whelmingly white?
These are the kinds of the puzzles that I set out to unravel in my new book Victorians Undone . At first my plan was to write about the everyday bodily sensations experienced by unstarry Victorians – toothache, constipation, a graceful neck or slender foot. Almost immediately, though, I hit the buffers. For it...Read More
by eea | Friday, February 9, 2018 - 12:00 PM
Can a mechanical heart replace the human heart? Technically, yes.
Today, artificial hearts are a clinical reality in the form of total artificial hearts and ventricular assist devices (or partial artificial hearts). These are life-sustaining devices that do a remarkable thing: they alter the usual course of events that when a person’s heart failed, that person died.
In doing research for my book, Artificial Hearts: The Allure and Ambivalence of a Controversial Medical Technology , I discovered a range of patient experiences with these devices. Some individuals lived months with an artificial heart, resumed many of their daily activities and underwent successful heart transplants. Others never left hospital, dying from device or disease complications.
Artificial heart devices work to increase blood flow and to sustain life for end-stage heart failure patients. These devices may completely replace or assist the diseased native heart. They may be implanted or reside outside the body, for temporary or permanent mechanical circulatory support. Different heart failure patients require different cardiac devices, depending on their needs.
Artificial heart prototypes, circa late 1950s to 1970s, developed in Dr Willem Kolff's research program. Courtesy of Special Collections, J. Williard Marriott...Read More
by eea | Thursday, February 8, 2018 - 12:00 PM
Colleges face pressures from all sides to improve their performance in a wide range of areas. The federal government highlights student outcomes for low-performing colleges and threatens to strip student financial aid eligibility from the worst institutions, while many state governments now tie a portion of appropriations to outcomes such as the number of students who graduate. Accrediting agencies are pushing for more resources to be devoted to particular programs, while faculty and student governments often have different priorities of their own. College rankings providers and media outlets try to shape colleges’ actions to match their own preferences, which could be focused on prestige, social mobility, or ensuring free speech on campus.
The web of accountability pressures can be difficult for colleges to manage, since many of these pressures can be pulling them in different directions. For example, college rankings systems that reward universities for being as selective and prestigious as possible conflict with state performance-based funding systems that pay colleges for each student who graduates. Colleges then have to prioritize which pressure is more important to them and respond accordingly—or try to find a way to game the metric in a way that lets them have their cake...Read More
by eea | Wednesday, February 7, 2018 - 12:00 PM
Books have a way of influencing your life more so even than experiences. They seem to connect directly to your subconscious, change it, and can alter your path. So while I have been enamored with creeping and crawling things ever since I first began catching toads, lizards, and harmless snakes, I’m not sure I would have mounted those backyard expeditions if my grandmother hadn’t given me my first dinosaur book. That book began my childhood obsession with dinosaurs, which soon transferred to amphibians and reptiles when l realized they can actually be found alive. Likewise, my interest in snakes was strong but may never have flowered into a career had it not been for my mother’s gift of Roger Conant’s Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians. I accompanied my mom to Maggie Valley, North Carolina, where, after seeing a snake demonstration at the local zoo, I was allowed to heft an adult boa constrictor on my shoulders. At a local bookstore, I spotted the field guide. My mother told me it was too expensive, and doubtless it was; during those days she was often the sole bread winner for four growing children. Yet when we got back to our...Read More
by bjs | Tuesday, February 6, 2018 - 10:00 AM
The 2017 volume of the journal Poe Studies marked the 50th publication of the journal dedicated to the author near and dear to our hometown of Baltimore. The annual issue included a cluster of papers on "Poe and Nineteenth-Century Medicine." Washington State University's Jana Argersinger, who edits the journal along with the University of Cincinnati's Leland Person, joined us for a Q&A about the milestone and the journal's place in the field of literary studies.
What does it mean to be in charge of the journal at such a milestone?
In one way, it’s bittersweet—recognizing that the first scholarly journal centered on Edgar Allan Poe has had a longer run than the author himself, whose life spanned only forty years (from 1809 to 1849). While in a sense such milestones, like the century marks of prominent writers’ births, are arbitrary, just round numbers, they give us convenient occasions to take stock. (The Poe Studies Association feted Poe’s bicentennial in 2009 with an international conference in Philadelphia.) In the case of Poe Studies , the progression of five decades says something about both the vitality of the journal and the enduring power of the writer.