British comedian Bill Bailey did a documentary for the BBC about Alfred Russel Wallace, in two episodes:
Peter Raby, who wrote a biography of Wallace, wrote a review for the Journal of Victorian Culture Online, here.
British comedian Bill Bailey did a documentary for the BBC about Alfred Russel Wallace, in two episodes:
Peter Raby, who wrote a biography of Wallace, wrote a review for the Journal of Victorian Culture Online, here.
Nature Revealed: Selected Writings, 1949-2006, by Edward O. Wilson (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), 719 pp.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Edward O. Wilson is one of the leading biologists and philosophical thinkers of our time. In this compelling collection, Wilson’s observations range from the tiny glands of ants to the nature of the living universe. Many of the pieces are considered landmarks in evolutionary biology, ecology, and behavioral biology. Wilson explores topics as diverse as slavery in ants, the genetic basis of societal structure, the discovery of the taxon cycle, the original formulation of the theory of island biogeography, a critique of subspecies as a unit of classification, and the conservation of life’s diversity. Each article is presented in its original form, dating from Wilson’s first published article in 1949 to his most recent exploration of the natural world. Preceding each piece is a brief essay by Wilson that explains the context in which the article was written and provides insights into the scientist himself and the debates of the time.
This collection enables us to share Wilson’s various vantage points and to view the complexities of nature through his eyes. Wilson aficionados, along with readers discovering his work for the first time, will find in this collection a world of beauty, complexity, and challenge.
E.O. Wilson was scheduled to give a book talk in Portland in May 2013 (for his new book Letters to a Young Scientist), but the event had to be canceled due to an illness with Wilson. As I have had the opportunity to meet him twice before, I wish him the best!
Ordering Life: Karl Jordan and the Naturalist Tradition, by Kristin Johnson (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012), 376 pp.
For centuries naturalists have endeavored to name, order, and explain biological diversity. Karl Jordan (1861–1959) dedicated his long life to this effort, describing thousands of new species in the process. Ordering Life explores the career of this prominent figure as he worked to ensure a continued role for natural history museums and the field of taxonomy in the rapidly changing world of twentieth-century science.
Jordan made an effort to both practice good taxonomy and secure status and patronage in a world that would soon be transformed by wars and economic and political upheaval. Kristin Johnson traces his response to these changes and shows that creating scientific knowledge about the natural world depends on much more than just good method or robust theory. The broader social context in which scientists work is just as important to the project of naming, describing, classifying, and, ultimately, explaining life.
New in Archives of Natural History:
Abstract The Reverend Robert William Fraser (1810–1876), a Presbyterian minister in Edinburgh, published on religious, historical and scientific (physical science, natural history) themes. His natural history titles Ebb and flow (1860), Seaside divinity (1861) and The seaside naturalist (1868) were aimed at the popular market. Appearing in the years immediately after Darwin’s On the origin of species (1859), the tone of Fraser’s books sheds light on the response of a popular, science-inclined clergyman in Scotland’s Enlightenment capital to the idea of evolution. His avoidance of the issue of evolution by natural selection is evident but was not shared by all contemporary clerics.
Darwin in Galápagos: Footsteps to a New World, K. Thalia Grant and Gregory B. Estes (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009), 362 pp.
In 1835, during his voyage on HMS Beagle, Charles Darwin spent several weeks in Galápagos exploring the islands and making extensive notes on their natural history. Darwin in Galápagos is the first book to recreate Darwin’s historic visit to the islands, following in his footsteps day by day and island by island as he records all that he observes around him.
Thalia Grant and Gregory Estes meticulously retrace Darwin’s island expeditions, taking you on an unforgettable guided tour. Drawing from Darwin’s original notebooks and logs from the Beagle, the latest findings by Darwin scholars and modern science, and their own intimate knowledge of the archipelago, Grant and Estes offer rare insights into Darwin’s thinking about evolution in the context of the actual locales that inspired him. They introduce Darwin as a young naturalist in England and onboard the Beagle and then put you in his shoes as he explores remote places in the islands. They identify the unique animals and plants he observed and collected, and describe dramatic changes to the islands since Darwin’s time. They also explore the importance of Darwin’s observations and collections to the development of his thinking after the voyage.
Ideal for visitors to Galápagos and a delight for armchair travelers, Darwin in Galápagos is generously illustrated with color and black-and-white photographs and line drawings, as well as detailed maps of Darwin’s island itinerary and informative box features on the archipelago’s natural history.
For the centenary of Alfred Russel Wallace’s death (1913), the Wallace Memorial Fund wishes to commission a life-sized statue of Wallace for the Natural History Museum, London. They need to raise £50,000 by January 31st. Last I heard they were £30,000 short, so they really could use some more donations!
Click here to donate.
Click here to read more about the proposal for the Wallace statue.
If you’re interested in Linnaeus, or even the history of natural history generally, you should now about this project, which is nearing completion. It’s an eight volume (11 book) publication called The Linnaeus Apostles: Global Science and Adventure:
THE GREATEST RESEARCH AND PUBLISHING PROJECT EVER – on the chosen few who came to be known as the LINNAEUS APOSTLES. During the 18th century, the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) was to inspire 17 of his scholars to travel to distant corners of the world to document local nature and culture. They travelled on their own or with expeditions across land and sea – their travels covered every continent between the years 1745 and 1799.
Although Linnaeus and some of his apostles are known internationally, several of the apostles are relatively unknown despite their global pioneering work in the service of science and mankind. The publication of their journals – several of them now made available for the very first time – will for a long time to come stimulate fresh research, new thinking and not least provide exciting reading about cultures, landscapes and people of a bygone era.
DISCOVER THE WORLD WITH THE LINNAEUS APOSTLES
The publication of a major international series of eight volumes – in all 11 books and over 5,500 pages – which has been in preparation since the late 1990s under the overall title of The Linnaeus Apostles – Global Science & Adventure. All the accounts of the apostles’ journeys to every continent have been published for the first time in English; those of the apostles who left no travel journals are described through their correspondence or other sources. In the introductory and concluding volumes world experts in various subject fields will provide accounts of the 18th century, of Linnaeus, of travelling and the hardships of field work, together with biographies and a index to volumes One to Eight, which contains more than 125,000 classified search terms.
CONTENTS AND CONTRIBUTORS INCLUDE AUTHORS FROM THE 18TH CENTURY TO MODERN TIMES
All the 17 apostles’ complete texts, illustrations and maps have been published in the oeuvre mainly based on the original journals and, as an alternative where no such exist, previously printed old material or correspondence is used. This is the very first time this interesting and important material – about bygone horizons – is made public in its entirety; to the joy not only of interdisciplinary researchers into natural and cultural history, but also of everybody with a general interest in these subjects.
Even though the main authors of the six volumes of this oeuvre (Vol. 2-7) are THE 17 APOSTLES (C. F. Adler, A. Afzelius, A. Berlin, J. P. Falck, P. Forsskål, F. Hasselquist, P. Kalm, P. Osbeck, P. Löfling, D. Rolander, A. Rolandsson Martin, G. Rothman, D. Solander, A. Sparrman , C. P. Thunberg, O. Torén and C. Tärnström) we also present a number of leading scientific writers (G. Broberg, R. Edberg, U. Ehrensvärd, A. Ericsson, G. Eriksson, K. Grandin, V. Hansen, S. Helmfrid, C. Linnaeus, B. Nordenstam, H. Smethman, P. Sörbom and S. Sörlin) in the introductory (Vol. 1) and concluding (Vol. 8) volumes. Volume 1 (INTRODUCTION) will be the descriptive volume. Here the reader will get a deeper understanding of the world in which Linnaeus and his apostles lived. The 18th century was both like and unlike our world today. It was during this era that the modern world first saw the light of day.
The concluding volume 8 (ENCYCLOPÆDIA) will include maps, a categorised index for all the volumes, biographical fact files of each apostle and a list of the most important collections of scientific material in museums, archives and libraries connected to the apostles. Finally, an introduction to “iLINNAEUS” the global workshop to promote natural & cultural history inspired by the Linnaeus Apostles.
Much more detail about this series in this PDF. A purchase you should suggest to your university library…
This is the title of a recent dissertation, by David Allen Feller, at the University of Cambridge. It was reviewed at Dissertation Reviews, here:
This dissertation is an exciting contribution to our understanding of nineteenth-century science. Its emphasis on specific cultural factors in the process of discovery, the propagation and persuasiveness of ideas, is very valuable, quite beyond its interest to scholars of Darwin. Feller’s emphasis on the importance of scientists sharing space with animals, not just using them to understand the world, but collaborating with them in that understanding, is equally novel and important. In considering how Darwin worked not only with ‘the dog’ as a species, in all its variety, but also with dogs as individuals, Feller shows how a different kind of history of science might be imagined and written. This is an excellent thesis, and highly recommended.
Via the Smithsonian Libraries blog:
Today I received this in the mail from my mother, which she found in an antique shop. Despite the water damage, it’s in readable condition.
Carroll Lane Fenton, Darwin as a Naturalist [Little Blue Book No. 567] (Girard, KA: Haldeman-Julius Company, 1924), 64 pages.
Fenton also authored other Little Blue Books about animals, biology, evolution, geology, life of the past, and Ersnt Haeckel. This pdf gives a list of the entire series.
The Darwin Lecture 2011: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Birds of Paradise given by Sir David Attenborough
Wednesday 2 November 2011
Venue: Royal Society of Medicine, 1 Wimpole Street, LONDON, W1G 0AE
The third annual Darwin Lecture on Science and Medicine will be given by Sir David Attenborough on the subject of Alfred Russel Wallace and the Birds of Paradise
A.R. Wallace spent eight years travelling in search of birds of paradise and became the first European naturalist to see them in display. In the course of his explorations, he wrote a paper that, together with another by Charles Darwin, announced the theory of evolution by natural selection. But it was the birds of paradise that preoccupied him throughout his journeys in Indonesia.
This lecture is organised in association with The Linnean Society of London
Registration is currently unavailable
Member – Linnean Society: Free of charge
RSM Retired Fellow: Free of charge
RSM Student: Free of charge
RSM Trainee: Free of charge
RSM Associate: Free of charge
RSM Fellow: Free of charge
Public: Free of charge
Registration with tea and coffee
The 3rd Annual Darwin Lecture on Science and Medicine: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Birds of Paradise
Sir David Attenborough
Close of meeting followed by a drinks reception
Meeting ref: PEC01
CPD (Applied for)
From the BSHS:
Steel, Emily. 2011. He is no loss: Robert McCormick and the voyage of HMS Beagle (London: British Society for the History of Science), 74 pages.
This volume will be published 15 July 2011.
Who was the naturalist on HMS Beagle?
Robert McCormick (1800-1890) was ship’s surgeon and naturalist for the first four months of the second voyage of HMS Beagle, 1831-1836. In April 1832 he left the ship. McCormick was furious that, for all intents and purposes, a civilian passenger on board had usurped his rightful position as ship’s naturalist and confidant to the captain. That passenger, of course, was Charles Darwin.
This volume examines McCormick’s activities on HMS Beagle, his participation in the natural history of the voyage, and his relationships with both Darwin and FitzRoy. McCormick’s grudge stewed. Of his many exploits, service on the Beagle was all but omitted from his autobiographical writing. At the heart of this monograph is a conundrum: why did McCormick write himself out of, arguably, one of the most celebrated expeditions of the nineteenth century?
This study of McCormick is accompanied by previously untapped source material related to the Beagle voyage. The volume provides a transcription of McCormick’s Beagle journal from the time he arrived onboard in the summer of 1831 (while the ship was in harbour at Plymouth), through his departure from the ship at Rio de Janeiro in April 1832, and during his return voyage to England later that same year. This diary has not been published previously. McCormick’s activities on HMS Beagle are fascinating in comparison with Darwin’s notes, diary and later publications. They nicely illustrate an approach to natural history alternative to Darwin’s, and they offer a case study of excision’s impact on historical memory.
Ready for some beetle blogging? February is an appropriate month for The Dispersal of Darwin to host An Inordinate Fondness, for each February supporters of science and reason celebrate the birth of Charles Darwin (1809-1882) on the 12th. This year, he turned 202. Learn more about Darwin Day, and become a Friend of Charles Darwin, too. I specifically requested posts for AIF relating to Darwin and beetles or other figures in the history of science who worked on beetles. While that call for specific posts was largely unanswered, there are plenty of beetles on blogs to enjoy, and I’ll share some Darwin-related images from Flickr!
Dave Hubble’s ecology spot – Rhinoceros Beetles in Britain? Well, yes and no…: “Last night, over a vodka or two, a Russian friend of mine asked me whether we had Rhinoceros Beetles in Britain – we got there after chatting about how his small daughter was interested in bugs. My answer was along the lines of ‘no, but…’ and shows how the use of non-scientific (vernacular) names can be problematic i.e. it all depends what you mean by ‘rhinoceros beetle’.”
The Dispersal of Darwin – “Captured by C. Darwin, Esq”: “Darwin worked tirelessly in his home outside of London. Down House became a “country house” laboratory for his scientific endeavors, and he utilized many areas of the house and its grounds for his experiments. Yet while he worked away on his ‘one long argument,’ all he really wanted to do was get outside. To the entomologist John Lubbock, also Darwin’s neighbor, he wrote in 1854: ‘I do not know whether you care about Beetles, but for the chance I send this in a Bottle, which, I never remember having seen, though it is excessively rash to speak from a 26 year old remembrance. Whenever we meet you can tell me whether you know it.— … I feel like an old war-horse at the sound of the trumpet, when I read about the capturing of rare beetles— is not this a magnanimous simile for a decayed entomologist. It really almost makes me long to begin collecting again.’”
MObugs – Darkling Beetle: “Darkling beetles in the family Carabidae Tenebrionidaeare ( Thanks Ted for catching my faux pas) one of the most common beetles in the pet trade. These larger beetles are called Zophobas morio and the larvae are called Superworms. They are native to Central and South America, but made their way into the United States because of their large size and easy to rear nature.”
Beetles in the Bush – Featured Guest Photo – Dromica kolbei: “Although I have not collected this genus myself, I recognized it instantly as a member of such based on specimens and images I have seen. Carabidae of the World contains fine images of a number of species in this genus, of which Dromica kolbei (W. Horn, 1897) seems to be a pretty good match. However, more than 170 species are currently included in the genus, and while a modern revision is in progress (Schüle and Werner 2001; Schüle 2004, 2007), the bulk of the genus still remains to be treated. As a result, this really should be considered as just a provisional ID.”
Beetles in the Bush – Recent literature – The Coleopterists Bulletin: “I returned to the office this week after spending two weeks in Brazil to find the December 2010 of The Coleopterists Bulletin in my inbox. I don’t think there is another journal that I look forward to more eagerly than this one (with the possible exception of CICINDELA) – with each issue, I know that regardless of whether it contains any papers in my priority groups of interest (jewel beetles, longhorned beetles, and tiger beetles), it will nevertheless contain well-written articles presenting results of high-quality research on nothing but beetles – pure elytral ecstasy!”
Beetles in the Bush – Brazil Bugs #3 – Gorgulho Enorme!: “The second night at the hotel on the outskirts of Campinas (São Paulo, Brazil), I found this enormous weevil laying on the ground underneath some windows. It was dead but completely relaxed and in perfect shape. I wondered if it had been attracted to lights in the window the previous evening and flown there as its “last hurrah.” This beast of a weevil – measuring a good 30mm from the tip of the snout to the apex of the elytra – immediately brought to my mind giant palm weevils of the genus Rhynchophorus (Coleoptera: Curculionidae).”
MYRMECOS – Friday Beetle Blogging: Army Ant Associates: “Last year army ant guru Carl Rettenmeyer posthumously published a paper documenting the tremendous diversity of animals associated with Eciton burchellii. Over 500, in fact. Eciton burchellii has a larger known entourage than any other species of animal. Although Eciton‘s associates are the best documented, all army ant species have them. Ant colonies represent a tremendous concentration of resources, and animals that have figured out how to subvert the ants’ communication systems gain access to rich stores of food.”
Skepchick – Shellac: it’s a bug AND a feature!: “For some reason, both Cochineal and Lac scales are often reported as beetles. I’ve seen this mistake made on the Straight Dope, among other places. Scale insects don’t undergo complete metamorphosis as a beetle would, so they don’t have larvae and pupae. In fact, scales have their own special freaky system of growth and reproduction in which the females loose their legs and turn into a sort of tiny insect Jabba the Hutt, and even tinier males fertilize them and die.”
MYRMECOS – Friday Beetle Blogging: Agra: “Agra is a tree-dwelling predator found from Texas south to Argentina. It belongs to the family Carabidae, the ground beetles, which is unfortunate as most Agra are canopy species found nowhere near the ground… I photographed this handsome specimen at the Maquipucuna cloud forest reserve on Ecuador’s western Andean slopes.”
Ecotrope – How bark beetles are pitting the U.S. vs. Canada: “The bark-eating beetles have been ravaging forests in British Columbia – with tens of millions of forestland acres laid to waste. Scientists worry that global warming will continue to fuel beetle outbreaks by keeping winter temperatures just high enough to allow the beetles to survive the winter and reproduce, where in the past severe cold would have killed them off. At issue is how the BC government and timber industry have handled the damaged trees – and the not-so damaged ones – on public lands.” (See a related video from Oregon Public Broadcasting.)
LabSpaces – 2 new species of ‘leaping’ beetles discovered: “Only five species of these so-called ‘flea’ beetles, out of a global total of 60, had been found to date in New Caledonia, in the western Pacific. A three-year study has now enabled Spanish researchers to discover two new herbivorous beetles – Arsipoda geographica and Arsipoda rostrata. These new beetles hold a secret – they feed on plants that the scientists have still not found on the archipelago.”
Catalogue of Organisms – Ground Beetles for Today: “The subject of today’s post is a group of ground beetles (Carabidae) that has been treated in the past as the subfamily Zuphiinae, but seems to now be more commonly treated as a supertribe Zuphiitae within the Harpalinae. Whatever their appropriate formal name, the zuphiites are distinguished by a relatively long and thick scape (the first major segment of the antennae) and spination on the first stylomere of the female’s ovipositor; the clade is also supported by molecular data.”
Kele’s Science Blog – Solving the “adaptive recursion” in Jamaican click beetles (I) & The genetics and phenotypes of the Jamaican click beetle (Adaptive Recursion II): “In my last post I started a new short series on some biologists’ attempts to solve what they call an “adaptive recursion” or in other words, to know the full story of a trait from the bottom level of the gene to the top levels of ecology and differential fitness. Ecological descriptions frequently become “just-so stories” – claims of adaptations and how they arose but with little evidence. All levels of detail should be known before any such arguments can be proclaimed and this is exactly what Uwe Stolz, Jeffrey Feder, and Sebastian Velez, and others are attempting to do with the bioluminescence of Jamaican click beetles.”
Beetles in the Bush – Calm waters, frenzied beetles: “Lazy waters are the domain of whirligig beetles (family Gyrinidae). We encountered this ‘raft’ of beetles in a sheltered pool near the shore of the North Fork River while hiking the Ozark Trail last October. These frenzied little beetles live almost exclusively on the surface of the water, where they feed on organisms or scavenge debris in their famously and erratically conspicuous aggregations. Such behavior might make them seem vulnerable to predation, but in actuality the reverse is true. Beetles in rafts benefit from the increased number of eyes that can better scan the environment for potential threats than can individual beetles (Vulinec and Miller 1989), and the larger the raft the more efficiently this occurs.”
Beetles in the Bush – Diversity in Tiger Beetle Larval Burrows: “To the uninitiated, tiger beetle burrows might seem nothing more than a simple hole in the ground – anything could have made it. However, with experience one becomes able to distinguish tiger beetle larval burrows almost instantly from burrows made by other ground-burrowing organisms. The most common type of burrow is recognized by a combination of characters – almost perfectly circular except for a slight flattening on one side that gives the burrow a faint D-shape, and with the edge smoothly beveled. This is your classic tiger beetle burrow and, for most U.S. species of Cicindela and related genera, averages ~5-6mm in diameter for 3rd instar larvae (tiger beetle burrows are most often observed at 3rd instar, since it is this final instar in which the larva spends the majority of its time and the burrow becomes most noticable).”
LabSpaces – Ginger is key ingredient in recipe for conserving stag beetles: “The humble ginger root could be the key to conserving the UK’s largest and most spectacular terrestrial beetle – the stag beetle. Ecologists from Royal Holloway, University of London and the University of York have developed a series of new methods to monitor stag beetle numbers – including ginger lures to trap adult beetles and tiny microphones to detect sounds made by the larvae in their underground nests. Conservation efforts have been hampered until now because ecologists lacked a reliable way of monitoring stag beetle numbers.”
Beetles in the Bush – “All the better to see you with, my dear!”: “Cicindela formosa (the big sand tiger beetle) is a not uncommon species that occurs across much of North America east of the Rocky Mountains in deep, dry, open sand habitats. It is absent in Appalachia and much of the Interior Highlands, understandable given the rarity of deep sand habitats on these elevated landforms; however, its absence across much of the southeastern coastal plain as well as south and west Texas, despite the widespread presence of apparently suitable habitat, is not easily explained.”
Bug Eric -Merchant Grain Beetle: “Even entomologists are not immune to pest insects in their homes. We are just a little more fascinated than we are revolted. So, when I found a tiny beetle crawling on the bathroom counter of my Tucson apartment on October 20, 2010, I naturally wanted to know more about it. I thought I had a good idea of its identity, but I was wrong about the species.”
Fall to Climb – Forgotten Photo Friday: Otiorhynchus ligustici – Alfalfa Snout Beetle: “Native to Europe, accidentally introduced to North America in the late 1800′s, declared a pest in New York in 1933, and spread to to Canada in the mid 60′s. It has only been detected in a few towns in eastern Ontario. It is supremely pesty to alfalfa plants everywhere. But, although it is pesty, it is a VERY BIG AND AWESOMELY SCALY BEETLE! And, since it is a Curculionid, it looks like Gonzo. They all do. So I love it, just a little bit.”
What’s Bugging You? – A Rare Beetle New to Virginia: “My insect survey at the VCU Rice Center continues to reveal species that are rarely collected and/or newly recorded for the Commonwealth of Virginia. While sorting through dozens of trap samples containing thousands of insects, I recently discovered three specimens of a rarely collected false click beetle (Eucnemidae), Xylophilus crassicornis. This collection represents the first records for the genus and species in Virginia.”
cicindela – Ellipsoptera marginata: “One of the rather unique tiger beetles occurring in Virginia is Ellipsoptera marginata. I photographed this species back in late June of 2009 at Bethel Beach Natural Area Preserve where I was assisting in a survey for Habroscelimorpha dorsalis dorsalis.”
The Atavism – Sunday Spinelessness – Vanuatu scarab beetles: “As promised, it’s time to add a few tropical invertebrates to the mix of more temperate bugs I usually talk about here. Let’s start by redressing a bit of an imbalance in these Sunday Spinelessness posts. Up until now I’ve only written two posts about beetles, which something of an under-representation since about a quarter of all described species are beetles. I see plenty of beetles around our garden and in my travels around Dunedin, but few of them are large enough, or sufficiently cooperative, for me to get decent photographs. I had no such problem in Vanuatu.”
The Atavism – Sunday Spinelessness – Hadda beetle: “Time for another tropical beetle from Vanuatu, and what could be more charming than a ladybird? Or its absurdy spikey larvae?”
Nature Closeups – Colorful Snout Beetle: “I really love the colors on this snout beetle. Check out the detail. The image is not quite as sharp as I’d like, but just look at all those little colorful scales.” & Reddish Tortoise Beetles: “There were quite a few of these reddish tortoise beetles feeding on this banana plant.” & Mating Snout Beetles: “These beetles are tiny. Each one is only a few millimeters long.”
Dave Hubble’s ecology spot – Cretaceous Crato creature!: “Last year, I was mooching around some fossil sites online and found some insects for sale. They were from an old collection and had originally been collected from the Crato Formation in Brazil. Many interesting specimens had already been sold, but among those remaining was a rather nice little beetle (according to the seller) around 12.5mm long excluding appendages. Such items are popular with collectors (including plenty with more money than me), but this one had been broken in half and neatly glued. So, still complete, but less popular with collectors and hence more affordable. Result! I bought it…”
The Sam Wells Bug Page – Phloeodes diabolicus: “Ironclad beetles are the tanks of the insect world. They are famous (or infamous) for walking away after being stepped on. There are even reports of species being run over by cars without apparent harm. To an entomologist, they are notorious for the challenge of getting an insect pin through their thick skin (cuticle). What usually happens is the first attempt bends the pin. The second attempt bruises the thumb and forefinger to the bone. And then with a combination of anger and grit (and with two hands gripping the shaft) the pin is forced through the reinforced exoskeleton. With luck it has gone through straight and without popping the legs off on the other side. Very often it doesn’t – as verified by any number of oddly pinned specimens stuck to the bottom of unit trays in the museums of the world.”
cicindela – Tetracha virginica: “This toothy specimen is Tetracha virginica, a fairly large species (16-25mm), widespread in the eastern United States. This species is a deep oily metallic green; largely active at night when it nimbly forages for prey and is often attracted to lights. During the day it can be found taking shelter under miscellaneous ground cover.”
And finally, for any biologists or naturalists out there who go in the field to collect beetles, take note. Here’s a list of naturalists (Wall of the Dead) who have lost their lives while investigating nature. Of particular interest:
Bečvář, Stanislav (1938-1997), Czech entomologist, shot dead, age 59, by soldiers in Laos while collecting beetles. Here’s a detailed account of the incident. His son of the same name, also an entomologist, was seriously wounded in the attack but survived and continues to do field work.
Brodsky, Otakar (19??- 1986), Czech coleopterist, died of a heart attack, age unknown, while collecting Cleridae beetles in a rainforest in Vietnam. He was reportedly seated under a tree with his collecting equipment in his hands, and his colleagues didn’t immediately realize he was dead.
And there you have it, the 13th edition of An Inordinate Fondness. The next edition of AIF will be hosted at Wandering Weeta some time mid-March. Send your submissions directly to the host there (email), or through the submission form.
Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature. By Brian Switek. New York: Bellevue Literary Press, 2010. 320 pp. Illustrations, notes, references, index. $16.95 (paper).
It’s Monday, and many of you are probably getting back to school or work from a nice holiday vacation. Did you enjoy your turkey? Did you think about evolution while you feasted? Check out this clip of paleontologist Robert T. Bakker from the TLC show Paleoworld (you know, back when they had shows worth watching):
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all had a Bakker to make our Thanksgiving meal a science education opportunity? (If you wish to explore Thanksgiving dinosaurs further, try this activity from the University of California Museum of Paleontology.)
Birds are descended from dinosaurs. But there is a lot of history to that idea. Paleontologists did not simply uncover fossils of dinosaurs and realize that living birds are a surviving lineage of theropods. Where can one turn to learn of all this? Brian Switek, whose blog Laelaps (in its current evolutionary stage with Wired) I have been reading for several years now, has just published his first book, Written in Stone. Each chapter focuses on a particular group of animals that we now have great fossil evidence showing their evolutionary history: birds, whales, early rodent-like mammals, elephants, horses, and humans, to name a few. We come away with a full understanding of the branching nature of the evolution of life on Earth, as Switek dispels the notion of progressive, ladder-like, and human-oriented evolution. He also gives us the sense of the vast amount of extinct vertebrates (relatives of ours included), for some of what we see on the planet today – horses, for example – are just a peek of the diversity of forms in the groups in which they are nested. “To focus solely upon our ancestors is to blind ourselvves to our own evolutionary context” (21).
Wielding a wealth of science information while attending to historical detail, Written in Stone offers a very-readable narrative of how European and American scientists have understood fossils over the centuries. While not an academic historian – he is a freelance science writer and a Research Associate in paleontology at the New Jersey State Museum – Switek gives importance to the historical development of ideas in paleontology. Here we are introduced to not only various species of vertebrate animals and the myriad of transitional forms bridging them, but also to their discoverers and the thoughts of those who have studied them (in some cases, this includes indigenous peoples, with a nod to the work of Adrienne Mayor).
One of the criticisms Darwin knew he would receive on publishing On the Origin of Species was that the fossil record was incomplete. Maybe so, but move ahead in time a century and a half, and the amount of material evidence for past life on earth is remarkable, thousands upon thousands of specimens across the kingdoms packed away or lining cabinet drawers in museum collections worldwide, a minute percentage on view to the public. Despite what we do have, it will never be complete, and the answers to paleontologists’ questions about what animal is related to another, and how are those in turn related to this group will never be, well, set in stone. Like any field of science, paleontology is an ongoing human process. Ideas are constantly refined based on new evidence or someone coming along and looking at things differently. In Written in Stone, Switek shows us that in paleontology, this is definitely the case.
There are generally two ways we could look at the history of paleontology. One, as Switek does, is to tell the story of those involved (we get Darwin, Huxley, Owen, Marsh, and Cope, but we also learn about a lot of relatively unknowns, too, such as Albert Gaudry; and there’s a female paleontologist as well, Jennifer Clack), their ideas, conflicts and competition between figures, and the contingent nature of history – this happened, so therefore this happened; or, this only happened because this happened. We receive such history for the early nineteenth century all the way up to, well, now. Just as evolution is contingent (what say you, Gould?), certain events can happen that change the course of paleontological history. For example, Switek tells us about how only when a graduate student dropped a specimen did that act help to understand the evolutionary history of whales. Today, CT scanning is the norm in paleontology for peering into the insides of bones. Before, such were chance opportunities, or, deliberative slicing of specimens.
The other, which Switek acknowledges but does to a lesser degree (but he does get some in there!), is to show how factors seemingly beyond the purview of science actually inform it, and vice versa (how culture, politics, economics, geography, etc. play a role in the conduct of science). “The places paleontologists looked for fossils and how those fossils have been interpreted have been influenced by politics and culture, reminding us that while there is a reality that science allows us to approach the process of science is a human endeavour” (23). Covering so much about geology, the age of the earth, and fossils of animals, Switek shows how religion affected the ideas of some naturalists or paleontologists. We learn how politics enabled naturalists to travel, “natural science, pressed into the service of empire” (69, 181, 183); of the public’s thirst for spectacles (145); how national pride pitted Thomas Jefferson against the Comte de Buffon concerning large mammals in North America; and how Philip Henry Gosse attacked evolution because of personal reasons (204-5).
And, so what? Does it matter if we understand how life on Earth evolved? Yes, it surely does, since we are part of that story. In the last two pages of the penultimate chapter and in the short final chapter, Switek pulls his thoughts together and unpretentiously puts us in our place. “We are merely a shivering twig that is the last vestige of a richer family tree.” If that saddens you, then: “Life is most precious when its unity and rarity are recognized, and we are among the rarest of things.” Humans are just like any other organism on the planet, and all should be appreciated together.
There have been several books over the last few years that look at the evidence for evolution (particularly, Richard Dawkins’s The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution and Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True, and another to be published next June, The Evidence for Evolution by Alan R. Rogers). What value, then, is Written in Stone? One, because it is so very well-written by a young writer. And two, for its coverage of the history of science, however limited. Three, it is the perfect antidote to the ignorance of some members of our society [largely creationists; however, Switek does not explicity engage with anti-evolutionists in his book, rather, his text works as "letting the evidence speak for itself," or, as Switek states, "the bones of our distant ancestors... should speak to us from the earth" (18)]. For example, I think someone needs to send this woman a copy of Written in Stone for the holidays:
That said, Mr. Switek, congratulations on writing a fantastic book about evolution, which I think could be titled Strange Beings à la Darwin (see this 1863 letter from Hugh Falconer to Darwin, which Switek quotes in the book). I look forward to meeting you at Science Online 2011 in January! (Switek also blogs for Smithsonian’s Dinosaur Tracking Blog.)
Tonight I headed downtown to Powell’s City of Books for a book talk. Christopher Wills, a biologist at UCSD and author of Children Of Prometheus: The Accelerating Pace Of Human Evolution and The Spark Of Life: Darwin And The Primeval Soup, discussed his new book The Darwinian Tourist: Viewing the World Through Evolutionary Eyes.
In The Darwinian Tourist, biologist Christopher Wills takes us on a series of adventures–exciting in their own right–that demonstrate how ecology and evolution have interacted to create the world we live in. Some of these adventures, like his SCUBA dives in the incredibly diverse Lembeh Strait in Indonesia or his encounter with a wild wolf cub in western Mongolia, might have been experienced by any reasonably intrepid traveller. Others, like his experience of being hammered by a severe earthquake off the island of Yap while sixty feet down in the ocean, filming manta rays, stand far outside the ordinary. With his own stunning color photographs of the wildlife he discovered on his travels, Wills not only takes us to these far-off places but, more important, draws out the evolutionary stories behind the wildlife and shows how our understanding of the living world can be deepened by a Darwinian perspective. In addition, the book offers an extensive and unusual view of human evolution, examining the entire sweep of our evolutionary story as it has taken place throughout the Old World. The reader comes away with a renewed sense of wonder about the world’s astounding diversity, along with a new appreciation of the long evolutionary history that has led to the wonders of the present-day. When we lose a species or an ecosystem, Wills shows us, we also lose many millions of years of history. Published to coincide with the International Year for Biodiversity, The Darwinian Tourist is packed with globe-trotting exploits, brilliant color photography, and eye-opening insights into the evolution of humanity and the natural world.
Wills energetically talked of Darwin and the earthquake he experienced in Chile, Wallace and his recognition of distinct flora and fauna to either side of the “Wallace line,” and Homo floriensis. At the end, he briefly mentioned that he wishes his book will help to turn the trend that the US lays at the bottom of the list of countries whose public accepts evolution. He referred to this graph:
The last lines of The Darwinian Tourist read “We must see the world through evolutionary eyes. If we let ignorance and the denial of evolution prevail, we are in danger of destroying the living fabric of the world that we treasure and that sustains us.” This book is full of the science of evolution, and Wills hopes that simply laying out the facts can help turn the tide. Someone in the audience asked that if at his book talks he encounters people hostile to evolution. Wills said rarely if at all. I turned to the gentleman sitting next to me and said, “Well, it’s likely that Wills does not encounter hostility to evolution because such people do not come to his book talks in the first place.” Likewise, if he hopes his book will get evolution deniers to change, they first have to read it. Will they pick it up in the bookstore or check it out from their library? I don’t know.
It’s a beautifully published book, though, and I look forward to perusing my signed copy.
Over two-and-a-half years ago I posted the links to a series of articles in the Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America: “A History of the Ecological Sciences.” Then there were 27 installments, all by Frank N. Egerton, and now he’s up to #36 (Update: I added #37-42 on July 30, 2012):
Now that I’m back from Texas (sister-in-law’s wedding)…
… let’s see what I’ve missed. Here are some links:
For the next edition of The Giant’s Shoulders, get your entries in by October 15th!
Homologous Legs: This Week in Intelligent Design – 12/10/10
Point of Inquiry (podcast): PZ Myers, Jennifer Michael Hecht, and Chris Mooney – New Atheism or Accommodation?
USA Today/Jerry Coyne: Science and religion aren’t friends
Bad Astronomy: Creationists still can’t seem to evolve
Speaking of creationists, Comfort clowns passed out copies of the faux-Origin inn Texas at a Dawkins lecture. They posted some photos online, take a look at this one. The book now has “As seen on CNN” on the cover:
Please be patient, I am evolving as fast as I can!: Damed by their own words
Playing Chess with Pigeons: The Rush to ignorance tour continues
Laelaps: When Pseudo-Crocs Walked Tall
So Simple a Beginning: 150 years of Darwin, from UCI Libraries
From the Hands of Quacks: Mind & Body: The Philosopher’s Body as a Subject
Did you know that Noah himself went out to catch birds? From a church in Texas on my trip:
NYT/Natalie Angier: Moonlighting as a Conjurer of Chemicals
Ether Wave Propaganda: Is There a Conflict of Interest between STS and History of Science?
History of Science Centre’s blog: The Forgotten
Whewell’s Ghost/Evolving Thoughts: The historical way to do science
@beckyfh: Chronometer from HMS Beagle (91st object in British Museum’s History of the World in 100 Objects) info/podcast
PACHSmörgåsbord: Popular History of Science for the American G.I.
The Species Seekers: This is the Great Age of Discovery
Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Great minds gloomy about humans’ future
Why Evolution Is True: The Hall of Human Origins at the National Museum of Natural History (more about the funder of this exhibit and religion and other thoughts here, here, here, and here. PZ chimes in here and here.)
Periodic Tabloid: Making Connections: “The Big Picture” and the History of Science
Quodlibeta: Doubting Darwin’s Doubt
Times Archive Blog (from 2009): Did Charles Darwin stick pins into babies?
Darwin, C. R. 1862. De l’origine des espèces ou des lois du progrès chez les êtres organisés. Translated and with preface and notes by Mlle Clémence-Auguste Royer. Paris: Guillaumin et Cie. Text F655
Darwin, C. R. 1878. Les récifs de corail leur structure et leur distribution. Translated by L. Cosserat. Paris: Germer Baillière. Text F309
Darwin, C. R. 1857. Geologia. In Manual de investigaciones científicas; dispuesto para el uso de los oficiales de la armada y viajeros en general. Redactado por Sir F. W. John Herschel, Baronet. Segunda edicion. Traducido del inglés por Juan N. de Vizcarrondo. Cádiz: Imprenta y Librería de la Revista Médica, pp. 169-209. Text Image F2073
Darwin, Francis ed. 1909. The foundations of The origin of species, a sketch written in 1842. Cambridge: University Press. Text F1555
Darwin, C. R. 1902. Observations géologiques sur les iles volcaniques. Text F310
Darwin, C. R. 1877. Geologische Beobachtungen über die Vulcanischen Inseln. Text F312
Horblit, H. D. 1964. One hundred books famous in science: based on an exhibition held at the Grolier Club. New York: Grolier Club.Text A616
Grant Duff, Mountstuart E. 1898. [Recollections of Darwin.] Notes from a diary, 1873-1881. London: John Murray, vol. 2, pp. 283; 300.Text A617
Anon. 1869. [Influence of the stock on the scion]. Gardeners’ Chronicle (26 June): 686. Text A614
Compare these Darwin manuscripts, transcribed and published here for the first time, with the recent story from the BBC Charles Darwin’s ecological experiment on Ascension isle:
Darwin, C. R. Ascension. [Beagle field notes] [7.1836] Text & image CUL-DAR40.93-96
Darwin, C. R. ‘Ascension one of the most wonderful cases of introduced plants & animals’. (17.7.1856?) Text & image CUL-DAR205.3.63
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Ascension. (7.1836) Text & image CUL-DAR38.936-953
Darwin, C. R. ‘Catalogue of Books (not Journals)’. [nd] Text & image CUL-DAR71.1-5
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: St Josephs Bay. (1833) Text & image CUL-DAR33.223-226
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: of Patagonia – St Josephs Bay to Port Desire. (1833) Text & image CUL-DAR33.227-228
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Port Desire. (1.1834) Text & image CUL-DAR33.229-242
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Port Desire (appendix). (5.1834) Text & image CUL-DAR33.243-244
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Port St Julian. (1.1834) Text & image CUL-DAR33.245-248
Proctor, Robert. 1825. Narrative of a journey across the Cordillera of the Andes, and of a residence in Lima, and other parts of Peru, in the years 1823 and 1824. London: A. Constable. Image PDF CC-OldLibraryBB.5.17a [Christ's College Library] signed and annotated by Darwin.
A newly recorded specimen description:
Lyell, Charles. 1837. Presidential Address to the Geological Society. (Read 17 February). Proceedings of the Geological Society of London 2, no. 49, pp. 479-523. Text & image A600
Anon. 1868. [Review of] Variation of animals and plants under domestication. Gardeners’ Chronicle (22 February): 184. Image A610
Anon. 1868. Artificial selection and pangenesis. Popular Science Review 7 (April): 176-80. Image A611
Anon. 1868. Darwin and pangenesis. Quarterly Journal of Science 5 (July): 295-313. Image A609
[Dallas, William Sweetland?]. 1868. [Review of] Variation of animals and plants under domestication. Westminster Review n.s. 35 (January): 207-27. Image A606
Darwin, C. R. [Draft pages from the Origin of Species, 1859, pp. 210-14, Chapter 7, 'Instinct']. Text & image NHM-MSS-DARA
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: (Falkland Islands, in comparison with Henslow’s account). [nd] Text & image CUL-DAR33.217-222
Henslow, J. S. 1822. Geological description of Anglesea. [Read 26 November 1821.] Transactions of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 1 (1822): 359-452. Text & image A599
Henslow’s Corrected proof with original hand drawings and map from Christ’s College Library here.
A newly recorded Darwin publication!
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Bahia. (2-3.1832) Text & image CUL-DAR32.41-48
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Tierra del Fuego. (1-2.1833) Text & image CUL-DAR32.98-122
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: East Falkland Island. (3.1833) Text & image CUL-DAR32.123-132
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: East Falkland Island (appendix). (3.1834) Text & image CUL-DAR32.133-150
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Falkland Islands. (3.1834) Text & image CUL-DAR32.151-152
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Maldonado. (5-6.1833) Text & image CUL-DAR33.153-164
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: (annotated maps and diagrams relating to Berkeley Sound). [nd] Text & image CUL-DAR33.165
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Falkland Islands. [1834-] Text & image CUL-DAR33.166-216
[Poulton, E. B.] 1910. Darwin, Charles Robert. The Encyclopaedia Britannica. 11th ed. Cambridge: University Press, vol. 7, pp. 840-3.Text A596
Humboldt, A. von. 1814-1829. Personal narrative of travels to the equinoctial regions of the New Continent, during the years 1799-1804. By Alexander de Humboldt, and Aimé Bonpland; with maps, plans, &c. written in French by Alexander de Humboldt, and trans. into English by Helen Maria Williams. 7 vols. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown.
Humboldt, Alexander von and Bonpland, Aimé. 1819-29. Personal narrative of travels to the equinoctial regions of the New Continent during the years 1799-1804. Helen Maria Williams, trans. London: Longman, hurst, Rees, Orme & Brown. vols. 1 and 2. Text Image A597
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Tierra del Fuego (appendix). (2.1834) Text & image CUL-DAR32.96-97
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Tierra del Fuego. (1-2.1833) Text & image CUL-DAR32.85-95
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Bahia Blanca (appendix). (1833) Text & image CUL-DAR32.73-74
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Buenos Ayres. (11.1832) Text & image CUL-DAR32.75-76
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Monte Video. (8 & 11.1832) Text & image CUL-DAR32.77-82
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Monte Video (appendix). (11.1833) Text & image CUL-DAR32.83-84
Chancellor, Gordon. Introduction to Earthworms.
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Coast of Patagonia. (8-9.1832) Text & image CUL-DAR32.61-62
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Bahia Blanca. (9-10.1832) Text & image CUL-DAR32.63-72
A newly recorded description of Darwin specimens:
Clift, William. 1835. Notice on the Megatherium brought from Buenos Ayres by Woodbine Parish, Jun., Esq. F.G.S. F.R.S. [Read 13 June 1832] Transactions of the Geological Society of London (2nd ser.) 3 (3): 437-450, pls. 43-46. Text Image PDF A703 (See footnote on pp. 438-9)
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Fernando Noronha. (2.1832) Text & image CUL-DAR32.39-40
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Abrolhos Islands. (3.1832) Text & image CUL-DAR32.49-50
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Provinicia do Rio de Janeiro. (4-6.1832) Text & image CUL-DAR32.51-60
A newly recorded Darwin translation in Spanish:
Darwin, C. R. 1857. Geologia. In Manual de investigaciones científicas; dispuesto para el uso de los oficiales de la armada y viajeros en general. Redactado por Sir F. W. John Herschel, Baronet. Segunda edicion. Traducido del inglés por Juan N. de Vizcarrondo. Cádiz: Imprenta y Librería de la Revista Médica, pp. 169-209. Image F2073
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: St Pauls Text & image CUL-DAR32.37-38
New colour images, courtesy of J. David Archibald, of the following:
Darwin, C. R. 1839. Observations on the parallel roads of Glen Roy, and of other parts of Lochaber in Scotland, with an attempt to prove that they are of marine origin. [Read 7 Feb.] Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 129: 39-81. Text Image PDF F1653
Darwin, C. R. 1842. Notes on the effects produced by the ancient glaciers of Caernarvonshire, and on the boulders transported by floating ice. The London, Edinburgh and Dublin Philosophical Magazine 21 (Sept.): 180-188. Text Image PDF F1660
Darwin, C. R. 1845 [= ?1848]. Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle round the world, under the Command of Capt. Fitz Roy, R.N. 2d edition. London: John Murray (Home and Colonial Library Vol.12). [The first of a number of Murray printing variants new to Darwin Online- as a full first edition is already present, only the bindings, title pages and other unique matter will be provided for these variants. They are too numerous to list on the table of contents pages but will be visible when using the Freeman Bibliographical Database. For example, the record for this item is here.]Image F15
Darwin, C. R. 1868. Queries about expression for anthropological inquiry. Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, Misc. Document No. 86, for 1867: 324. Text Image PDF F874
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Bahia Brazil. Text & image CUL-DAR32.9-14
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Quail Island. (1.1832) Text & image CUL-DAR32.15-20
The Descent of man in Yiddish, courtesy of the History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries:
Descriptions of Darwin’s Beagle specimens:
Lubbock, John. 1855. On the freshwater Entomostraca of South America. Transactions of the Entomological Society of London (NS) 3 (6): 232-240, pl. 15. Image A699
Günther, Albert. 1860. On a new snake from the Galapagos Islands [Herpetodryas biserialis]. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1860: 97-98. Image A700
Günther, Albert. 1877. The gigantic land-tortoises (living and extinct) in the collection of the British Museum. London: British Museum, iv + 96 p., pls. I-LIV. Image A701
Champion, George C. 1918. Notes on various South American Coleoptera collected by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle, with descriptions of new genera and species. Entomologists’ Monthly Magazine 54: 43-55. Image A702
Descriptions of Darwin’s Beagle specimens:
Gould, J. 1837. Exhibition of the fissirostral birds from Mr. Darwin’s collection, and characters of the new species. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 5: 22. Image A695
Gould, J. 1838. [Exhibition of 'another portion of the birds collected by Charles Darwin, Esq.']. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 6: 4. Image A696
Martin, W. 1837. Observations on three specimens of the genus Felis presented to the Society by Charles Darwin, Esq., Corr. Memb. Z. S. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 5: 3-4. Image A697
Hooker, J. D. 1846. Enumeration of the plants in the Galapagos Islands, with descriptions of the new species. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London 1: 276-279. Image A698
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Bahia. Text & image CUL-DAR32.3-8
Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Brazil coast. Text & image CUL-DAR32.1-2
A newly recorded Darwin publication!
Darwin, C. R. ‘Dr Munro Anatomy’. [Edinburgh University lecture notes]. (1825) Text & image CUL-DAR5.A13-A23
[Buckley, Arabella.] . [biographical and bibliographical notes on A. R. Wallace]. Text & image CUL-DAR91.91-94
Darwin, C. R. [1880s] [Draft fragment concerning pension for A.R. Wallace] Text & image CUL-DAR91.101
Darwin, C. R. 1853. ‘Send for Archives du Mus d’Hist Naturelle vols 5 and 6 [and other works]‘. Text & image CUL-DAR91.77-78
Darwin, C. R. [nd] ‘Memoranda about Books [many references]‘. Text & image CUL-DAR91.79-80
Darwin, C. R. 1856. ‘Books to be certainly read [many references]‘. Text & image CUL-DAR91.88a-88b
Darwin, C. R. ‘M Lamarck arranges “Les Animals sans Vertebrae”‘. Text & image CUL-DAR5.A28<
Darwin, C. R. ‘Books read’. Text & image CUL-DAR91.70
Darwin, C. R. ‘List of Books bearing on number of inhabitants of small area’. Text & image CUL-DAR91.71
Darwin, C. R. ‘Books to be read’. Text & image CUL-DAR91.72
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.
Niles Eldredge: How Systematics Became “Phylogenetic” [pdf]
Nature: The Lost Correspondence of Francis Crick (review)
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
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
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”
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:
Witnessed amazing fight in pub: YOU’RE NOT @#$%ING WELCOME IN MY HOUSE IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN #EVOLUTION!
East Lothian Courier: ‘Darwin’ property and the science of house-selling
Darwin and Gender: The Blog: Talking to Naturalists
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
The June 2010 issue (Vol. 41, No. 1) of the Journal for General Philosophy of Science focuses on Darwin:
Ute Deichmann & Anthony Travis, Special Section: Darwinism and Scientific Practice in Historical Perspective: Guest Editors’ Introduction
Abstract This paper discusses some philosophical and historical connections between, and within, nineteenth century evolutionism and microscopical research. The principal actors are mainly Darwin, Schleiden, Whewell and the “London Doctors,” Arthur Henfrey and Edwin Lankester. I demonstrate that the apparent alliances—particularly Darwin/Schleiden (through evolutionism) and Schleiden/Whewell (through Kantian philosophy of science)—obscure the deep methodological differences between evolutionist and microscopical biology that lingered on until the mid-twentieth century. Through an understanding of the little known significance of Schleiden’s programme of microscopical research and by comparing certain features of his methodology to the activities of the “London Doctors,” we can identify the origin of this state of affairs. In addition, the outcome provides an insight into a critique of Buchdahl’s view on Schleiden’s philosophical conception.
Abstract Inheritance and variation were a major focus of Charles Darwin’s studies. Small inherited variations were at the core of his theory of organic evolution by means of natural selection. He put forward a developmental theory of heredity (pangenesis) based on the assumption of the existence of material hereditary particles. However, unlike his proposition of natural selection as a new mechanism for evolutionary change, Darwin’s highly speculative and contradictory hypotheses on heredity were unfruitful for further research. They attempted to explain many complex biological phenomena at the same time, disregarded the then modern developments in cell theory, and were, moreover, faithful to the widespread conceptions of blending and so-called Lamarckian inheritance. In contrast, Mendel’s approaches, despite the fact that features of his ideas were later not found to be tenable, proved successful as the basis for the development of modern genetics. Mendel took the study of the transmission of traits and its causes (genetics) out of natural history; by reducing complexity to simple particulate models, he transformed it into a scientific field of research. His scientific approach and concept of discrete elements (which later gave rise to the notion of discrete genes) also contributed crucially to the explanation of the existence of stable variations as the basis for natural selection.
Abstract The increasing place of evolutionary scenarios in functional biology is one of the major indicators of the present encounter between evolutionary biology and functional biology (such as physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology), the two branches of biology which remained separated throughout the twentieth century. Evolutionary scenarios were not absent from functional biology, but their places were limited, and they did not generate research programs. I compare two examples of these past scenarios with two present-day ones. At least three characteristics distinguish present and past efforts: An excellent description of the systems under study, a rigorous use of the evolutionary models, and the possibility to experimentally test the evolutionary scenarios. These three criteria allow us to distinguish the domains in which the encounter is likely to be fruitful, and those where the obstacles to be overcome are high and in which the proposed scenarios have to be considered with considerable circumspection.
Anthony Travis, Raphael Meldola and the Nineteenth-Century Neo-Darwinians
Abstract Raphael Meldola (1849-1915), an industrial chemist and keen naturalist, under the influence of Darwin, brought new German studies on evolution by natural selection that appeared in the 1870s to the attention of the British scientific community. Meldola’s special interest was in mimicry among butterflies; through this he became a prominent neo-Darwinian. His wide-ranging achievements in science led to appointments as president of important professional scientific societies, and of a local club of like-minded amateurs, particularly field naturalists. This is an account of Meldola’s early scientific connections and studies related to entomology and natural selection, his contributions to the study of mimicry, and his promotion in the mid-1890s of a more theory driven approach among entomologists.
Abstract During the 1920s and 1930s, many biologists questioned the viability of Darwin’s theory as a mechanism of evolutionary change. In the early 1940s, and only after a number of alternatives were suggested, Darwinists succeeded to establish natural selection and gene mutation as the main evolutionary mechanisms. While that move, today known as the neo-Darwinian synthesis, is taken as signalling a triumph of evolutionary theory, certain critical problems in evolution—in particular the evolution of animal function—could not be addressed with this approach. Here I demonstrate this through reconstruction of the evolutionary theory of Joseph Needham (1900-1995), who pioneered the biochemical study of evolution and development. In order to address such problems, Needham employed Herbert Spencer’s principles of emergence and Ernst Haeckel’s theory of recapitulation. While Needham did not reject Darwinian theory, Spencerian and Haeckelian frameworks happened to better fit his findings and their evolutionary relevance. He believed selectionist and genetic approaches to be important but far from sufficient for explaining how evolutionary transformations occur.
Some items of interest from the October 2010 issue of Archives of Natural History:
Edward Forbes (1815–1854) and the exhibition of natural order in Edinburgh, Geoffrey N. Swinney
Alfred Russel Wallace notes 2: the spelling “Russel”, and Wallace’s date of birth, Charles H. Smith, James Williams, Jonathan Stephens, and George Beccaloni
More photos can be had here.
Undergraduate students in the History of Science department (congrats, Piers!) at the University of Oklahoma have begun exhibits, with Professor Katherine Pandora, which are on display at the university’s History of Science Collections.
The first exhibit is The Children’s Darwin:
Because 2009 marked the 150th anniversary of Origin of Species, it provided a handy rationale for celebrations of Charles Darwin’s science — and a good marketing hook for new children’s titles on Darwin and evolution. What can looking at children’s literature teach us about cultural views of science? And how can it help us to analyze the history of science in public? Those are great starting points for doing research, so we brought the books together for anyone to take a look at some of them and see for themselves!
The exhibit includes twelve recent children’s books about Darwin and evolution, and they are looking for comments here. Which books are on display?
Alan Gibbons, Charles Darwin (Lifelines) (Kingfisher, 2008)
Deborah Hopkinson, The Humblebee Hunter (Hyperion Books, 2010)
Laurie Krebs, We’re Sailing to Galapagos (Barefoot Books, 2007)
✓ Kathryn Lasky, One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin (Candlewick, 2009)
✓ Kristin Lawson, Darwin and Evolution for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities (For Kids series) (Chicago Review Press, 2003)
Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom, What Mr Darwin Saw (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2009)
Sandra Markle, Animals Charles Darwin Saw (Explorers (Chronicle Books)) (Chronicle Books, 2009)
Alice B. McGinty, Darwin (Houghton Mifflin, 2009)
Rosalyn Schanzer, What Darwin Saw: The Journey That Changed the World (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2009)
✓ Peter Sis, The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin (New York Times Best Illustrated Books (Awards)) (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003)
A.J. Wood, Charles Darwin and the Beagle Adventure (Templar, 2009)
I’ve got only four out of the dozen, marked by checks!
Some others that could have been part of this exhibit: Young Charles Darwin and the Voyage of the Beagle, Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith, The True Adventures of Charley Darwin, The Riverbank, and Following in Darwin’s Footsteps. And these two are forthcoming: Charles Darwin and the Mystery of Mysteries and Charles Darwin (Giants of Science).
Last summer, when I was viewing an exhibit about Darwin and geology at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences in Cambridge, England, I did not think I would be reviewing it for the Journal of the History of Biology. But I have, and it is now up online:
Exhibit Review: Darwin the Geologist, The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England. Opened July 2009, Permanent. Curator: Francis Neary. Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Opened in 1904 in memory of the geologist Adam Sedgwick, and containing the collections Sedgwick and John Woodward had previously accumulated, the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences houses a vast collection of geological and paleontological specimens, including some collected by Darwin himself during the voyage of the HMS Beagle. The Sedgwick acts as a fitting locale, then, for an exhibit exploring Darwin and his geological work. Darwin the Geologist, a permanent exhibit opened in July 2009 to coincide with Cambridge’s Darwin anniversary celebrations, evolved from a temporary exhibit at the museum that had been titled Charles Darwin – Becoming a Geologist and had been on display from September 2008 to June 2009.
Darwin the Geologist tells the story of Darwin’s career as a geologist, displaying not only some of the 1,500 of Darwin’s actual specimens that the Sedgwick holds, but also books, geological tools, maps, and even a pistol carried by Darwin on the Beagle. The exhibit is an exploration of the development of Darwin’s ideas about the Earth and how they related to the development of his theory of evolution by natural selection. Darwin is more commonly labeled as a naturalist, or biologist, because of his work on evolution, but as Sandra Herbert has convincingly shown in Charles Darwin, Geologist (Cornell University Press, 2005), he was a self-proclaimed geologist and pursued his interests in geology in many ways from the Beagle voyage (1831–1836) leading up to the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859. Geology, as an exhibit label attests, dominated Darwin’s early scientific career, and his ‘‘reputation as a scientist was built on his training as a geologist.’’
Situated among the beautiful and tall glass and wooden display cases, Darwin the Geologist fills one end of the museum’s two-winged gallery, replacing what used to be displays about the Holocene epoch. The exhibit displays are organized chronologically, beginning with Darwin’s childhood fascination with collecting and into his education at Edinburgh, where Darwin was introduced to geology, and Cambridge, where Darwin met John Stevens Henslow and gained collecting and field-work experience on a geological field excursion to Wales with Adam Sedgwick. More displays are devoted to the Beagle voyage, as this afforded Darwin more opportunities to practice geology and to think about the forces that created the landscapes he visited. We learn about a raised coastline at Sa˜o Tiago in the Cape Verde Islands and the numerous fossils Darwin discovered, including the famous Megatherium; of the geology of the Andes and the formation of igneous rocks at the Galapagos Islands; and the growth of coral reefs in the Pacific. We learn about Syms Covington, Darwin’s assistant during and after the voyage, and the many specialists to whom Darwin farmed out his geological specimens for identification: William Miller for minerals, Robert Brown for fossil plants, Alcide D’Orbigny for fossil shells, Richard Owen for fossil mammals, and William Clift for the fossil teeth of Megatherium. We are shown how Darwin became a member and later secretary of the Geological Society of London as a result of his geological work on the Beagle.
A label reflecting on Archibald Geikie’s centenary celebration lecture in Cambridge (1909) [Charles Darwin as Geologist: The Rede Lecture, Given at the Darwin Centennial Commemoration on 24 June 1909 (Cambridge Library Collection - Life Sciences)] about Darwin’s geology—‘‘Since 1909 Darwin’s theory of evolution has played an increasingly important role in our understanding of life on Earth, while his geological theories have been largely forgotten’’—segues between Darwin’s own life and work and labels showing how more recent scientists have used Darwin’s collections and ideas in their geological work. For example, geologist Lyall Anderson studies rocks from the Beagle collection to consider Darwin’s collecting practices. Darwin received some specimens as gifts from other geologists, such as Andrew Smith. Through studying the rocks themselves, Anderson has been able to conclude that Darwin included in his collection specimens he did not collect himself. Similar research by Sally Gibson has helped to understand Darwin’s geological route on the island of Santiago in the Galapagos. While the Beagle collection is of importance to scientists, the specimens can help to answer questions important to historians of science as well. Darwin the Geologist stresses this point. Anderson is quoted in a label: ‘‘From a personal point of view I think my biggest surprise was that Darwin didn’t collect everything himself. Maybe that’s a misconception that the Darwin Industry has kept running.’’ While Darwin is surely an important figure, lesser-known figures in the work brought Darwin his scientific fame.
Smaller displays between the larger glass cases emphasize other aspects of Darwin’s geology. From the influences of Alexander von Humboldt and Charles Lyell to the letter of introduction inviting Darwin to join the Beagle, these displays flesh out the story and provide contextual information. Several consider various practices associated with geology, such as how to collect appropriate specimens, the use of field notebooks, and the analysis and interpretation of specimens, and how this work for Darwin resulted in various publications. Some of the smaller displays discuss Darwin’s ‘‘scientific failure’’ in theorizing how the Parallel Roads of Glen Roy in Scotland were formed, how geology figured into On the Origin of Species, and how Darwin continued to study geological topics after the publication of Origin, most notably with earthworms and the formation of soil, the subject of his last book. Also included in the exhibit are a recreation of Darwin’s cabin on the Beagle and an interactive globe showing the places where Darwin collected particular specimens. A touchscreen allows visitors to go behind the scenes of the exhibit, which is essentially a collection of the posts from the blog that accompanies Darwin the Geologist and is accessible at http://darwinthegeologist.org/.
The exhibit does a fine job of placing Darwin’s work in the context of geological questions at the time. It does not address the ‘‘Genesis and geology’’ dispute in the nineteenth century beyond one label stating that ‘‘Heated debate and controversy over science and religion captured the public imagination,’’ nor is there a label stressing the importance of correspondence to scientific practice. These minor quibbles aside, Darwin the Geologist offers a wealth of interesting material in both the objects on display and the accompanying labels, and it does it in a rather small space. It is a well-organized exhibit, and includes a wonderful artistic tribute to Darwin. While a life-size bronze of a young Darwin, by Cambridge alum and zoologist-turned-artist Anthony Smith, now adorns a garden in Christ’s College at Cambridge, a bronze bust also by Smith oversees Darwin the Geologist as if to suggest that Darwin himself is either the epitome of humankind (for Darwin is situated at the most recent end of the geological and paleontological timescale that is the Sedgwick Museum) or a typical specimen of humankind. The former runs the risk of claims of hagiography. The latter is more likely, as the exhibit suggests that scientific discovery follows from curiosity, and Darwin the Geologist surely expresses throughout to its visitors the act of scientific discovery. If nothing else, the statues help to emphasize that for much of the work that made Darwin a reputable scientist, he was an energetic young man eager to explore the world around him, not always the long-bearded sage of Downe.
Michael D. Barton
Montana State University
The photos I took of the exhibit can be seen here.