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: First: Sandra Day O’Connor by Evan Thomas

Updated 28 September 2020

What We Are Reading Today: First: Sandra Day O’Connor by Evan Thomas

Sandra Day O’Connor’s story is that of a woman who repeatedly shattered glass ceilings — doing so with a blend of grace, wisdom, humor, understatement, and cowgirl toughness.

This is a remarkably vivid and personal portrait of a woman who loved her family and believed in serving her country, who, when she became the most powerful woman in America, built a bridge forward for the women who followed her, according to a review published on goodreads.com.

She was born in 1930 in El Paso and grew up on a cattle ranch in Arizona. At a time when women were expected to be homemakers, she set her sights on Stanford University. When she graduated near the top of her class at law school in 1952, no firm would even interview her.

She became the first-ever female majority leader of a state senate. As a judge on the Arizona State Court of Appeals, she stood up to corrupt lawyers and humanized the law. When she arrived at the Supreme Court, appointed by Reagan in 1981, she began a quarter-century tenure on the court, hearing cases that ultimately shaped American law.