Cover art for podcast Distillations | Science History Institute

Distillations | Science History Institute

325 EpisodesProduced by Science History InstituteWebsite

Each episode of Distillations podcast takes a deep-dive into a moment of science-related history in order to shed light on the present.


The Disappearing Spoon: Orphan Vaccines

The Science History Institute has launched a second podcast! We've teamed up with New York Times best-selling author Sam Kean to bring you even more stories from our scientific past. Don’t worry, Distillations podcast isn’t going anywhere; we’re still producing the in-depth narrative-style episodes you know and love! We’ve just doubled your history of science listening pleasure.

For the next 10 weeks we’ll bring you stories from the footnotes of the history of science, from the saga of the male birth control pill to this inaugural episode: how the smallpox vaccine made its way around the world before refrigeration.

Amid all the logistical headaches of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, one huge challenge involves the cold chain. The cold chain is a network of freezers and refrigerators that keep vaccine doses at the consistently cold temperatures they need to stay viable. Though complicated, this is all doable in the 21st century. But how did the world’s very first vaccine, created for smallpox in 1796, make it around the world? Live carriers—specifically, orphan boys.


Host: Sam Kean Senior Producer: Mariel Carr Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez Audio Engineer: Jonathan Pfeffer

“Delamine” by Blue Dot Sessions "La Flecha Incaia" by El Conjunto Sol Del Peru. All other music composed by Jonathan Pfeffer.


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