Archive for June, 2010

30 Jun, 2010

Free at the Royal Society

Once more, The Royal Society is opening its digital archives to all:

The Royal Society Digital Journal Archive

To celebrate a summer of science and the launch of See Further: the Festival of Science and Arts we are pleased to announce that the Royal Society Digital Journal Archive will be freely available to view until 30 July 2010. Our archive dates back to 1665 and contains in excess of 68,000 articles, from the first ever article published in our oldest journal Philosophical Transactions to the most recent interdisciplinary article published in our youngest journal Interface Focus.

Access our archive today and remember that all articles are completely free to access until 30 July 2010.

If you have an interest in science and the history of science, be sure to search through all the free content! For example, searching ‘Leeuwenhoek’ and ‘flea’ turned up this document:

In regards to the flea, this document describes how “…there came to Englifh Gentleman to my Houfe who askt me some Queftions about the Sting of a Flea…” He could not enlighten them at the time, but he soon obtained a specimen of a flea from which he desired to dissect the heart. He noticed that with the forelegs of the flea removed, he could see the mouthparts more clearly, so he examined them with his microscope, “…by

Leeuwenhoek had “his painter” draw the mouthparts, and that image is available as well, alongside the detailed drawings of what he had observed about the spleen. We can share Leeuwenhoek’s excitement as he observes the intricacies of this tiny creature, and he ends his observations with the comment:

“But then if we remove our Thoughts to those Animalcula that many millions smaller than a Flea, and consider also their respective Instruments for motion, etc. we cannot be but exceedingly amazed at the thoughts thereof. “

At that time, Leeuwenhoek was perhaps the only man on earth capable of imagining the working structures of lifeforms that were many times smaller than the mouthparts of a flea.

16 Jun, 2010

The 2010 Leeuwenhoek Lecture Prize

Robert  Webster, FRS.

Robert Webster, FRS.

The triennial Leeuwenhoek Lecture Prize has been awarded to Professor Robert Webster FRS, of the St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, USA. The prize was established to recognise excellence in the field of microbiology which now includes excellence in bacteriology, virology, mycology and parasitology and microscopy.

The lecture synopsis from The Royal Society:

Where do the pandemic influenza viruses come from and why did experts fail to predict the severity of the 2009 pandemic? When the virus was characterised as an H1N1 influenza virus related to the 1918 Spanish influenza virus that killed between 20-40 million people globally, the possibility existed for a similar catastrophe. However to date, the 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza has been much less severe than the 1918 Spanish influenza.

The success factors with influenza are the availability of anti-influenza drugs and improved vaccines. Was the stockpiling of drugs and vaccines a waste of resources? The lesson learned is that influenza viruses will continue to humble scientists; while predicting which influenza viruses will acquire pandemic potential in humans is unlikely, surveillance in healthy pigs may provide early warning. It is probable that in the future, predictions on the severity of a pandemic will be possible.

It is likely that influenza will continue to ‘cuckoo’ the experts.

Professor Robert Webster FRS established  the Center of Excellence programme for Influenza Research and Surveillance  at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, USA, where he is also a Professor in the Division of Virology; Department of Infectious Diseases.

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