ARTICLE: Botanical Smuts and Hermaphrodites: Lydia Becker, Darwin’s Botany, and Education Reform

In the latest issue of Isis (June 2013):

Botanical Smuts and Hermaphrodites: Lydia Becker, Darwin’s Botany, and Education Reform

Tina Gianquitto

Abstract In 1868, Lydia Becker (1827–1890), the renowned Manchester suffragist, announced in a talk before the British Association for the Advancement of Science that the mind had no sex. A year later, she presented original botanical research at the BAAS, contending that a parasitic fungus forced normally single-sex female flowers of Lychnis diurna to develop stamens and become hermaphroditic. This essay uncovers the complex relationship between Lydia Becker’s botanical research and her stance on women’s rights by investigating how her interest in evolutionary theory, as well as her correspondence with Charles Darwin, critically informed her reform agendas by providing her with a new vocabulary for advocating for equality. One of the facts that Becker took away from her work on Lychnis was that even supposedly fixed, dichotomous categories such as biological sex became unfocused under the evolutionary lens. The details of evolutionary theory, from specific arguments on structural adaptations to more encompassing theories on heredity (i.e., pangenesis), informed Becker’s understanding of human physiology. At the same time, Becker’s belief in the fundamental equality of the sexes enabled her to perceive the distinction between inherent, biological differences and culturally contingent ones. She applied biological principles to social constructs as she asked: Do analogous evolutionary forces act on humans?

Some links…

Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs: Vintage Dinosaur Art: The Gishosaurs

Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution wins the Royal Society’s Science Book Prize

VIDEO – The Poetry of Science: Richard Dawkins and Neil deGrasse Tyson:

Sandwalk: Dispatches from the Evolution Wars

Sandwalk: The National Science Foundation Version of “Understanding Evolution”

Galapagos Live: Introducing Galapagos 2.0 & The Beagle Project Blog: In Galapagos!

The Red Notebook: People want to see the Beagle

Two interviews with Laelaps’ Brian Switek, author of the soon-to-be-released Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature

Clips from the new documentary First Life from David Attenborough, plus:

History of geology: Dragons and Geology

BBC Audio Slideshow: Jurassic woman (Mary Anning)

History of Science Centre’s blog: A note on transactions and Ubi Crookes Ibi Lux

The Bubble Chamber: Can History and Philosophy of Science be Applied in Socially Relevant Ways? and Planet Earth through Disney’s Lens

From the Hands of Quacks: For the Maker of the Stars: The Cultural Reception of Print

Whewell’s Ghost: Mr. X

History of science blog: Evocative objects

Darwin and Gender: The Blog: The Reluctant Bride Groom?

Darwin Correspondence Project: Alison Pearn to discuss ‘Darwin’s Women’ at Wesleyan University

Charlie’s Playhouse blog: Irresistible contest entry

Natural History @ 100: The Smithsonian/Roosevelt African Expedition 1909-1910

Ptak Science Books: Phantom in the Opera: Questions about Darwin and Einstein and Music

Robert Kohler reviews Steven Shapin’s Never Pure: Historical Studies of Science as if It Was Produced by People with Bodies, Situated in Time, Space, Culture, and Society, and Struggling for Credibility and Authority for Science

Melanie Keene reviews Peter Bowler’s Science for All: The Popularization of Science in Early Twentieth-Century Britain in Centaurus

Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective

Cover Figure

The Geological Society, London has published a volume of papers on the history of dinosaur (or phylogenetically-related) paleontology, Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective, edited by R.T.J. Moody, E. Buffetaut, D. Naish (blog), and D.M. Martill:

The discovery of dinosaurs and other large extinct ‘saurians’—a term under which the Victorians commonly lumped ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, pterosaurs and their kin—makes exciting reading and has caught the attention of palaeontologists, historians of science and the general public alike. The papers in this collection go beyond the familiar tales about famous ‘fossil hunters’ and focus on relatively little-known episodes in the discovery and interpretation (from both a scientific and an artistic point of view) of dinosaurs and other inhabitants of the Mesozoic world. They cover a long time span, from the beginnings of ‘modern’ scientific palaeontology in the 1700s to the present, and deal with many parts of the world, from the Yorkshire coast to Central India, from Bavaria to the Sahara. The characters in these stories include professional palaeontologists and geologists (some of them well-known, others quite obscure), explorers, amateur fossil collectors, and artists, linked together by their interest in Mesozoic creatures.

And the papers:

About this title – Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective [Abstract] [PDF] FREE

Richard T. J. Moody, Eric Buffetaut, Darren Naish and David M. Martill, Dinosaurs and other extinct saurians: a historical perspective – introduction [Extract] [Full Text] [PDF] FREE

Mark Evans, The roles played by museums, collections and collectors in the early history of reptile palaeontology [Abstract]

H. S. Torrens, William Perceval Hunter (1812–1878), forgotten English student of dinosaurs-to-be and of Wealden rocks [Abstract]

Leslie F. Noè, Jeff J. Liston and Sandra D. Chapman, ‘Old bones, dry subject’: the dinosaurs and pterosaur collected by Alfred Nicholson Leeds of Peterborough, England [Abstract]

Federico Fanti, Life and ideas of Giovanni Capellini (1833–1922): a palaeontological revolution in Italy [Abstract]

Richard T. J. Moody and Darren Naish, Alan Jack Charig (1927–1997): an overview of his academic accomplishments and role in the world of fossil reptile research [Abstract]

Susan Turner, Cynthia V. Burek and Richard T. J. Moody, Forgotten women in an extinct saurian (man’s) world [Abstract]

Xabier Pereda Suberbiola, José-Ignacio Ruiz-Omeñaca, Nathalie Bardet, Laura Piñuela and José-Carlos García-Ramos, Wilhelm (Guillermo) Schulz and the earliest discoveries of dinosaurs and marine reptiles in Spain [Abstract]

Matthew T. Carrano, Jeffrey A. Wilson and Paul M. Barrett, The history of dinosaur collecting in central India, 1828–1947 [Abstract]

Eric Buffetaut, Spinosaurs before Stromer: early finds of spinosaurid dinosaurs and their interpretations [Abstract]

Martin A. Whyte, Mike Romano and Will Watts, Yorkshire dinosaurs: a history in two parts [Abstract]

A. J. Bowden, G. R. Tresise and W. Simkiss, Chirotherium, the Liverpool footprint hunters and their interpretation of the Middle Trias environment [Abstract]

Darren Naish, Pneumaticity, the early years: Wealden Supergroup dinosaurs and the hypothesis of saurischian pneumaticity [Abstract]

Peter Wellnhofer, A short history of research on Archaeopteryx and its relationship with dinosaurs [Abstract]

Brian Switek (congrats to Laelaps!), Thomas Henry Huxley and the reptile to bird transition [Abstract]

Kasper Lykke Hansen, A history of digit identification in the manus of theropods (including Aves) [Abstract]

Attila Osi, Edina Prondvai and Barnabás Géczy, The history of Late Jurassic pterosaurs housed in Hungarian collections and the revision of the holotype of Pterodactylus micronyx Meyer 1856 (a ‘Pester Exemplar’) [Abstract]

David M. Martill, The early history of pterosaur discovery in Great Britain [Abstract]

Mark P. Witton, Pteranodon and beyond: the history of giant pterosaurs from 1870 onwards [Abstract]

Jean Le Loeuff, Art and palaeontology in German-occupied France: Les Diplodocus by Mathurin Méheut (1943) [Abstract]

J. J. Liston, 2000 A.D. and the new ‘Flesh’: first to report the dinosaur renaissance in ‘moving’ pictures [Abstract]

Michael P. Taylor, Sauropod dinosaur research: a historical review [Abstract]


New book of interest, The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff, comes out in November. Richard has a blog for the book, and he tweets @RichardConniff

Rush Limbaugh “tackles evolution” – here’s a sneak peek:

RUSH: Of course creationism is — but Darwinism is faith, too. That’s my whole point. Darwinism is presented as absolute science, inarguable science, and it’s faith as well. CALLER: It is science. It is science, Rush. There’s a lot of evidence — RUSH: Well, then I’m going to say creationism is a science, intelligent design is a science. If you say my faith isn’t a science, I’m going to say yours isn’t.

And again!

Niles Eldredge: How Systematics Became “Phylogenetic” [pdf]

Nature: The Lost Correspondence of Francis Crick (review)

Whewell’s Ghost (@beckyfh): Government funding for ‘pure’ research: an extremely brief and gappy history

Whewell’s Ghost (Will Thomas): Good History and the Virtue of Sisyphus

All You Need to Know About Dinosaurs, courtesy of the ICR

NCSE shares: images of an intelligent design vs. evolution board game from Ray Comfort – go to their Facebook page; Darwin and Scopes in new poll on knowledge of religion; and a Blast From the Past video, “The Case of the Texas Footprints”:

Dinosaur Tracking: The Dinosaurs of Industry

Laelaps: Giraffes – Necks for food or necks for sex?

Paleontology and history of science blogger Mike Bertasso looks like he’s back to blogging since summer is over…

Kele’s Science Blog: Personal Beliefs’ Impact Upon the Synthesis

Read More

Darwin and Gender: Darwin, Henrietta and Tennyson & Female Censorship?

David Quammen: Being Jane Goodall

Info on a (potentially free) book about the postal Darwin (stamps, that is), here

Down the Cellar: Shoehorning science: Darwin and group selection

Darwin has “manly notebooks”

JF Derry: Rich Pickings (about Darwin and whether or not he had Victorian sensibility) & Wars of the Words

The Bubble Chamber: Is Sam Harris on to something? Can science answer moral questions?

Another video, “About the British Geological Survey | 175 years of geoscience”:

And to end, I thoroughly enjoyed this tweet from @theselflessmeme:


Worth reading…

Ecce Homo

La ilustración procede del tomo IV (voz «Primates») de la Enciclopedia de Ciencias Naturales de 4 Tomos que publicó Bruguera en Barcelona en 1967.

East Lothian Courier: ‘Darwin’ property and the science of house-selling

OSQUALITUDE (@jfderry): Lies, lies, lies (about Darwin, Emma Darwin, and the influence of her music)

Darwin and Gender: The Blog: Talking to Naturalists

Time Tree: The Timescale of Life (a new resource, like

Whewell’s Ghost (@beckyfh): Good, popular history of science II

I linked to the Danish Darwin Archive a few days ago, and just saw this new article in Annals of Science: Danes commemorating Darwin: apes and evolution at the 1909 anniversary

John Farrell on Huffington Post: Bad Faith (in Science): Darwin as All-Purpose Boogey Man?

Please be patient, I am evolving as fast as I can!: The Discovery Institute’s Continued Persecution of Darwin

Biodiversity Heritage Library: Book of the Week: Darwin for Children

Royal Society

At the Royal Society in London

From Me to You

Some links worth sharing:


Can anyone tell me what this is? Science: Chip Off the Old Block? Meet Charles Darwin’s Grandpa, Erasmus

‎”Nothing in ID makes sense except in the light of Christianity” (my quote)

World’s most expensive book goes up for sale: “A rare copy of John James Audubon’s Birds of America, billed as the world’s most expensive book, is to go on sale at Sotheby’s, it has been announced”

Forgetting Women at Chemical Heritage Foundation

Historian of science Joe Cain’s webpage has a lot of Darwin content, including the source for a famous Huxley quote: “how extremely stupid not to have thought of that”

Journal of Integrative Zoology: “Species from Darwin onward”

Videos of  the BBC program Inside Nature’s Giants – dissections of large animals, some w/ Richard Dawkins – can be had at the WhyEvolutionIsTrue YouTube channel

The end

JOB: Education & Outreach Officer (Darwin Correspondence Unit)

From the University of Cambridge:

Education & Outreach Officer (Darwin Correspondence Unit)

University Library
Vacancy Reference No: VE06515  Salary: £27,319-£35,646
Limit of tenure applies*

The Darwin Correspondence Project ( is a small externally-funded team of researchers and editors, based in Cambridge University Library, which is making available complete transcripts of all known letters written by or to the naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-82). The post of Education and Outreach Officer is a new, temporary post funded as part of a sub-project on ‘Darwin and Gender’ supported by a grant from The Bonita Trust, and is the equivalent of a two-year full-time post.

Working with the Project editors, and with a web development team at the University’s Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies, the postholder will be responsible for researching, creating, and delivering educational resources – chiefly web based – using Darwin’s correspondence, and for publicising their existence and maximising their use in schools and by the general public.

Applicants should be educated to degree level in a relevant field, have working knowledge of current educational practice, including the use of technology, knowledge of nineteenth-century history and history of science, and of issues in gender studies. They must possess excellent written and verbal communication skills, research and IT skills, and have the ability to work both on their own and as part of a team.

Informal enquiries are welcomed by Dr Alison Pearn, Assistant Director, Darwin Correspondence Project, on 01223 339770, e-mail:

This post is available with immediate effect. Further details can be downloaded from or are available from the Librarian’s Personal Assistant, Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DR. Tel: (01223) 333045. E-mail:

Applications should include a CV, contact details for three professional referees, and a completed form PD18 downloadable from and should be sent to Dr Alison Pearn, Assistant Director, Darwin Correspondence Project, University Library, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DR (

* Limit of tenure: 2 years from date of appointment

Closing date: 29 April 2010.

Journal: Darwin issue of ‘Comptes Rendus Biologies’

All these articles are “online first” for what I am assuming is a forthcoming Darwin issue of Comptes Rendus Biologies (I won’t link to every article, just the journal, here):

Jean Gayon, Michel Veuille, “A non-Darwinian Darwin: An introduction”

Michael Ruse, “Cross- and self-fertilization of plants”

This essay considers Charles Darwin’s late work, Cross- and Self-Fertilization of Plants, locating it in the overall context of Darwin’s thought and ideas. It is shown how it is part of a long-term interest in the purpose of sexuality, and how it complements Darwin’s earlier book on the fertilization of orchids. It is concluded, however, that Darwin had no full solution to his problem.

Gregory Radick, “Darwin’s puzzling Expression”

Charles Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872) is a very different kind of work from On the Origin of Species (1859). This “otherness” is most extreme in the character of the explanations that Darwin offers in the Expression. Far from promoting his theory of natural selection, the Expression barely mentions that theory, instead drawing on explanatory principles which recall less Darwinian than Lamarckian and structuralist biological theorizing. Over the years, historians have offered a range of solutions to the puzzle of why the Expression is so “non-Darwinian”. Close examination shows that none of these meets the case. However, recent research on Darwin’s lifelong engagement with the controversies in his day over the unity of the human races makes possible a promising new solution. For Darwin, emotional expression served the cause of defending human unity precisely to the extent that natural selection theory did not apply.

Bernard Thierry, “Darwin as a student of behavior”

In The Expression of the Emotions, Charles Darwin documents evolutionary continuity between animals and humans, emphasizing the universality of expressions in man. Most of the book addresses human behavior, and its influence on the study of animal behavior has been weak. The issue of natural selection is remarkably absent from this book, which relies on the inheritance of acquired characters rather than on a genuine Darwinian logic. Yet Konrad Lorenz considered Darwin to be a forerunner of behavioral biology. The reason was to be found in The Descent of Man and chapter VIII of The Origin of Species, where Darwin provides an explanation of behavior through selection, stating that the same mechanisms explaining morphological changes also account for gradual improvements in instincts. He assessed the accuracy of his evolutionary theory by directly studying animal behavior, hence laying the foundations of behavioral research for the next century.

Claudine Cohen, “Darwin on woman”

In his 1871 book The Descent of Man, Darwin exposed the idea of sexual selection as a major principle of human evolution. His main hypothesis, which was already briefly presented in The Origin of Species, is that there exists, besides “natural selection”, another form of selection, milder in its effect, but no less efficient. This selection is operated by females to mate and reproduce with some partners that are gifted with more qualities than others, and more to their taste. At more evolved stages, sexual selection was exerted by men who became able to choose the women most attractive to their taste. However, Darwin insists, sexual selection in the human species is limited by a certain number of cultural practices. If Darwin’s demonstration sometimes carried the prejudices of his times regarding gender differences he was the first who took into account the importance of sexual choices in his view on evolution, and who insisted on the evolutionary role of women at the dawn of humanity. Thus, he opened the space for a rich reflection, which after him was widely developed and discussed in anthropological and gender studies.

Camilo J. Cela-Conde, Lucrecia Burges, Marcos Nadal, Antonio Olivera, “Altruism and fairness: Unnatural selection?”

Darwin admitted that the evolution of moral phenomena such as altruism and fairness, which are usually in opposition to the maximization of individual reproductive success, was not easily accounted for by natural selection. Later, authors have proposed additional mechanisms, including kin selection, inclusive fitness, and reciprocal altruism. In the present work, we explore the extent to which sexual selection has played a role in the appearance of human moral traits. It has been suggested that because certain moral virtues, including altruism and kindness, are sexually attractive, their evolution could have been shaped by the process of sexual selection. Our review suggests that although it is possible that sexual selection played such a role, it is difficult to determine the extent of its relevance, the specific form of this influence, and its interplay with other evolutionary mechanisms.

Jean-Marc Drouin, Thierry Deroin, “Minute observations and theoretical framework of Darwin’s studies on climbing plants”

The role of movement in plants was unrecognised for a long time, due to the relative slowness of such movements by comparison with those of active animals such as insects and vertebrates, and to the difficulty with which they are distinguished from mere growth processes. Given this, the pioneer work of Darwin (On the Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants 1865) is a milestone in botany. It is always cited as the beginning of any rigorous analysis of plant movement. Such a successful approach results at once from Darwin’s broad knowledge of natural history, his use of numerous direct observations and simple experiments, but also from his own talent, which compensated for technical gaps in several instances. His use of metaphorical descriptions was a response to the lack of a firm theoretical background. It facilitated a preliminary classification of plant movement and a comparison of observations. Perhaps his most fruitful metaphors were those drawn from economic concepts, such as division of labour. Darwin’s legacy in plant physiology is impressive, as even the most recent biophysical interpretations of climbing plants (e.g. tendril perversion) take place inside the framework he constructed.

Gabriel Gohau, “Darwin the geologist: Between Lyell and von Buch”

Upon returning from his voyage on the Beagle, Darwin prepared reports of his geological observations. Together, these reveal Darwin’s approach to reasoning about geology. Darwin argued that successive terraces prove a very gradual elevation of the coast that lagoon islands show a reciprocal sinking of the oceanic floor. Hence, Darwin reinforced Lyell’s uniformitarian, or steady state theory. Unlike lagoon islands, the movement of erratic boulders onto the plains is evidence of forces, which do not now exist. Darwin and Lyell attributed this movement to floating icebergs. However, mountain formation remained difficult for them to explain with reference to contemporary causes. Lyell discovered uplifts in Scandinavia, which resulted from epirogenesis, whereas mountain formation is an orogenesis, which involves both folding and uplift. Darwin was more impressed by uplift than by folds. However, when in Cordillera he saw strata overturned by masses of injected rock, proving successive periods of violence, Darwin took a position, which was closer to the plutonic theories of von Buch and Humboldt than it was to Lyell’s uniformitarian views.

Jean Gayon, “Sexual selection: Another Darwinian process”

Why was sexual selection so important to Darwin? And why was it de-emphasized by almost all of Darwin’s followers until the second half of the 20th century? These two questions shed light on the complexity of the scientific tradition named “Darwinism”. Darwin’s interest in sexual selection was almost as old as his discovery of the principle of natural selection. From the beginning, sexual selection was just another “natural means of selection”, although different from standard “natural selection” in its mechanism. But it took Darwin 30 years to fully develop his theory, from the early notebooks to the 1871 book The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. Although there is a remarkable continuity in his basic ideas about sexual selection, he emphasized increasingly the idea that sexual selection could oppose the action of natural selection and be non adaptive. In time, he also gave more weight to mate choice (especially female choice), giving explicit arguments in favor of psychological notions such as “choice” and “aesthetic sense”. But he also argued that there was no strict demarcation line between natural and sexual selection, a major difficulty of the theory from the beginning. Female choice was the main reason why Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of the principle of natural selection, engaged in a major controversy with Darwin about sexual selection. Wallace was suspicious about sexual selection in general, trying to minimize it by all sorts of arguments. And he denied entirely the existence of female choice, because he thought that it was both unnecessary and an anthropomorphic notion. This had something to do with his spiritualist convictions, but also with his conception of natural selection as a sufficient principle for the evolutionary explanation of all biological phenomena (except for the origin of mind). This is why Wallace proposed to redefine Darwinism in a way that excluded Darwin’s principle of sexual selection. The main result of the Darwin–Wallace controversy was that most Darwinian biologists avoided the subject of sexual selection until at least the 1950 s, Ronald Fisher being a major exception. This controversy still deserves attention from modern evolutionary biologists, because the modern approach inherits from both Darwin and Wallace. The modern approach tends to present sexual selection as a special aspect of the theory of natural selection, although it also recognizes the big difficulties resulting from the inevitable interaction between these two natural processes of selection. And contraWallace, it considers mate choice as a major process that deserves a proper evolutionary treatment. The paper’s conclusion explains why sexual selection can be taken as a test case for a proper assessment of “Darwinism” as a scientific tradition. Darwin’s and Wallace’s attitudes towards sexual selection reveal two different interpretations of the principle of natural selection: Wallace’s had an environmentalist conception of natural selection, whereas Darwin was primarily sensitive to the element of competition involved in the intimate mechanism of any natural process of selection. Sexual selection, which can lack adaptive significance, reveals this exemplarily.

Jonathan Hodge, “The Darwin of pangenesis”

The Darwin of pangenesis is very much another Darwin. Pangenesis is Darwin’s comprehensive theory of generation, his theory about all sexual and asexual modes of reproduction and growth. He never explicitly integrated pangenesis with his theory of natural selection. He first formulated pangenesis in the 1840s and integrated it with the physiology, including the cytology, of that era. It was, therefore, not consilient with the newer cytology of the 1860s when he published it in 1868. By reflecting on the role of pangenesis in Darwin’s life and work, we can learn to take a wider view of his most general theorising about animal and plant life.

Jean Deutsch, “Darwin and barnacles”

In this essay, I discuss the origin of Charles Darwin’s interest in cirripedes (barnacles). Indeed, he worked intensively on cirripedes during the years in which he was developing the theory that eventually led to the publication of The Origin of Species. In the light of our present knowledge, I present Darwin’s achievements in the morphology, systematics and biology of these small marine invertebrates, and also his mistakes. I suggest that the word that sheds the most light here ishomology, and that his mistakes were due to following Richard Owen’s method of determining homologies by reference to an ideal archetype. I discuss the ways in which his studies on cirripedes influenced the writing of The Origin.

Michel Veuille, “Darwin and sexual selection: one hundred years of misunderstanding”

Darwin’s book on the Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871) is often viewed as the continuation of The Origin of Species published 12 years earlier (1859), both because of the implicit parallelism between natural selection and sexual selection, and because Darwin himself presents the book as developing a subject (man) which he intentionally omitted in the Origin. But the Descent can also be viewed as the continuation of his book on Variation published three years earlier (1868). Firstly because Darwin’s hypothesis of pangenesis links the selection process to the origin of variation through use and disuse, an idea underlying his speculations on the origin of moral sense in humans. Second because like the action of the horticulturist on his domestic crops, sexual selection exerted by one sex on the other sex can develop fancy traits that are not easily accounted for by their utility to the selected organism itself, such as artistic taste, pride, courage, and the morphological differences between human populations. These traits are difficult to reconcile with pangenesis. They add up to other contradictions of the book possibly resulting from Darwin’s erroneous inference about the mechanism of inheritance, like those on the determination of sex-ratio, or the confusion between individual adaptation and the advantage to the species. These inconsistencies inaugurate a weakening of the Darwinian message, which will last 50 years after his death. They contributed to the neglect of sexual selection for a century. Darwin however maintained a logical distinction between evolutionary mechanisms and hereditary mechanisms, and an epistemological distinction between evolutionary theory and Pangenesis hypothesis. In the modern context of Mendelian genetics, Darwin’s sexual selection retrospectively appears as luminous an idea in its pure principle as natural selection, even though the mechanisms governing the evolution of sexual choice in animals remain largely unresolved.

Armand de Ricqlès, “On Darwin’s palaeontology in The Origin of Species”

I investigate the role of palaeontology within Darwin’s works through an analysis of the two chapters of The Origin of Species most especially devoted to this science. Palaeontology may occupy several places within the structure of the argumentative logic of Darwinism, but these places have remained to some extent ancillary. Indeed, palaeontology could well document evolutionary patterns, showing the actual occurrence of evolution as a general “historical fact”, but it was poorly adapted to demonstrate the main point of Darwinism: the actual evolutionary process: natural selection acting among individuals. I also show, in agreement with Gould, that Darwin had great confidence in the ultimate ability of palaeontology to support his theory, and that in interpreting palaeontological evidence, he expressed a vision of natural selection much wider and more eclectic than that which has generally been ascribed to him.

Thierry Hoquet, “Darwin teleologist? Design in the Orchids”

Focusing on the Orchids, this article aims at disentangling the concepts of teleology, design and natural theology. It refers to several contemporary critics of Darwin (Kölliker, Argyll, Royer, Candolle, Delpino) to challenge Huxley’s interpretation that Darwin’s system was “a deathblow” to teleology. The Orchids seem rather to be a “flank-movement” (Gray): it departs from the Romantic theories of transmutation and the “imaginary examples” of the Origin; it focuses on empirical data and on teleological structures. Although Darwin refers to natural selection, his readers mock him for his fascination for delicate morphological contrivances and co-adaptations – a sign that he was inescapably lured to finality. Some even suggested that his system was a “theodicy”. In the history of Darwinism, the Orchids reveal “another” quite unexpected and heterodox Darwin: freed from the hypothetical fancies of the Origin, and even suggesting a new kind of physico-theology.

Jorge Martínez-Contreras, “Darwin’s apes and ‘savages’”

Since his visit to Tierra del Fuego in the 1830s, Darwin had been fascinated by the “savages” that succeeded in surviving on such a “broken beach”, and because they were certainly similar in behaviour to our ancestors. However, he was also fascinated by baboons’ behaviour, according to Brehm’s accounts: hamadryas baboons showed a strong altruism to the point of risking their own lives in order to save their infants from attack by dogs. In 1871, he mentions he would rather have descended from brave baboons than from “savages”, considered egoistic. We study the two sources of these ideas and try to show how Darwin’s comparative reflections on apes and “savages” made him the first evolutionist anthropologist.

PODCAST: More Darwin Podcasts from Endless Forms Exhibit

As part of hosting the art exhibit Endless Forms: Darwin, Natural Science & the Arts (opened June 16th), the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England is doing a series of podcasts. I have posted the first 3 episodes so far (here, here, and here), and here are others:

4. Uncovering our Origins: Monkeys, Apes and “Primitive Man’ – and how Darwin got it wrong (with Richard Foley)

5. ‘Flaunting It’ – Sexual Selection and the Courtship of Nature (with Tim Clutton-Brock)

6. A Tour of ‘Endless Forms’ (with Sir Paul Nurse)

7. Evolving Philosophy (with Philip Kitcher)

8. Darwin, Hooker and the Venus Flytraps (with Sir Peter Crane)

9. Humankind – A Troubling Future? (with Lord Robert May)

10. The Evolving Body (with Randolph Nesse)

11. Darwin, Design and Christianity (with John Brooke)

12. From ‘Missing Link Mania’ to 150 Years of Popular Darwinism in Europe (with Peter Kjaergaard)

13. The Predatory Ape: Sex, Simians and Society in Nineteenth-Century Europe (with Gowan Dawson)

Darwin and Women

The Darwin Correspondence Project has begun a new initiative on Darwin and gender:

Darwin’s ideas have had enormous influence on attitudes to gender and sexuality, both theoretically and on such practical issues as how – or even whether – women should be educated. The ‘Darwin and Gender’ project will, for the first time, make available in a single resource Darwin’s private, and largely unpublished, writings relevant to this subject, in particular a large body of his letters.

The BBC Radio 4 program Woman’s Hour discussed the project. Jump to 12:30 in the show, which is only available to listen to online for one more day.

From the Science blog Origins:

“[This is] a side of Darwin that you wouldn’t necessarily know about,” says project director Jim Secord. It’s true that Darwin still believed that women were best adapted for carrying out domestic tasks, acknowledges Secord, but unlike others at the time, he was “quite open minded to women having an intellectual role” and took the work of female scientists seriously.

ARTICLE: “Sympathetic Science: Charles Darwin, Joseph Hooker, and the Passions of Victorian Naturalists”

A new article by historian of science Jim Endersby about Darwin and Hooker in Victorian Studies:

Jim Endersby, “Sympathetic Science: Charles Darwin, Joseph Hooker, and the Passions of Victorian Naturalists” Victorian Studies 51 (2009): 299-320.

Here is the abstract:

This essay examines the complex tangle of emotional and scientific attachments that linked Darwin and botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker. Analyzing their roles as husbands, fathers, and novel readers demonstrates that possessing and expressing sympathy was as important for Victorian naturalists as it was for Victorian husbands. Sympathy was a scientific skill that Victorian naturalists regarded as necessary to fully understand the living world; although sympathy became increasingly gendered as feminine over the course of the century, its importance to male naturalists requires us to rethink the ways gender roles were negotiated in Victorian Britain. Botany was, for men like Darwin and Hooker, an acceptably masculine pursuit that nevertheless allowed—and even required—them to be sensitive and sympathetic.

Women in science exhibit aims to inspire

From the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

Women in science exhibit aims to inspire
By AMANDA RICKER Chronicle Staff Writer

Louise Bourgeois was the first professionally trained female surgeon. Ada Lovelace wrote the first computer program. Rosalind Franklin developed an X-ray that proved DNA molecules were helical.

Yet none of these women’s names are well known.“If you look and read history carefully, you’ll always find women’s names behind everything,” said Barbara Keremedjiev, who founded and runs the American Computer Museum in Bozeman with her husband, George.

A new permanent exhibit at the museum, “From Astronomy to Zoology: 1,500 years of Women in Science and Technology,” aims to raise awareness of women like Bourgeois, Lovelace and Franklin and inspire people n especially young girls – to be scientists.

The exhibit includes original letters, theses and books written by women whose accomplishments are sometimes overlooked by history.

“So much of what women scientists have done seems to have been covered up,” said Julia Hatch, a senior at Montana State University who visited the exhibit as part of an assignment for her gender class.

The exhibit begins with Hypatia of Alexandria, a fourth-century scholar who taught math, philosophy and astronomy in Roman Egypt. People are reported to have traveled miles to learn from her until a fanatical religious group killed her because she defended the principles of science over religion.

“She is credited as being the first woman scientist of any consequence,” George Keremedjiev said. “She was pivotal.”

Right next to the Hypatia display is an original receipt Bourgeois gave King Henry IV.

Bourgeois delivered six children for the king and Marie de Medici during the 16th century. She published a book about obstetrics that’s considered the first book of science or medicine ever published by a woman in Europe.

The exhibit also features original copies of chemist, physicist and two-time Nobel Prize-winner Marie Curie’s first three published papers; primatologist Jane Goodall’s first book; and a signed copy of Rachel Carson’s book, “Silent Spring,” which led to a United States ban on DDT and other pesticides.

Cecelia Payne was just 25 years old when she wrote her 1925 thesis on the sun, which she described as being composed of mostly hydrogen, contrary to theory at that time. She went on to become the first woman to achieve the status of full professor at Harvard and her original thesis is in the exhibit.

This rare collection made possible in part by grants from the Gilhausen Foundation and Zoot industries, took the Keremedjievs years to plan and assemble, George Keremedjiev said. “I hope that (the exhibit) will inspire parents to bring their daughters, nieces, sisters, wives to see this.”

Each of the women in the exhibit paved the way for women scientists today.

“Many of (the women) had to struggle tremendously to even be allowed to study science,” George said. “They often had to work with equipment that was inferior and universities wouldn’t say they were working for them. It’s very inspiring how they persisted.”

Curie was denied membership to the French Academy of Sciences because of her gender.

Before being given an officials position at Harvard, Payne considered leaving because of her low status and poor salary.

After Franklin died, the men she had worked with on DNA discoveries received a Nobel Prize.

“Behind every great man, there’s an exhausted woman,” George said, citing a now popular saying.

LECTURE: Linnaeus and the role of women in 18th century botany


Linnaeus and the role of women in 18th century botany
Thursday 18th September 2008, 6.00pm

The new classification method for plants introduced by Carl Linnaeus – the sexual system – was based on the number of stamens and pistils in the flower and easy to use for anyone interested in botany. To Linnaeus and contemporary Swedish scientists, it was important that not only academics, but also laymen contributed to the exploration of natural resources, including plant species. Linnaeus therefore encouraged women to study botany. He corresponded with women in Sweden and abroad, and expressed that women were more suitable than men to perform botanical long-term studies such as experimental plantations of exotic species.

It is clear that women were inspired by Linnaeus’ teachings and made earnest studies in botany. In their non-academic environment they were not restricted to traditional methods, and sometimes used their freedom to cross the borders between science and art. Some of them were important in the scientific network around Linnaeus, and some had a substantial impact on science. However, their work has sunk into oblivion and traces are not easy to find. This talk will shed some light on the work of women like Lady Ann Monson, Mary Delany, Anna Blackburne, Ulla Sparre, Caroline Luise von Baden-Durlach and Elisabeth Christina Linnaea.

Darwin for a Tuesday Night

Afarensis: Darwin and the Give and Take of Science and Darwin and Women in Science
Women in Science comments on Afarensis’s post in Darwin and Women Studying Science at Cambridge
The Beagle Project Blog on a new book about H.M.S. Beagle and the joint paper anniversary
B12 Solipsism: Darwin at The Field Museum
Charles Darwin University: Darwin at Downe – A tribute to Charles Darwin
Red State Rabble: Is Darwin Kosher?


Uncommon Descent: An eloquent but bogus non-review by Dawkins (of Behe’s The Edge of Evolution)
South Missourian News: Isaac Newton’s Apocalypse
Seed Magazine‘s Science Cribsheets