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Smoking Ears and Screaming Teeth

Smoking Ears and Screaming Teeth
Smoking Ears and Screaming Teeth by Trevor Norton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I checked this one out from the library at work. It’s a basic collection of science anecdotes, mostly from the Enlightenment period up through WWII. The author is a British marine biologist, so most of the scientists mentioned are British, and the modern-day stories in particular naturally focus on the author’s mostly British contemporaries in the marine sciences.

One fairly clear agenda that the author has is wanting to recognize various scientists who made major “home front” contributions during WWI and especially WWII, often risking their lives to develop all sorts of non-weapon technologies necessary for the war effort, such as bomb disposal and submarine escape hatches. Many of them were Quaker conscientious objectors, and received no medals or official recognition of some of the dangerous experiments they performed on themselves to save lives on the battlefield.

There are a number of gross-out moments, mostly related to the symptoms of various terrible things either self-inflicted or applied to the public due to bad science.

I suspect there are fewer post-war anecdotes thanks largely to the standardization of experimental procedures with regards to informed consent and other protections for test subjects. Overall interesting, but not engrossing (as evidenced by it sitting on my shelf half-read for a few months).

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Nicolas Ward

Software engineer in Natural Language Processing research by day; gamer, reader, and aspiring UltraNurd by night. Husband to Andrle
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