History of Science

More Human than Alien: Researching the History of UFOs

By Greg Eghigian

In the summer of 1947, private pilot Kenneth Arnold described seeing nine bright objects flying in close formation at remarkable speed near Mount Rainier in Washington. Soon after, when pressed by curious journalists, he described the strange aircraft as “flat like a pie pan and somewhat bat-shaped,” noting they “flew like a saucer would if you skipped it across water.” Though he never uttered the phrase “flying saucer,” newspapers throughout the world rapidly adopted the term. Just weeks after Arnold’s sighting, a Gallup poll revealed that nine out of ten Americans were already familiar with the moniker.

Who Died of Consumption? Race and Disease in the United States

Rachel Snyder, Sarah Tran, Scott Saunders, and Jay Pandya

In summer 2015, a project team of eight students from Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, and George Mason University collaborated to explore the history of tuberculosis in the United States, using newspaper obituaries and census data. The project, funded by 4Va, a consortium of Virginia research universities,will be explored in two AHA Today blog postings that’ll explain this research experience from the perspective of the students. In July, the National History Center and Woodrow Wilson Center co-sponsored a research forum showcasing the students’ research. More information about the project is available at http://ethomasewing.org/tbhistory/.

September 12, 2016

The National History Center’s Congressional Briefing on the Ebola Epidemic

What can historians contribute to the policy debate about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa? Quite a lot, it turns out. On November 17, the National History Center sponsored a congressional briefing titled “Historical Perspectives on the Ebola Epidemic and the African Health Crisis.” Three distinguished historians of medicine in Africa—Randall Packard of Johns Hopkins University, Gregg Mitman of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Julie Livingston of NYU and Rutgers University—spoke at the briefing. They did what historians do best—historicize and contextualize a subject.