Monthly Archives: February 2022

4 March 2022 — 12:00 noon — GAR 4.100

John Lisle (Louisiana Tech University)

“Human Experimentation and the Failures of Oversight in the CIA”

During the early Cold War, the CIA established the infamous MKULTRA mind control program. The purpose of MKULTRA was to determine whether it was possible to use drugs, hypnotism, and other techniques to manipulate human behavior in specific ways, such as to make a person divulge classified information. As part of MKULTRA, the CIA contracted independent researchers to perform controversial experiments on prisoners, psychiatric patients, and unwitting American citizens. This talk will explain the origins of MKULTRA, describe some of its experiments, and highlight the failures of CIA oversight that allowed its personnel to avoid accountability.


John Lisle is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Louisiana Tech University where he teaches courses on the history of information warfare. He received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Texas in 2019. His first book, The Dirty Tricks Department, covers the history of the OSS Research and Development Branch during World War II and will be published in early 2023.

18 February 2022 — 12:00 noon — online

Alyssa Peterson (UT)

“Vapors: From Environmental to Chemical in the Long Eighteenth Century”

At the end of the seventeenth century, society knew bad air could cause illness. Such air had many names: miasma, effluvia, airs, and vapors. As science and chemistry advanced throughout the eighteenth century, numerous people wrote about vapors, each with their definition of the term. Chemists defined and used vapor in their writings differently from physicians, who understood it differently than geologists. As the eighteenth century progressed, these different groups reworked their understanding of vapor and what they were. As chemistry came into its own, vapors were no longer composed of rotting vegetables or sea air; they slowly became composed of acids, alkalis, and specific elements. However, other groups incorporated the chemical definitions differently and often did not take the ideas from chemistry wholesale. This paper discusses the movement away from environmental explanations in early modern natural history and medicine by examining how vapors were understood as chemistry began to infiltrate other sciences during the long eighteenth century. By its end, the scientific community no longer thought of vapors as a natural occurrence beyond human control; instead, vapors were a makeup of chemical components, which could be studied, identified, and controlled.


Alyssa Peterson is a fourth-year PhD student in the UT History Department who focuses on Atlantic and Environmental history as well as the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine. She studies the Atlantic world from roughly 1600 to 1800 and the circulation and transformation of information throughout the greater Atlantic.


To take part in this event, please register in advance by using this link:  After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.