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  • Radio waves and plants: The life of JC Bose
    Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose was a polymath: a physicist, biologist and early writer of science fiction. He pioneered the investigation of radio and microwave optics. He made significant contributions to plant science, designing ingenious devices to measure plant growth and responsiveness. He founded one of India’s oldest and most distinguished research institutes. During his life he was honoured at home and in Britain he was knighted for his achievements and made a Fellow of the Royal Society. So why, outside India and his native Bangladesh, is J C Bose not better known? Bridget Kendall asks four historians of science: Bose's biographer Subrata Dasgupta from Lafayette in the United States where he is emeritus professor at the University of Louisiana; Christin Hoene who is assistant professor at Maastricht University in the Netherlands where one of her research interests is the cultural history of radio in colonial India; author, film-maker and historian of science Jahnavi Phalkey who is the Founding Director of Science Gallery in Bangalore, India; and James Poskett who is associate professor at the University of Warwick and author of Horizons: A Global History of Science. The reader is Madhav Vasantha. [Photo: Sir JC Bose, c.1920. Credit: Science & Society Picture Library/Getty Images]
  • Samurai: Japan’s elite warrior class
    The reality behind the stereotypical image of Japan’s fearsome elite warriors is more nuanced than we are led to believe. It is thought the samurai developed as a social class in medieval Japan, when the term could encompass lowly foot soldiers or mercenaries, and often untrustworthy ones at that. A far cry from the skilled fighters who supposedly pledged undying loyalty to their lord, and followed a code of honour. In fact, it was during peacetime that the image of the samurai came to be defined when their role as warriors was no longer necessary. During Japan’s aggressive imperial expansion in the early 20th Century, the samurai ideal was once again manipulated for nationalistic purposes. Rajan Datar’s guests include Michael Wert, who has published several books on Japan’s warrior class, including Samurai: A Concise History. He is associate professor of East Asian History at Marquette University in Milwaukee; Marcia Yonemoto, professor and hair of the Department of History at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is the author of The Problem of Women in Early Modern Japan, which examines the role of women in Japan’s military-bureaucratic state; and Polina Serebriakova, whose doctoral thesis at the University of Cambridge in the UK focuses on warrior leaders in medieval Japan. Producer: Fiona Clampin (Image: Illustration portrait of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Credit: Photo 12/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)
  • Ice cream: A cool history
    There are almost as many ice cream origin stories as there are flavours, but where did the frozen treat really come from, and who invented it? Rajan Datar explores the dessert’s murky history, from the harvesting and flavouring of snow in China and the Middle East thousands of years ago, to the experimental kitchens of the European aristocracy. Ice cream’s evolution has, of course, closely followed that of refrigeration – we learn why salt was crucial for keeping early versions cold, and hear about the daring entrepreneur who began the global ice trade. Plus, who really invented the ice cream cone? Producer: Simon Tulett Contributors: Robin Weir, author of ‘Ice Creams, Sorbets and Gelati: The Definitive Guide’; Najmieh Batmanglij, Iranian-American chef and cookbook author; Dr Melissa Calaresu, Cambridge University; Farid Rostami, co-founder of Silk Road ice cream. (Picture: A woman licking an ice cream. Credit: Getty images) To find out how to make ice cream yourself visit
  • The Popol Vuh: Central American epic that survived Spanish conquest
    Mythological sagas are often fantastical and push the imagination to the limit but the Popol Vuh, which originates in what is Guatemala today, has a gallery of extraordinary characters both good and bad. They get involved in a series of mind-boggling battles and challenges and this eventually leads to the creation of the human race. The Maya K’iche’ story of the Popol Vuh has come down to us in an 18th-Century transcription and Spanish translation by a priest called Francisco Ximenez, and as with many ancient stories, there are tantalising questions about the history of the manuscript and the origins of the tale itself. Rajan Datar traces the meanings and significance of the Popol Vuh with the help of Frauke Sachse who is director of Pre-Columbian Studies at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington DC; Iyaxel Cojti Ren, professor at the University of Texas; Allen Christenson who is professor at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah as well as an ethnographer and author of a new translation and critical edition of the Popol Vuh. The reader is Florencia Cordeu. (Image: A Mayan ball player at the Great Ball Court in Chichen-Itza. Credit: Independent Picture Service/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)
  • The Koryo Kingdom: Medieval dynasty that united Korea
    Today Korea is divided between North and South, but the founding of the Koryo Kingdom in the 10th Century was the first time the peninsula was truly united and when a sense of nationhood emerged. The Koryo Kingdom is remembered for some of the finest cultural achievements in the country’s history; it developed the world’s first printing press – 200 years before the German inventor Johannes Gutenberg came up with his own version, and it is also a period marked by beautiful ceramics and art. But what is less well known is how progressive its politics and society were; promotion was based on merit, women were given greater rights, and monarchs ruled through co-operation. It was also a turbulent time with personal intrigue and back stabbing at court, and constant threats of foreign invasion. Rajan Datar finds out more about the Koryo Kingdom. He is joined by Sang’ah Kim, the Korean Collections’ Curator at the British Museum in London; Dr Charlotte Horlyck, reader in Korean Art History at SOAS, University of London, who has written about the collecting of Koryo Art in the early 20th Century; Edward (Ned) Shultz, professor emeritus in Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii, and Dr Juhn Ahn, associate professor in Buddhism and Korean studies at the University of Michigan in the United States and author of Buddhas and Ancestors: Religion and Wealth in 14th Century Korea. Producer: Anne Khazam (Photo: Trinity, gilded bronze statues from Goryeo dynasty, 10th-11th Century, Korean civilisation. Credit: DeAgostini/Getty Images)

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