To Confer Excitement
Is the piece of latin that the word ‘Pheromone’ was assembled from in 1959 by Peter Karlson and Martin Lüscher, according to an early anecdote in Wyatt’s piece ’50 Years of Pheromones’. The article intersperses its discussion of the analysis, properties, and implications of pheromones with a number of stories such as these, ensuring that it at remains an engaging read throughout the piece.
Analogies are sparse on the ground however, which seems to increase the precision with which Wyatt communicates his concepts, but at the same time the piece still makes concessions to mainstream readers (and indeed it seems to be written with them as the target), being that it has no unexplained jargon (as far as I can tell at least) and the general tone is quite casual and simple. I feel it might have edged just slightly into the danger zone of a patronising tone at a few points, but taken as a whole body of writing it is a very well written informative piece.
The article begins by talking about the insect species which were initially studied in Pheromone research (as well as an old anecdote about dogs), moves up to mammals, and then begins discussing the barriers to research into human pheromones, such as humans lacking the smell organ that was previously thought to be the sole site of pheromone recognition in mammals (The vomeronasal cavity). It goes to some effort to point out that the implementation of pheromones in all these species is extremely similar, and why that is the case.
Finally, it touches on the implications of human pheromone research, the results that have been seen so far, and their potential benefits to the public. With the latter, it ensures it has its bases covered as a piece of science writing, and the structure of the piece is evocative in and of itself of the evolution of pheromones which it spends some time talking about. Whether or not that is intentional though, I couldn’t say.
I think the science in this essay is definitely aimed at people who haven’t got a major background in science, and it functions in that regard. It’s brief too, ensuring its usefulness as a short educational piece you could refer someone to. There’s a little bit of sensationalism scattered around, but it largely avoids the elephant in the room, namely the picture for this post.