Here are some history of science treats for fun, inspired by Halloween sneaking up around the corner. To get in the proper spirit, visit the skeleton carnival over at Dream Anatomy, the graphically elegant, evocative, erudite, and sometimes disturbing, sometimes droll display of what's beneath the skin. This is put together by the National Library of Medicine from their collections, particularly rich in the Renaissance and early modern period. The introduction begins by noting that:
The interior of our bodies is hidden to us. What happens beneath the skin is mysterious, fearful, amazing. In antiquity, the body's internal structure was the subject of speculation, fantasy, and some study, but there were few efforts to represent it in pictures. The invention of the printing press in the 15th century -- and the cascade of print technologies that followed -- helped to inspire a new spectacular science of anatomy, and new spectacular visions of the body. Anatomical imagery proliferated, detailed and informative but also whimsical, surreal, beautiful, and grotesque — a dream anatomy that reveals as much about the outer world as it does the inner self.
You can start with the introduction in the link above, or go straight to Cadavers at Play or Show-off Cadavers if you don't need to ease into touring dissected bodies. (The image here is from a 1690 book with Govard Bidloo as the anatomist and Gerard de Lairesse as the illustrator.)
Since Halloween conjures up a medieval vibe (although the great witch-hunts and such belong to the early modern era, not the middle ages, despite popular belief), it gives me an excuse here to point out the wonderful digital version of the 12th-century Aberdeen Bestiary, which provides the wonderful illuminated bat picture at the start of this entry. Magic and wizardry also calls to mind Harry Potter -- and "real science", history of science and mythology mixes together with the popular series in The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic Really Works by Roger Highfield. And, for the serious history of science student with a research library at hand and a yen to study the intersection of history of science and the occult, a good place to start is with U of Florida Professor Robert Hatch's bibliography on magic, mysticism, and the occult, from his Scientific Revolution website. (This isn't to say that Harry Potter hasn't been to college; Professor of Physics George Plitnik at Frostburg State has taught Harry Potter science, in wizard robes, no less, as CBS reported.)
History of science does have a few ghosts, witches, and monsters in the attic. The ur-monster of all, of course, is Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and the Bakken Libary and Museum (which focuses on the history of electricity and magnetism in the life sciences) has an online companion to their Frankenstein exhibit. Science writer Deborah Blum takes on "real" ghost stories in her latest book, Ghost Hunters: William James and the Scientific Proof for Life after Death. Johannes Kepler, astronomer extraordinaire, had to take time out to defend his mother in a witchcraft trial; the story is nicely retold in Kitty Ferguson's book, Tycho and Kepler. Kepler also has a character that resembles his herbal-knowledgeable mother in his Somnium (The Dream), which was published after his death in 1634. Kepler's tale concerns a young man who journeys to the moon in a dream, assisted by his mother, a witch (some consider this to be one of the first works of science fiction. For an analysis, see this piece by Gale E. Christianson in Science Fiction Studies, Kepler's Somnium: Science Fiction and the Renaissance Scientist).