Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

William J. Hamilton (Died 27 Jul 1990; born 11 Dec 1902). William J(ohn) Hamilton, Jr. was an American mammalogist and environmentalist who stressed the vital ecological role of predators and the importance of conserving fur-bearing populations. His interest in plants and animals began in childhood, and working while a teenager for three summers for Daniel C. Beard (a naturalist, artist, and cofounder of the Boy Scouts of America). Hamilton’s research dealt with mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and horticulture, with a major interest was in life histories and ecology. He wrote books, including American Mammals (1939), and over 200 papers. He also made some pioneering studies of microtine life cycles.

Salim Ali (Died 27 Jul 1987; born 12 Nov 1896). Indian ornithologist, the “birdman of India,” who championed conservation of India’s biological diversity. His fieldwork provided scientific guidance for the Indian government’s conservation efforts. His love of birds began at age 10, when he began writing his observations. Eventually, he undertook professional education in ornithology. In 1930 he began a bird survey of Hyderabad State. By 1976, he had published several popular regional field guides of Indian birds for which he is famous. These surveys were based on extensive travels throughout India and Pakistan. The title of his autobiography “The Fall of a Sparrow” (1987) recalls the first sparrow that drew his interest as a boy.

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Henry David Thoreau (Born 12 July 1817; died 6 May 1862). Thoreau, an American born in Concord, Mass., was an author, philosopher, poet and naturalist. He was a pacifist who always had Ralph Waldo Emerson around to bail him out of trouble. Thoreau was known as the “Hermit of Walden” because he lived in the woods around Walden pond for several years.As Henry got older, his attentions turned more towards the observing and recording of natural history in Concord. Henry kept thorough journals of natural history and the citizens of Concord regarded him as the town naturalist. Many scholars consider Henry David Thoreau to be the father of the American conservation movements.

Claude Bernard (Born 12 July 1813; died 10 Feb 1878). French physiologist (born near Villefranche) known chiefly for his discoveries concerning the role of the pancreas in digestion, the glycogenic function of the liver, and the regulation of the blood supply by the vasomotor nerves. On a broader stage, Bernard played a role in establishing the principles of experimentation in the life sciences. His Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865) is a scientific classic.

Ynes Mexia (Died 12 July 1938; born 24 May 1870). Ynes Enriquetta Julietta Mexia was an American botanical collector, who developed her passion for botany and fieldwork in her 50′s, and yet was able to make about 150,000 collections in 12 years on seven expeditions. She was aged 55 when she made her first collecting trip. She accompanied Stanford’s Assistant Herbarium Curator, Roxanna Ferris, in Mexico. Her activity was remarkable, as she spent several years exploring for specimens in remote reaches of Central and South Americas. At age 59, she began a 2-1/2 year expedition in Peru and Brazil which included a three-month period trapped by floods with her team in a 600-m deep gorge which they escaped eventually by building a raft and running the river and its rapids.

David Douglas (Died 12 July 1834; born 25 Jun 1799). Scottish botanist who was one of the most successful of the great 19th century plant collectors. He established about 240 species of plants in Britain. His first foreign plant-hunting expedition (1824) was made throughout the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. The Douglas fir, which he cultivated from 1827, is named after him. He introduced other conifers including the Sitka spruce, now commercially important to the timber industry, and numerous garden plants and shrubs, including the lupin, California poppy and the flowering currant. At age 35, he died in by accident in Hawaii, when he fell into a pit dug by the islanders to trap wild cattle where he was trapped with a bull that also fell into the pit. He was gored to death by the bull.

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Ashley Montagu (Born 28 Jun 1905; died 26 Nov 1999). British American anthropologist noted for his works popularizing anthropology and science.

Robert Porter Allen (Died 28 Jun 1963; born 24 Apr 1905). American author and conservationist recognized for saving the whooping crane from extinction by discovering (1955) the nesting ground of the sole remaining flock near the Arctic Circle. He was a leader in having whooping crane habitats in Texas and Canada proclaimed as refuges. He helped establish a working protective plan for flamingos and recommended methods of saving the small surviving colonies of roseate spoonbills, thus helping to perpetuate the species. His monographs on the whooping crane, the roseate spoonbill, and the American flamingo are the standard authoritative works on these species.

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Oliver Perry Hay (Born 22 May 1846; died 2 Nov 1930). American paleontologist whose catalogs of fossil vertebrates greatly organized existing knowledge and became standard references. From 1912, he conduct his research at the United States National Museum where he assisted in working up and describing the museum’s collections in vertebrate paleontology. Hay’s primary scientific interest was the study of the Pleistocene vertebrata of North America. He is renowned for his work on skull and brain anatomy. His first major work was his Bibliography and Catalogue of the Fossil Vertebrata of North America (1902), supplemented by two more volumes (1929-30). Hay also wrote on the evidence of early humans in North America.

Joseph Wood Krutch (Died 22 May 1970; born 25 Nov 1893). American naturalist, conservationist, writer, and critic.

Mastodon and Man In 1979, the discovery of a Clovis type projectile point found in association with mastodon remains provided the first solid evidence of the coexistence of humans and the American mastodon in Eastern North America. Paleontologist Russell W. Graham of the Illinois State Museum made the discovery during a state sponsored excavation in the Kimmswick Bone Bed, near Imperial, Missouri. The first recorded report of bones of mastodons and other now-extinct animals in the vicinity of the town of Kimmswick, Missouri, was in the early 1800s. St. Louis Museum owner, Albert C. Koch, in 1839 excavated bones weathering out of the banks along Rock Creek. The site is now the Mastodon State Historic Site and excavations have been halted.

Jane Goodall Lecture at MSU

In my several years here at Montana State University, I have seen lectures by Salman Rushdie, Tim Flannery, Paul Russebegina, and Edward O. Wilson. Last Monday, I was fortunate to see primatologist and environmentalist Jane Goodall lecture at MSU (now I expect David Attenborough). She gave her talk, “A Reason for Hope,” in which she highlights events in her life and career in order to urge people today to take a step toward becoming advocates for the environment. Goodall was first introduced by nature writer (and Darwin biographer) David Quammen, who was instrumental in getting Goodall to come to MSU, and who shared his surprise at how active the 74-year-old Goodall remains in the field. Goodall then proceeded to greet the crowd of nearly 3,000 as chimpazees do, as can be heard at about 3:50 in this TED talk from 2002:

I enjoyed listening to her talk about, when only four years old or so, she was determined to find out where the hole on a hen is that an egg comes out, and remaining in a chicken coup while her parents worried over their disappeared daughter. Her lecture stressed her mother’s role in her life, from getting a young Jane animal books, spending the first months with her with the chimpanzee field study in 1960, to continuing to posthumously inspire her today. She recalled her feeling jealous about “that other Jane” that caught Tarzan’s fancy. And she mentioned this video, where a man jumped into a chimpanzee enclosure to save a drowning male chimp, risking his life as several angry chimps were charging nearby. She told how the man had described seeing the chimps eyes, and connecting as if the chimp were a fellow human being.
Despite her soft, scratchy voice, Jane had a very strong presence in front of the crowd. And she had a way of combining wonderful personal stories with current events and calls for action. Local articles discuss all of this (see here and here), so I won’t reiterate. All I know is that I am definitely interested in having my son sign up for Goodall’s Roots & Shoots program in about three years or so, if they have them where ever we are living then. The program strives to “foster respect and compassion for all living things, to promote understanding of all cultures and beliefs and to inspire each individual to take action to make the world a better place for people, animals and the environment.” I wish Patrick was old enough to have come to the lecture, but at just a little over 2 years old, he would not have been able to focus for two hours on someone 50 yards down the bleachers.

This picture is from the book signing after the lecture, as is the picture of the autographed book and ticket above.


Dispersal Event 4/20/2008

Lots of Darwin and related material hanging out in my inbox and feeds.

A good name for an elementary school…

A comparison of Darwin and Darkwing Duck (and a dis at the name Beagle).

A revival of Charles Darwin himself – and his thoughts about The H.M.S. Beagle Project – over at Science Creative Quarterly.

Two pieces of interest from the latest newsletter for the History of Science Society: a write-up about paleontologist and historian of science Martin J.S. Rudwick, author of Bursting the Limits of Time and the forthcoming Worlds Before Adam; and a photo essay about British empire and verticality by Michael S. Reidy (who happens to be my advisor).

A list of Wallace-related events in 2008 at The Alfred Russel Wallace Memorial Fund.
Philly Celebrates the Year of Evolution. And PZ comments.

From the Listserv for the International Societyfor the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology:

1. Call for papers: History of Psychiatry Special Issue: ‘A Hundred Years of Evolutionary Psychiatry (1872-1972).’ This Special Issue seeks to explore the history of evolutionary accounts of mental disorders. For convenience, it will focus on the period 1872-1972 marked by the publication of Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals and Tinbergen’s Early Childhood Autism – An Ethological Approach, respectively. Deadline for proposals: 1 November 2008.

2. The Darwin Correspondence Project will award a prize of £1000 for the best student essay on a specific topic in the field of science and religion. The essay should use materials from the Darwin correspondence, but need not be based exclusively on such materials. The prize essay will be published on the Darwin Correspondence Project’s website. Deadline for submissions: 1 June 2008.

7. Cambridge University Press has just published Elliott Sober’s book Evidence and Evolution — The Logic Behind the Science. Sober investigates general questions about probability and evidence and shows how the answers he develops to those questions apply to the specifics of evolutionary biology.

Emily Ballou – The Darwin Poems at the Science and Literature Reading Group.

The latest Quarterly Review of Biology has a series of articles on science and philosophy.

Darwin on Pure Scientific Research at Siris.

Look, ma! I can quote-mine historians too! at The Panda’s Thumb.

desperate men (street theater) present Darwin and the Dodo in the UK.

Write in Darwinian style (no, not like this, but with this).

Agassiz and Thoreau at A Natural Curiosity.

Browse evolution/Darwin themed cartoons at CartoonStock.

Barnacle Goose Paperworks on The Barnacle Goose Tree (some natural history).

Science and Photography at James Deavin Blog.

Carolus Linnaeus; Floral Clocks at Ysebaileybrooke’s Weblog.

New website: John Davidson — The Legacy of a Canadian Botanist.

IPY Blogs: Photography Comes to the Polar Regions–Almost.

A quick review of Measuring the World at The Geo Factor.

From the HIST-NAT-HIST listserve:

Intute: Health and Life Sciences has just launched a free online resourceguide – the first in a new “Focus on …” series. “Focus on … Conservation” aims to provide useful, detailed, high quality sources of information, particularly for students in Higher and Further Education. The guide may be freely distributed and copied for educational purposes only, and we would welcome comments and feedback. The guide is available on the Intute website at:

And finally, Adriann Thysse, of the Mystery of Mysteries (formerly Evolving with Darwin) blog, has been reviewing On the Origin of Species as a personal learning experience in a multitude of posts:

14. Laws of Variation I – Effects of Use and Disuse
13. Natural Selection VII – Divergence of Character
12. Natural Selection VI – Circumstances
11. Natural Selection V – The Benefits of Sex
10. Natural Selection IV – Examples
9. Natural Selection III – Sexual Selection
8. Natural Selection II
7. Natural Selection I
6. Struggle for Existence II
5. Struggle for Existence I
4. Variation under Nature
3. Variation under Domestication
2. The Origin of Species
1. Genesis

Today in Science History

Born this day:

Henry Chandler Cowles (Born 27 Feb 1869; died 12 Sep 1939). American botanist who was a pioneer in the field of plant ecology, especially the concept of dynamic ecology, which he devised in the 1890′s through a study of sand dune vegation at the southern end of Lake Michigan. He observed ecological succession, whereby starting with a bare habitat, there is a sequence of biological communities, each providing modification of the habitat to favour successors, until a climax community is established, characteristic of the climatic conditions of the region. His field work there showed that the vegetation at any one point in the system is related to the distance the point lies from the lake, the kind of soil present at the location, and the time period over which seeds and spores have had a chance to germinate.

Died this day:

Konrad Lorenz (Died 27 Feb 1989; born 7 Nov 1903). Austrian zoologist, founder of modern ethology, the study of animal behaviour by means of comparative zoological methods. He was known affectionately by his pupils as the “father of the grey geese” which he studied. His ideas revealed how behavioral patterns may be traced to an evolutionary past, and he was also known for his work on the roots of aggression. He shared the 1973 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine, for developing a unified, evolutionary theory of animal and human behaviour. He was also a vehement environmentalist, criticizing prodigality and believed that nature protection is necessary for the preservation of humanity. Even late in life, he participated in demonstrations even if in conflict with government and authorities.

Adam Sedgwick (Died 27 Feb 1913; born 28 Sep 1854). English zoologist, a grandnephew of the geologist Adam Sedgwick, who is best known for his researches on the wormlike organism Peripatus, which he recognized as the zoologically important connecting link between the Annelida, or segmented worms, and the Arthropoda, such as crabs, spiders, and insects.

Today in Science History

Died this day:

Elizabeth Gertrude Knight Britton (Died 25 Feb 1934; born 9 Jan 1858). American botanist known for her lasting contributions to bryology, the study of mosses. She went on numerous botanical expeditions to the West Indies and in wilderness areas of the Adirondacks. A visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, near London, England, made a great impression on Britton and she determined that New York City should have its own botanical garden. She was the driving force in the establishment of the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. The original 250 acre garden was incorporated in 1891. Through publications, lectures, and correspondence, Britton also raised public interest in conservation issues and promoted legislation for the protection of endangered native plants.

Charles Edwin Bessey (Died 25 Feb 1915; born 21 May 1845). American botanist who created the first U.S. undergraduate botanical experimental laboratory at Iowa State University, where he held several positions (1870-84) and inaugurated the systematic study of plant morphology in the U.S. He devised a classification of angiosperm (flowering plant) taxa based on Candolle’s theory of differentiation to emphasize the evolutionary divergence of primitive forms. He moved to become Dean of Agriculture at the University of Nebraska (1884-1915). While in Nebraska, he started a tree planting experiment (1902) that initiated the Nebraska National Forest, the first man-made national forest in the world. He helped influence federal legislation to preserve the giant sequoia trees in California.

Bag It Beagle Style

Want to help lessen the amount of plastic bags coagulating in the oceans, filling up waste sites, and strewn across Africa? We try to use canvas bags for shopping and errands, and we recycle any plastic bags we do get in bins at Albertsons or Safeway. Support the Beagle Project and minimize plastic bag use by purchasing a Beagle Project tote bag…

History of Science Podcasts

Hopefully everyone has heard of the latest podcast on the history of science, The Missing Link. Here’s a list of other podcasts which feature history of science or related topics:

BBC’s In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg (explores the history of ideas in many fields, here for science-specific shows)
California Academy of Science’s Science in Action
CBC’s How to Think About Science
Distillations (Chemistry)
The DNA Files
Exploring Environmental History
Faraday Institute Lectures Science

Museum Detective
NMSR’s Science Watch
Krulwich on Science
Science Friday
The Royal Society
Sorting Out Science
TED: Science

CALL FOR VIDEOS: For Ken Burns’ National Parks Series

Filmmaker Ken Burns, who recently brought us The War, is seeking home movies of family and tourist visits to the major national parks (Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Acadia, and Great Smoky Mountains) from the 1920s through the 1980s for a series on the National Parks for PBS in 2009. More information here and here, including what those whose submissions are used in the documentary will receive.

Tuesday Night’s Dispersal Event

I was in Yellowstone today visiting the Heritage and Research Center (HRC) in Gardiner, MT, so I just now got onto my computer to see what info is out there. The HRC is where I will be interning this summer, maybe some photos from today in a later post. Here are notable links for today:

Charles in Charge, a review of David Quammen‘s The Kiwi Egg (aka The Reluctant Mr. Darwin, which is now in paperback)
Darwin on Fossil Cirripedia at Afarensis
A selection of quotes from Aldo Leopold at Laelaps discusses Darwin
Charles Darwin Was a Gradualist at Sandwalk
Slavery, Southern Conservatism, and Darwinian Natural Right at Darwinian Conservatism (Darwiniana’s thoughts)
Thoughts in a Haystack on libraries banning creationist/ID books
Dissecting Creationist Lies at Science Avenger
Behe’s latest scrutinized at the National Center for Science Education (comments by Darwiniana)
The Great Mutator by Jerry Coyne (review of Behe’s book) posted at Darwiniana (comments by Pharyngula)
ID’s “clear and daring prediction” at Stranger Fruit

Topics for Tuesday

The Legacy of Aldo Leopold at Britannica Blog.

Some philosophy of science at Evolving Thoughts. Parts 2 and 3.

iPhylo on Google Earth phylogenies.

LiveScience reviews the “Mythic Creatures” exhibit at AMNH.

Fundamentalists Try to Link Darwin to Hitler at the GREAT realization.

Recent posts from Darwiniana cover Gould’s dishonest legacy, Darwin and the Age of Positivism, and Evolution not same as natural selection.

Sir John Richardson died (November 5, 1787-June 5, 1865), from Today in Science History:

“Scottish naval surgeon and naturalist who made accurate surveys of more of the Canadian Arctic coast than any other explorer, in service with the Royal navy (1807-55). During this time he was surgeon and naturalist to Sir John Franklin‘s polar expeditions (1819-22, 1825-27). On the second expeditions, he separated from Franklin to explore the coast to the Coppermine River and Great Slave Lake (1826). He conducted a search expedition (1848-49) for Franklin’s lost third Arctic expedition that had started in 1845, but was unable to find any trace of Franklin’s ships. He wrote Fauna Boreali-Americana (1829-37) which became a standard work on Arctic biology. He also wrote on ichthyology and polar exploration.”

William Beebe Died

William Beebe (July 29, 1877-June 4, 1962)

“(Charles) William Beebe was an American biologist, explorer, and writer on natural history who combined careful biological research with a rare literary skill. As director of tropical research for the New York Zoological Society from 1919, he led scientific expeditions to many parts of the world. He was the coinventor of the bathysphere, a spherical diving-vessel for use in underwater observations. In 1934, with Otis Barton, he descended in his bathysphere to a then record depth of 3,028 feet (923 metres) in Bermuda waters on 15 Aug 1934. Later dives reached depths of around 1.5 km (nearly 1 mile).”

To Honor or Not to Honor Rachel Carson

Today marks the 100th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s birth. The New Yorker has a nice piece on her here. James Hrynyshyn at The Island of Doubt brings attention to a senator’s wish not to honor Rachel Carson on this anniversary. Here is a Washington Post article about the issue. Birthday wishes from Born Again Birdwatcher. Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ Still Making Noise at NPR.

Darwin/Science Links for Weekend Reading

More on Darwin’s correspondence at Core77 Design Blog and The Stanford Daily.

Some other posts/links I found interesting:

New Life for Systematics at Science Magazine
Endangered Species Protection Sought for Bigfoot at LiveScience
Rachel Carson’s centennial at WildBird on the Fly
Archaea of Yellowstone Park at Science Notes