BOOK: The Monkey’s Voyage: How Improbable Journeys Shaped the History of Life

Ever since I wrote a paper as an undergrad in history about the seed experiments Darwin conducted to answer questions about how organisms spread from one place to another,  I have been fascinated by the topic of oceanic dispersal and how this idea conflicted with one that put agency onto the Earth itself (vicariance, or how plate tectonics accounts for where plants and animal are). That said, I am looking forward to reading this new book!

Alan de Queiroz, The Monkey’s Voyage: How Improbable Journeys Shaped the History of Life (Philadelphia: Basic Books, 2014), 368 pp.

Throughout the world, closely related species are found on landmasses separated by wide stretches of ocean. What explains these far-flung distributions? Why are such species found where they are across the Earth? Since the discovery of plate tectonics, scientists have conjectured that plants and animals were scattered over the globe by riding pieces of ancient supercontinents as they broke up. In the past decade, however, that theory has foundered, as the genomic revolution has made reams of new data available. And the data has revealed an extraordinary, stranger-than-fiction story that has sparked a scientific upheaval. In The Monkey’s Voyage, biologist Alan de Queiroz describes the radical new view of how fragmented distributions came into being: frogs and mammals rode on rafts and icebergs, tiny spiders drifted on storm winds, and plant seeds were carried in the plumage of sea-going birds to create the map of life we see today. In other words, these organisms were not simply constrained by continental fate; they were the makers of their own geographic destiny. And as de Queiroz shows, the effects of oceanic dispersal have been crucial in generating the diversity of life on Earth, from monkeys and guinea pigs in South America to beech trees and kiwi birds in New Zealand. By toppling the idea that the slow process of continental drift is the main force behind the odd distributions of organisms, this theory highlights the dynamic and unpredictable nature of the history of life. In the tradition of John McPhee’s Basin and Range, The Monkey’s Voyage is a beautifully told narrative that strikingly reveals the importance of contingency in history and the nature of scientific discovery.

You can read reviews from Richard Conniff here and Jonathan Weiner here, a deeper analysis from Nick Matzke here, and download a PDF exceprt from the NCSE here.

BOOK: After Darwin: Animals, Emotions, and the Mind

Angelique Richardson, ed. After Darwin: Animals, Emotions, and the Mind (New York: Rodopi, 2013), 386 pp.

‘What is emotion?’ pondered the young Charles Darwin in his notebooks. How were the emotions to be placed in an evolutionary framework? And what light might they shed on human-animal continuities? These were among the questions Darwin explored in his research, assisted both by an acute sense of observation and an extraordinary capacity for fellow feeling, not only with humans but with all animal life. After Darwin: Animals, Emotions, and the Mind explores questions of mind, emotion and the moral sense which Darwin opened up through his research on the physical expression of emotions and the human-animal relation. It also examines the extent to which Darwin’s ideas were taken up by Victorian writers and popular culture, from George Eliot to the Daily News. Bringing together scholars from biology, literature, history, psychology, psychiatry and paediatrics, the volume provides an invaluable reassessment of Darwin’s contribution to a new understanding of the moral sense and emotional life, and considers the urgent scientific and ethical implications of his ideas today.

BOOK: Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950

Marwa Elshakry, Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), 448 pp.

In Reading Darwin in Arabic, Marwa Elshakry questions current ideas about Islam, science, and secularism by exploring the ways in which Darwin was read in Arabic from the late 1860s to the mid-twentieth century. Borrowing from translation and reading studies and weaving together the history of science with intellectual history, she explores Darwin’s global appeal from the perspective of several generations of Arabic readers and shows how Darwin’s writings helped alter the social and epistemological landscape of the Arab learned classes. Providing a close textual, political, and institutional analysis of the tremendous interest in Darwin’s ideas and other works on evolution, Elshakry shows how, in an age of massive regional and international political upheaval, these readings were suffused with the anxieties of empire and civilizational decline. The politics of evolution infiltrated Arabic discussions of pedagogy, progress, and the very sense of history. They also led to a literary and conceptual transformation of notions of science and religion themselves. Darwin thus became a vehicle for discussing scriptural exegesis, the conditions of belief, and cosmological views more broadly. The book also acquaints readers with Muslim and Christian intellectuals, bureaucrats, and theologians, and concludes by exploring Darwin’s waning influence on public and intellectual life in the Arab world after World War I. Reading Darwin in Arabic is an engaging and powerfully argued reconceptualization of the intellectual and political history of the Middle East.

Elshakry was interviewed about Reading Darwin in Arabic on the Ottoman History Podcast, which you can listen to here, and on New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, here.

BOOK: Process and Providence: The Evolution Question at Princeton, 1845-1929

Bradley J. Gundlach, Process and Providence: The Evolution Question at Princeton, 1845-1929 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2013), 408 pp.

Charles Hodge, James McCosh, B. B. Warfield — these leading professors at Princeton College and Seminary in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are famous for their orthodox Protestant positions on the doctrine of evolution. In this book Bradley Gundlach explores the surprisingly positive embrace of developmental views by the whole community of thinkers at old Princeton, showing how they embraced the development not only of the cosmos and life-forms but also of Scripture and the history of doctrine, even as they defended their historic Christian creed.

Decrying an intellectual world gone “evolution-mad,” the old Princetonians nevertheless welcomed evolution “properly limited and explained.” Rejecting historicism and Darwinism, they affirmed developmentalism and certain non-Darwinian evolutionary theories, finding process over time through the agency of second causes — God’s providential rule in the world — both enlightening and polemically useful. They also took care to identify the pernicious causes and effects of antisupernatural evolutionisms. By the 1920s their nuanced distinctions, together with their advocacy of both biblical inerrancy and modern science, were overwhelmed by the brewing fundamentalist controversy. From the first American review of the pre-Darwinian Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation to the Scopes Trial and the forced reorganization of Princeton Seminary in 1929, Process and Providence reliably portrays the preeminent conservative Protestants in America as they defined, contested, and answered — precisely and incisively — the many facets of the evolution question.

HHMI DVDs about evolution, DNA, and dinosaur extinction

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute is known for offering to educators free DVDs and other resources about various biology and health topics, such as human evolution, disease, biodiversity and medicines, stem cells, and cloning. They are now offering three new DVDs: The Origin of Species, The Double Helix, and The Day the Mesozoic DiedThe Origin of Species consists of three separate videos telling the story of Darwin, Wallace, and evolution and action. The Double Helix covers the history of the discovery of the structure of DNA, and thankfully does not leave out Rosalind Franklin. My son has already watched the one on dinosaur extinction, and at 7 years old, was fully engrossed in the narrative.

If you are a teacher or educator in some other capacity, or perhaps run a discussion group, these are great resources to have. The ordering page is here (select “DVD” on the left to narrow down the selections).

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VIDEOS: Lectures from Darwin in the 21st Century: Nature, Humanity, and God (2009 conference)

Robert Richards: ‘All that is most beautiful’: Darwin’s Theory of Morality and Its Normative Validity

Peter Bowler: Imagining a World without Darwin

Darwin, God, & Design – Evolution & the Battle for America’s Soul

Darwin’s Revolution: From Natural Theology to Natural Selection

Videos of other lectures here, conference information here.

BOOK REVIEW: Darwin and His Children: His Other Legacy

There is much to take in on Darwin – a constant barrage of books, journal articles, magazine features, blog posts, podcasts, videos on YouTube, etc. It can be a daunting task to keep up with it all and stay current with what historians and writers are discussing about Darwin: his life, his scientific work, and his legacy which permeates many fields beyond those sciences in which he worked. Sometimes new work takes an unexplored avenue, other times rehashing worn territory. A new book by biologist and previous Darwin biographer Tim Berra explores Darwin’s life from a different angle but with largely familiar subject matter. If you’ve read about Darwin at length before, then you likely know that he and his wife Emma had a large family and that Darwin was very involved in raising their children. In Darwin and His Children: His Other Legacy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013; 272 pp.), Berra describes the lives, careers, and achievements of the Darwin children, who, Berra shares, “were devoted to their father and mother, intensely loyal to the family and to each other, and protective of their father’s reputation.”

Darwin and His Children

The book is organized chronologically by their birth years, beginning with a chapter on Darwin’s life and work (a summary, essentially), and a chapter on his marriage to Emma. The following ten chapters cover each child, so there tends to be some repetition of information, but the book is nicely organized. Illness in the family is a thread throughout the chapters, and this was a constant source of anxiety for Darwin (he felt that marriage to his first cousin may have created weakened offspring).

Darwin and Emma’s first son, William (1839-1914), “my little animalcule of a son,” he wrote to Captain Fitzroy, became a subject of infant behavior, and information from this was included in The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). He was a banker, helped Darwin with mathematical calculations in a botanical study, and was an avid amateur photographer. Anne, or Annie (1841-1851), Darwin’s favorite, died young and this tore her father apart. Mary (1842-1842) only lived for 23 days, her cause of death unknown. Henrietta (1843-1927), or Etty, did much to help her father with his work. She assisted in pigeon breeding experiments, corrected proofs for The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication (1868), and edited book manuscripts, including The Descent of Man (1871). She also edited a collection of family letters and biography of Emma. George (1845-1912) was a mathematician and became a world authority on tides. He befriended Lord Kelvin, who disagreed with Darwin on evolution, and defended his father against critique from St. George Jackson Mivart, speaking freely about his views on prayer and other religious matters (as opposed to Darwin’s avoidance of making public his views on religion). Elizabeth (1847-1926), or Bessy, was the Darwins’ eccentric daughter, and was helpful to her mother in household duties and caring for her father during his illnesses, and helped to raise her nephew Bernard. Francis (1848-1925) was an accomplished plant physiologist, was an assistant to his father on plant experiments, helped with his massive daily correspondence, and edited The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1887) and, with A.C. Seward, More Letters of Charles Darwin (1903). Leonard (1850-1943) was a military engineer, politician, and economist who is most remembered for his work in eugenics (a term coined by Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton). Berra notes: “The negative eugenics advocated by Leonard is shocking to today’s sensibilities, but it was a product of the times.” Horace (1851-1928), their ninth child, was an intelligent child (Darwin wrote in a letter about Horace’s grasp of natural selection when age 11). He was founder and director of the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company, which succeeded due to World War I, a public servant in a variety of matters, and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (joining his father and brothers George and Francis). Charles Waring (1856-1858), their tenth and last child, was their third to die in childhood. His funeral allowed Darwin to avoid the joint reading of his and Wallace’s papers on natural selection at the Linnean Society in July 1858.

However enjoyable this book is, I can’t help but point out the many myths about Darwin that continue to remain in popular treatment of the subject (this is not to blame Berra, of course, for it will be some time before corrections to these myths become mainstream). Darwin was not knighted, because “he was much too controversial for Queen Victoria’s taste (but Darwin did not carry out work in service of the British government, for which knighthoods were given). Darwin kept his ideas private, “except to broach them to his closest scientific colleagues” (Berra lists Lyell, Hooker, and Gray, however the list of who Darwin shared with is much longer). However, Berra rightly notes that Darwin was indeed the appointed naturalist on HMS Beagle, and that the common story of the Huxley-Wilberforce debate in 1860 is exaggerated. 

Berra’s sources are already published: Darwin’s Life and Letters volumes, his autobiography, reminiscences from some of the children as well as Darwin’s granddaughter Gwen Raverat. Given this, there are no grand revelations here. This is straightforward narrative history, and here Berra provides a charming, detailed narrative that gives due credit to Darwin’s children, whom he loved and shared in their griefs and successes in life. “Darwin” continued to be a very recognizable name in England, if not for Darwin’s own work, but the achievements of his descendants. An important takeaway from Darwin and His Children is how involved they were, from youth to adulthood in the case of some, with Darwin’s science: as editors, experimentalists, subjects of study, ambassadors (George and Francis traveled to the United States in 1871), and a variety of other roles. Several became respected scientists themselves, not too surprising given the nature-rich atmosphere and encouragement in which they were raised. The Darwins were truly a scientific family. 

VIDEO: Joe Cain on “Darwin in London”

From March 2013: “Everyone knows Darwin lived in central London early in his career. In his inaugural lecture as Professor of History and Philosophy of Biology, Joe Cain will explore that period. We’ll pay close attention to daily life and its locations around town. What does local history add to the biography of a scientist? We’ll identify local Darwin landmarks and link some key Darwin stories to a bit of recently discovered material. Some of this proved quite unexpected.”

PODCASTS: Alfred Russel Wallace lectures from AMNH and Royal Society

The American Museum of Natural History has put up the audio from David Attenborough’s talk, “Alfred Russel Wallace and the Birds of Paradise,” on November 12 here.

David Attenborough

David Attenborough unveiling the statue of Alfred Wallace at the Natural History Museum London, photo by “Greta dark”

The Royal Society has also put up audio from several lectures given at a conference on October 21-22, “Alfred Russel Wallace and his legacy” (each link is direct to an mp3):

Dr George Beccaloni, Natural History Museum, UK
Wallace’s life

Dr John van Wyhe, National University of Singapore, Singapore
Wallace and Darwin: what really happened?

Professor Janet Browne, Harvard University, USA
Natural selection a la Wallace

Professor Steve Jones FRS, University College London, UK
Wallace and the Limits to Natural Selection

Professor Charles H. Smith, Western Kentucky University, USA
Early Humboldtian Influences on Alfred Russel Wallace’s Scheme of Nature

Professor Lynne Parenti, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, USA
The Modern Biogeographical Legacy of Alfred Russel Wallace

Professor R.I. Vane-Wright, Natural History Musuem, UK
Wallace and Colouration

Professor Tim Caro, University of California, Davis, USA
Colouration today

Professor James Mallet, University College London and Harvard University, UK and USA
Wallace’s understanding of species and speciation

Professor Tim Birkhead FRS, University of Sheffield, UK
Wallace, Darwin and female choice

Professor Ted Benton, University of Essex, UK
Wallace and human evolution

Professor Chris Stringer FRS, Natural History Museum, UK
Old and new views on human evolution

Martin Rees FRS, University of Cambridge, UK
Wallace and the universe

Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz FRS, University of Cambridge, UK
The Vaccination Controversy

Dr David Stack, University of Reading, UK
Wallace, a social scientist’s perspective

Dr Andrew Berry, Harvard University, USA
The Wallace legacy

BOOK: Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons

Sara Levine, Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons (Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publishing Group, 2013), 32 pp. Illustrated by T.S Spookytooth.

What animal would you be if your finger bones grew so long that they reached your feet? Or what if you had no leg bones but kept your arm bones? This picture book will keep you guessing as you read about how human skeletons are like—and unlike—those of other animals.

Although this book does not discuss evolutionary relationships (homology, common descent), it is a fun introduction to comparative anatomy for elementary students!

VIDEOS: Alfred Russel Wallace talks from Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta

These videos are from a lecture series in October at the University of Alberta, “More than Natural Selection.”

The time travelers: Alfred Russel Wallace and Peter Kropotkin
Kathleen Lowrey – Associate Professor Anthropology University of Alberta

Alfred Russel Wallace, Mars, Extra-Terrestrials and the Nature of the Universe
Robert Smith, Professor, History and Classics University of Alberta

Alfred Russel Wallace, Collector
Andrew Berry, Lecturer on Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Harvard University

Wallace on Science and the Problems of Progress
Martin Fichman, Professor, Department of Humanities York University

Capstone Address – Other Worlds: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Cross-Cultures of Spiritualism
Christine Ferguson, Senior Lecturer, English Literature University of Glasgow

VIDEO: James Moore on “Darwin’s Sacred Cause”

“In his lecture at Oregon State University on October 29th, James Moore questioned the established view of Darwin as an objective scientist and showed how passionate opposition to slavery motivated his research and gave him courage to challenge the scientific and religious establishment of his day.”

BOOK: The Princeton Guide to Evolution

Jonathan B. Losos, editor in chief; David A. Baum, Douglas J. Futuyma, Hopi E. Hoekstra, Richard E. Lenski, Allen J. Moore, Catherine L. Peichel, Dolph Schluter & Michael C. Whitlock, editors, The Princeton Guide to Evolution (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013), 880 pp.

The Princeton Guide to Evolution is a comprehensive, concise, and authoritative reference to the major subjects and key concepts in evolutionary biology, from genes to mass extinctions. Edited by a distinguished team of evolutionary biologists, with contributions from leading researchers, the guide contains more than 100 clear, accurate, and up-to-date articles on the most important topics in seven major areas: phylogenetics and the history of life; selection and adaptation; evolutionary processes; genes, genomes, and phenotypes; speciation and macroevolution; evolution of behavior, society, and humans; and evolution and modern society. Complete with more than 100 illustrations (including eight pages in color), glossaries of key terms, suggestions for further reading on each topic, and an index, this is an essential volume for undergraduate and graduate students, scientists in related fields, and anyone else with a serious interest in evolution.

- Explains key topics in more than 100 concise and authoritative articles written by a team of leading evolutionary biologists
– Contains more than 100 illustrations, including eight pages in color
– Each article includes an outline, glossary, bibliography, and cross-references
– Covers phylogenetics and the history of life; selection and adaptation; evolutionary processes; genes, genomes, and phenotypes; speciation and macroevolution; evolution of behavior, society, and humans; and evolution and modern society

BOOK: Was Hitler a Darwinian?: Disputed Questions in the History of Evolutionary Theory

Robert J. Richards, Was Hitler a Darwinian?: Disputed Questions in the History of Evolutionary Theory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), 280 pp.

In tracing the history of Darwin’s accomplishment and the trajectory of evolutionary theory during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, most scholars agree that Darwin introduced blind mechanism into biology, thus banishing moral values from the understanding of nature. According to the standard interpretation, the principle of survival of the fittest has rendered human behavior, including moral behavior, ultimately selfish. Few doubt that Darwinian theory, especially as construed by the master’s German disciple, Ernst Haeckel, inspired Hitler and led to Nazi atrocities. In this collection of essays, Robert J. Richards argues that this orthodox view is wrongheaded. A close historical examination reveals that Darwin, in more traditional fashion, constructed nature with a moral spine and provided it with a goal: man as a moral creature. The book takes up many other topics—including the character of Darwin’s chief principles of natural selection and divergence, his dispute with Alfred Russel Wallace over man’s big brain, the role of language in human development, his relationship to Herbert Spencer, how much his views had in common with Haeckel’s, and the general problem of progress in evolution. Moreover, Richards takes a forceful stand on the timely issue of whether Darwin is to blame for Hitler’s atrocities. Was Hitler a Darwinian? is intellectual history at its boldest.

Historian of science Carla Nappi interviewed Richards about Was Hitler a Darwinian? for New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, saying that “the essays in Richards’ collection are wonderfully reflective considerations that reward the time and attention of both specialists in the history of biology and thoughtful general readers alike.”

BOOK: The Great Human Journey: Around the World in 22 Million Days

Ian Tattersall and Rob DeSalle, The Great Human Journey: Around the World in 22 Million Days (Piermont, NH: Bunker Hill Publishing, 2013), 48 pp. Illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne.

Wallace and Darwin, the Museum Mice from the Halls of the American Museum of Natural History, are off on another adventure! It’s amazing what you can find in a museum and how far you can travel in a small time machine made from a yoghurt cup! Have you ever wondered where we humans all came from and how there came to be so many of us? The answers, as our two mice will show you, lie everywhere including in our own DNA. So there is the Big Picture of The Great Human Journey from the middle of Africa to Australia, America and Asia and then there’s the Tiny (really tiny) Picture too of molecules and cells that we can trace inside ourselves and our Genome like long strings of letters that tell us where we came from and who our ancestors were, and where they were when and how they got there! In their 22 Million Day Journey our intrepid mice, Wallace and Darwin, trace the biggest genealogy of all and find that all humans are 85% African and only 15% from the rest of the world! That is if you start counting our Genes – all 25,000 of them give or take an overlap! We took all this with us on our long walks from East Africa to Australia and from Australia to Asia and Europe between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago. 35,000 years later it only took us a few thousand years more to get from Alaska to Chile! We took our sweet time creating cultures and civilizations as we went. And we did it without GPS! And we even know we wore clothes 170,000 years ago. How? Because Lice too have DNA. It is amazing what our genes can tell us and what the genes of other species tell us too! Mitochondrial DNA we inherit from our mothers tells us where they have been. And from the tiny threads of our Y chromosomes we inherit from our fathers we can tell where they have been too. And then there’s the Rats! They followed us in our canoes and boats and stayed on islands with us where we can trace their journeys too. Wallace and Darwin have appeared in two previous adventures: Bones, Brains and DNA: The Human Genome and Human Evolution [2007] and Brain: A 21st Century Look at a 400 Million Year Old Organ [2010]. Their creators Tattersall, DeSalle and Wynne have plans to send them on further excursions in The Tree of Life and The Anatomy of Evolution. Stay tuned!

BOOK: National Geographic Science of Everything: How Things Work in Our World

National Geographic Science of Everything: How Things Work in Our World (Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2013), 400 pp.

National Geographic answers all the questions about how things work–the science, technology, biology, chemistry, physics, and mechanics–in an indispensible book that reveals the science behind virtually everything. How does the voice of a distant radio announcer make it through your alarm clock in the morning? How does your gas stove work? How does the remote control open your garage door? What happens when you turn the key in the ignition? What do antibiotics really do? Divided into four big realms–Mechanics, Natural Forces, Materials & Chemistry, Biology & Medicine–The Science of Everything takes readers on a fascinating tour, using plain talk, colorful photography, instructive diagrams, and everyday examples to explain the science behind all the things we take for granted in our modern world.

Also see: National Geographic Illustrated Guide to Nature: From Your Back Door to the Great Outdoors

BOOK: How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial

I think this illustrated look at science denial complements Donald Prothero’s Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (my review) very well:

Darryl Cunningham, How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial (New York: Abrams ComicArts, 2013), 176 pp.

Climate change, fracking, evolution, vaccinations, homeopathy, chiropractic, even the moon landing – all hut-button controversies to which author-artist Darryl Cunningham applies cool, critical analysis. Using comics, photographs, diagrams, and highly readable text, Cunningham lays out the why and wherefores to expose the myths of science denial. Timely and well researched, How to Fake a Moon Landing is a graphic milestone of investigative science journalism.

PODCAST: Charles Darwin and the practice of science

The Royal Society of London has posted the audio from an October lecture with Alison Pearn of the Darwin Correspondence Project, “‘We are arriving at very curious results’: Charles Darwin and the practice of science”:

He never wore a lab coat, and is famous principally for a theory, yet Charles Darwin’s contribution to scientific method is considerable and often overlooked. Working surrounded by his family in an ordinary Victorian country house he devised ingenious experiments on everything from human expression to insectivorous plants, worked out the taxonomy of barnacles, and observed unsuspected behaviours in organisms from ants to earthworms. In devising some of the most influential ideas ever formulated, he used everything that came to hand from the vegetables in the kitchen garden, to the drugs prescribed for his stomach complaints, and, along the way, he pioneered the use of the scientific questionnaire, and conducted perhaps the first ever recorded ‘single blind’ experiment.

Enjoy!

Today is the 100th anniversary of the death of Alfred Russel Wallace

Alfred Russel Wallace

Alfred Russel Wallace, by Sophie Wainwright

Alfred Russel Wallace, natural history collector, biogeographer, and co-discoverer with Charles Darwin of the theory of natural selection, died on November 7, 1913, one hundred years ago today.

Here’s how you can observe this occasion:

Visit the Wallace100 page from the Natural History Museum in London

Visit Charles Smith’s website, The Alfred Russel Wallace Page

Visit George Beccaloni’s page, The Alfred Russel Wallace Website (and like ARW on Facebook, and follow @ARWallace on Twitter)

Visit Beccaloni’s other page, The Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project

Visit John van Wyhe’s page, Wallace Online (you can access Wallace’s books here)

Watch The Animated Life of A.R. Wallace from The New York Times

Watch a 1983 docu-drama, The Forgotten Voyage

Read a book, here are some suggestions: An Elusive Victorian: The Evolution of Alfred Russel Wallace, Alfred Russel Wallace: A Life., Infinite Tropics: An Alfred Russel Wallace Anthology, The Heretic in Darwin’s Court: The Life of Alfred Russel Wallace, In Darwin’s Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace: A Biographical Study on the Psychology of History, Alfred Russel Wallace in the Amazon: Footsteps in the Forest, Natural Selection and Beyond: The Intellectual Legacy of Alfred Russel Wallace, Dispelling the Darkness: Voyage in the Malay Archipelago and the Discovery of Evolution by Wallace and Darwin, and Alfred Russel Wallace: Letters from the Malay Archipelago

Read this book review, and its comments

Read this blog post, and its comments

Here’s how you should NOT to observe this occasion:

Don’t watch this “documentary”: Darwin’s Heretic

Don’t read these books: Alfred Russel Wallace: A Rediscovered Life, Alfred Russel Wallace’s Theory of Intelligent Evolution: How Wallace’s World of Life Challenged Darwinism (Revised Edition), The Darwin Conspiracy: Origins of a Scientific Crime, and A Delicate Arrangement: The Strange Case of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace

Don’t read these posts from the Discovery Institute showing how ARW is their poster boy for intelligent design: Rewatching Darwin’s Heretic and For Telling the Truth About Alfred Russel Wallace, Historian Michael Flannery Is Slandered as a “Denialist”

Don’t read this piece from the Public Domain Review: Alfred Russel Wallace: A Heretic’s Heretic

BOOK: The War on Science Goes Batshit

Allen J. Woppert, The War on Science Goes Batshit (CreateSpace, 2013), 248 pp

Most students don’t challenge their teachers’ methods. But fourteen-year-old Timothy Thompson isn’t like most students. He’s a certified genius and science geek, and when Mrs. Barker, his biology teacher, tries to slip “intelligent design” into the curriculum and then refuses to teach evolution, Timothy simply won’t have it. What happens from there is an all-out Batshit war. Timothy attends Omar L. Batshit (pronounced baht-SHEET) High School in Batshit, Illinois, where, following his battle with Mrs. Barker, many perceive his actions as anti-Christian and consider him the antichrist. He is harassed and bullied by students and tormented by Mr. Braun, the gym teacher with more brawn than brain. Joined by an endearing crew of fellow science geeks—including Megan Chow, whom Timothy vows to make his girlfriend—Timothy plans a lecture series to teach the “real science” Mrs. Barker refuses to teach. While this causes almost everyone around Timothy to hate him all the more, the geek squad gets enough support from the school’s principal and librarian to pull the series together. As Timothy and his friends continue to plan the lectures, unsettling forces continue to work against them. He finds help from some unexpected sources, including Mike Petersson, the star of the school’s football team and self-described “dumb jock,” who takes on the role of Timothy’s bodyguard. Eventually, Timothy finds himself in a life-threatening situation, where not even his big, burly bodyguard can help him. Will Timothy survive? Or will he become a casualty of the war he started? A suspenseful, entertaining story, The War on Science Goes Batshit takes a fresh look at the war between religion and science from the perspective of a teenage geek, setting it up not only as a politically charged piece but also as a young adult, coming-of-age saga that tells a tale of ordinary and extraordinary teens experiencing their first year of high school, the bonds and insecurities of friendship, and first love.

BOOK: On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson

I really enjoyed reading this new biography of Rachel Carson earlier this year. Souder touches on Carson’s evolutionary themes in some of her writing, as well as describing her work on an article in 1956, “Help Your Child to Wonder,” which later became the book, The Sense of Wonder which can be seen as a decades-prior-to-Last Child in the Woods effort to reconnect children to nature. I highly recommend Souder’s biography to anyone interested in nature and the environment, the history of science, or a well-told story about a significant figure of the twentieth century.

William Souder, On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson (New York, NY: Crown Publishers, 2012), 512 pp.

She loved the ocean and wrote three books about its mysteries, including the international bestseller The Sea Around Us. But it was with her fourth book, Silent Spring, that this unassuming biologist transformed our relationship with the natural world.

Rachel Carson began work on Silent Spring in the late 1950s, when a dizzying array of synthetic pesticides had come into use. Leading this chemical onslaught was the insecticide DDT, whose inventor had won a Nobel Prize for its discovery. Effective against crop pests as well as insects that transmitted human diseases such as typhus and malaria, DDT had at first appeared safe. But as its use expanded, alarming reports surfaced of collateral damage to fish, birds, and other wildlife. Silent Spring was a chilling indictment of DDT and its effects, which were lasting, widespread, and lethal.

Published in 1962, Silent Spring shocked the public and forced the government to take action-despite a withering attack on Carson from the chemicals industry. The book awakened the world to the heedless contamination of the environment and eventually led to the establishment of the EPA and to the banning of DDT and a host of related pesticides. By drawing frightening parallels between dangerous chemicals and the then-pervasive fallout from nuclear testing, Carson opened a fault line between the gentle ideal of conservation and the more urgent new concept of environmentalism.

Elegantly written and meticulously researched, On a Farther Shore reveals a shy yet passionate woman more at home in the natural world than in the literary one that embraced her. William Souder also writes sensitively of Carson’s romantic friendship with Dorothy Freeman, and of her death from cancer in 1964. This extraordinary new biography captures the essence of one of the great reformers of the twentieth century.