What We Are Reading Today: Genetics in the Madhouse

Updated 30 July 2018

What We Are Reading Today: Genetics in the Madhouse

In this compelling book, Genetics in the Madhouse, author Theodore Porter draws on untapped archival evidence from across Europe and North America to bring to light the hidden history behind modern genetics.

“Porter’s masterful book casts the fresh light of sanity over a previously uncharted sea of data on madness,” Stephen M. Stigler, author of The Seven Pillars of Statistical Wisdom, said in remarks published in the Princeton University Press website.

“Porter brings analytical order to an intriguingly chaotic subject, illuminating the challenges of ‘big data’ from a past era when the plasticity of categorization resulted in data being deduced from conclusions, a problem with uncanny similarities to those we face today,” added Stigler.

Porter is Distinguished Professor of History and holds the Peter Reill Chair at the University of California, Los Angeles.  His books include Karl Pearson: The Scientific Life in a Statistical Age, Trust in Numbers: The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life, and The Rise of Statistical Thinking, 1820–1900 (all Princeton). 

Carl Zimmer, author of She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity, commented: “The book is a fascinating exploration of the long-running conviction that madness, criminality, and other mental traits can be passed down from parent to child.”


What We Are Reading Today: A Place for Everything by Judith Flanders

Updated 23 October 2020

What We Are Reading Today: A Place for Everything by Judith Flanders

A Place for Everything fascinatingly lays out the gradual triumph of alphabetical order, from its possible earliest days as a sorting tool to its current decline in prominence in our digital age of Wikipedia and Google.
Historian Judith Flanders draws readers’ attention to both the neglected ubiquity of the alphabet and the long, complex history of its rise to prominence.
A Place for Everything presents the study and analysis made by the author of the alphabet’s origins and its development as a sorting tool.
“This book will be very interesting to a narrow audience of people — particularly librarians,” said a review in goodreads.com.
Deirdre Mask said in a review for The New York Times for The New York Times that Flanders, a meticulous scholar who has written books on Victorian London and the history of Christmas, “prioritizes thoroughness, and at times her book can read a bit like the encyclopedias she writes about. The footnotes get some of the best lines.”
Mask is the author of The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth,
and Power.