Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Notable female microbiologists you’ve never heard of

Female microbiologists many not have had professor or doctor in front of their names, instead listed as laboratory assistants or technicians, but in many cases their skills were critical for numerous notable discoveries. It is worth reminding ourselves who they are and how they changed the world for good.

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Warning: music therapy comes with risks

Bob Marley sings, “One good thing about music—when it hits you, you feel no pain.” Although this may be the case for some people and in some circumstances, we dispute this statement as a global truth.

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Theranos and the cult of personality in science and tech

Elizabeth Holmes was a chemical engineering student who dropped out of Stanford to found Theranos: a silicon-valley start-up company that, at one point, was valued at US$9 billion. Her plan was to be another Steve Jobs. Today, she is facing fraud and other criminal charges.

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The future of borders in the Middle East

The collapse of Arab regional order during the 2011 uprisings provided a chance to reconsider the Middle East’s famously misshapen states. Most rebels sought to control the central government, not to break away from it. Separatist, in contrast, unilaterally sought territorial autonomy or outright secession.

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How boring was life in the British Empire?

For centuries, the British Empire has been portrayed as a place of adventure and excitement. Novels and films, from Robinson Crusoe to Lawrence of Arabia, romanticized the empire. Yet in 1896, after only one month in India, twenty-one year old Winston Churchill declared Britain’s largest and most important colony “dull and interesting.”

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Seven reasons why failure is impossible for feminists

In 1906, an 86-year-old woman greeted a room full of suffragists who were still fighting for the right to vote. Susan B. Anthony made her last public statement: “But with all the help with people like we have in this room, failure is impossible.” She died a month later, and it took until 1920 for women […]

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When a river is dammed, is it damned forever?

Since the dawn of advanced civilizations, humanity has sought to manage the flow of rivers. Protection from floods, water for drinking and irrigating crops, and extraction of resources like food and energy are among the most popular reasons for building dams.

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Beer before wine – can we avoid hangovers that way?

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, many dread the incapacitated hangover of the day after – when the nausea hits you and you cannot do anything but lay in bed and every movement worsens your pounding headache. Wouldn’t it be helpful to have ways to lessen the burden of alcohol-induced hangover? A hangover is a complex […]

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Is there room for creative imagination in science?

Not just once, but repeatedly, I have heard something like “I just didn’t see in science any room for my own imagination or creativity,” from young students clearly able to succeed at any subject they set their minds to. It is a tragedy that so many people do not perceive science as a creative. Yet […]

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Why do homo sapiens include so much variety?

The past is a mess. To pick a path through the mire, historians have appealed to providence, progress, environmental determinism, class struggle, biology and fate.  No explanation has worked – so far. But try shifting perspective: look for the broadest possible context, the most suggestive comparisons. Climb the cosmic crow’s nest. Imagine what history might […]

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The “sl”-morass: “slender” and “slim-slam-slum”

It turned out that the melancholy idiom send one to Coventry may not have anything to do with that town. To reinforce this unexpected conclusion, I’ll relate another story. At one time, the phrase up at Harwich existed; perhaps it is still known in the eastern counties.

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