A long history of medical satire

Dara O’Briain is one of my favourite comedians and he frequently deals with science issues in his stand up routines. A mathematics and theoretical physics graduate, he is also the host of the BBC programmes Dara O’Briain’s Science Club and School of Hard Sums. These programmes educate viewers about maths, physics, chemistry and biology through a series of silly brainteasers and conundrums. As comedy shows they try to change the way that people think about science by making them laugh.

However, taking a light-hearted look at scientific ideas is not new and historical examples of cartoons and caricatures making fun of bad science abound. In particular, medical practitioners viewed as quack doctors – like Dara’s homeopaths – have long been a target of satirists. To read about the various ways that medical practitioners have been lampooned throughout history, check out this amusing post by Dr Mark Bryant.

Dr Seuss as a science communicator

Before publishing his famous children’s books under the pen-name Dr Seuss, Theodor Geisel started out as an illustrator for advertising agencies and during WW2 worked as a political cartoonist. He used his talents to support the war effort by illustrating military materials for the US Treasury Department and War Production Board. To see a pamphlet he created to educate American soldiers about the risk of malaria and read more about this publication take a look at the post on this topic at the Contagions blog.