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):
by Richard Conniff
From Today in Science History:
John Locke (Born 29 Aug 1632; died 28 Oct 1704). English physician who was the most important philosopher during the Age of Reason. He spent over 20 years developing the ideas he published in most significant work, Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) which analysed the nature of human reason, and promoted experimentation as the basis of knowledge. He established primary qualities, (ex. solidity, extension, number) as distinct from secondary qualities identified by the sense organs (ex. colour, sound). Thus the world is otherwise silent and without colour. Locke recognised that science is made possible when the primary world mechanically affects the sense organs, thereby creating ideas that faithfully represent reality. He was an acquaintance of Robert Boyle.
Darwin invited as Beagle naturalist In 1831, Charles Darwin returned home from a geology field trip in North Wales to find letters from Revd. John Henslow and George Peacock informing him that he will soon be invited on a scientific voyage of HMS Beagle. He was 22 years old, and had just graduated from Cambridge University. The offer was to be a naturalist on H.M.S. Beagle for a two year survey of South America, leaving on 25 Sep. Although he immediately accepted the offer, his father and sisters were opposed. They regarded it as an idle pursuit that would delay his expected career in the clergy. His father, however, was prepared to change his mind, but only if Darwin could find a qualified man who viewed the exploit as worthwhile. Darwin spent the next two days doing just that.
Oops, Richard made a mistake.
First, thank you so very much to Karen James (not nunatak) of The HMS Beagle Project for sending me the catalogue and map accompanying the “Darwin’s Garden” exhibit she got during her visit as a graduation gift. Second, Gloria Park of Thirteen/WNET New York informed me that tonight, “NEW YORK VOICES, Thirteen/WNET’s award-winning weekly public affairs series, will air a special half-hour documentary on the current Charles Darwin exhibit at The New York Botanical Garden.” The press release:
THIRTEEN/WNET’S NEW YORK VOICES EXPLORES THE UNTOLD STORY OF CHARLES DARWIN TUESDAY, MAY 20 AT 10:30 P.M.
30-Minute Special Features Exhibit Presented By The New York Botanical Garden
Thirteen/WNET’s NEW YORK VOICES captures the multifaceted exhibition chronicling Darwin’s lifelong fascination with plants and flowers currently on display at The New York Botanical Garden.
The NEW YORK VOICES special premieres Tuesday, May 20 at 10:30 p.m.
Using Darwin’s original manuscripts and writings, The Botanical Garden demonstrates his contribution and impact to science, highlighting our understanding of natural selection and evolution today. Using the plants and flowers that appeared in his drawings such as primroses, climbing plants and orchids, the exhibit also recreates Darwin’s garden and greenhouse where he conducted many of his bontanical experiments.
NEW YORK VOICES host Rafael Pi Roman speaks with biologist and author Dr. Edward O. Wilson about Darwin’s legacy. The program will also examine the latest perspectives on Darwin’s theories from scientists, environmentalists and scholars who presented at a symposium earlier this month as a part of The Botanical Garden’s exhibit.
The program concludes with a tour of The Botanical Garden’s children’s exhibit featuring their hands-on, interactive displays introducing young visitors to Darwin’s theories and adventures around the world.Visit www.thirteen.org/nyvoices to watch the most recent episode or search our archives.
What happens while I lay in bed sound asleep? Well, Karen of The H.M.S. Beagle Project beats me (she’s six hours ahead of me) to posting about another Darwin exhibit and event. Honestly, I planned to post it this morning anyways, when I saw it advertised in the latest Natural History magazine last night while listening about the Beagle Project on Atheists Talk (mp3 direct link).
Curated by Darwin historian David Kohn (The Darwinian Heritage, Darwin on Evolution), Darwin’s Garden: An Evolutionary Adventure opens at the New York Botanical Garden on April 25 (until June 15). From the website:
Charles Darwin is best known for his theory of evolution and other natural history achievements, but little is known about his enduring and insightful work with plants and the important role they played in formulating his ideas. Yet from cradle to grave, botany played a pivotal role in Darwin’s life. From counting peonies and playing under the apple trees in his father’s garden as a boy to collecting “all the plants in flower” on his famous voyage to the Galápagos as a young man and testing the sex and sensitivity of plants at his home, Down House, in his later years, plants were a lifelong preoccupation for Darwin.
Darwin’s Garden: An Evolutionary Adventure explores the untold story of Darwin’s botanical influences, his research, and his contribution to our understanding of plants, and ultimately, of life in general. The exhibition is featured in three Botanical Garden venues and includes an “evolutionary tour” of living plants that demonstrate key points on the tree of life, which links all living beings through a common ancestry.
Along with the formal exhibit, there is reproduction of Darwin’s garden, a symposium in early May, and an interactive children’s exhibit (with activity).
Damn, New York is way over on the east coast, and I am in the middle of the continent… If anyone goes to see the exhibits or symposia, please share….
For anyone interested in Darwin and his botanical work, due out in this spring is The Aliveness of Plants: The Darwins at the Dawn of Plant Science by Peter Ayres. From the publisher:
The Darwin family was instrumental in the history of botany. For Erasmus (1731–1802), it was a hobby, for Charles (1809–1882) an inspiration, and for Francis (1848–1925), a profession. Their experiences illustrate the growing specialization and professionalization of science throughout the nineteenth century. Ayres shows how botany escaped the burdens of medicine, feminization and the sterility of classification and nomenclature to become a rigorous laboratory science.
I’ll be in San Francisco for an afternoon in a few weeks, in between visiting my family in Southern California and my wife’s near Sacramento. I’m thinking about what we should do/see that afternoon… and of course the one place I would really like to see, the California Academy of Sciences, is closed until Fall of this year! They are moving into a whole new green facility in Golden Gate Park…
Anyone have suggestions for an afternoon in SF with a two year old?
Born this day:
Charles-Marie de La Condamine (Born 28 Jan 1701; died 4 Feb 1774). French naturalist and mathematician who became particularly interested in geodesy (earth measurement). He was put in charge by the King of France of an expedition to Equador to measure a meridional arc at the equator (1735-43). It was wished to determine whether the Earth was either flattened or elongated at its poles. He then accomplished the first scientific exploration of the Amazon River (1743) on a raft, studying the region, and brought the drug curare to Europe. He also worked on establishment of a universal unit of length, and is credited with developing the idea of vaccination against smallpox, later perfected by Edward Jenner. However, he was almost constantly ill and died in 1773, deaf and completely paralyzed.
Sir T.W. Edgeworth David (Born 28 Jan 1858; died 28 Aug 1934). Sir T(annatt) W(illiam) Edgeworth David was a Welsh-born Australian geologist who produced an extensive study of the geology of Australia, including the first geological map of the Sydney-Newcastle Basin. He also researched the evidence of major glaciations in Australia of the Upper Paleozoic time (from 345- to 225- million years ago). In 1897, he drilled to a depth of 340-m at Funafuti Atoll in an effort to verify Darwin’s theory of the formation of coral atolls. Whereas his results supported Darwin’s ideas, they were short of absolute proof. He served as scientific officer of the Shackleton Antarctic Expedition from 1907-9, and led the party that first reached the southern magnetic pole on 16 Jan 1909, which was on land at that time.
Thanks to Kevin of The Other 95% for pointing me to this series of articles from the Ecological Society of America’s Bulletin. Up to its 27th installment, “A History of the Ecological Sciences” covers natural history topics from antiquity through the 19th century. It remains a current project from Frank N. Egerton, a retired historian from the University of Wisconsin who has written extensively on the history of ecology, including History of American Ecology (1978) and Hewett Cottrell Watson: Victorian Plant Ecologist and Evolutionist (2003). ESA has made a convenient page for finding all the articles at once, but here are the links as well:
2. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 2: Aristotle and Theophrastos. Volume 82(2):149–152. April 2001
3. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 3: Hellenistic Natural History. Volume 82(3):201–205. July 2001
4. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 4: Roman Natural History. Volume 82(4):243–246. October 2001
5. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 5: Byzantine Natural History. Volume 83(1):89–94. January 2002
6. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 6: Arabic Language Science—Origins and Zoological Writings. Volume 83(2):142–146. April 2002
7. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 7: Arabic Language Science—Botany, Geography, and Decline. Volume 83(4):261–266. October 2002
8. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 8: Fredrick II of Hohenstaufen: Amateur Avian Ecologist and Behaviorist. Volume 84(1):40–44. January 2003
9. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 9: Albertus Magnus, a Scholastic Naturalist. Volume 84(2):87–91. April 2003
10. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 10: Botany During the Renaissance and the Beginnings of the Scientific Revolution. Volume 84(3):130–137. July 2003
11. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 11: Emergence of Vertebrate Zoology During the 1500s. Volume 84(4):206–212. October 2003
12. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 12: Invertebrate Zoology and Parasitology During the 1500s. Volume 85(1):27–31. January 2004
13. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 13: Broadening Science in Italy and England, 1600–1650. Volume 85(3):110–119. July 2004
14. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 14: Plant Growth Studies in the 1600s. Volume 85(4):208–213. October 2004
15. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 15: The Precocious Origins of Human and Animal Demography and Statistics in the 1600s. Volume 86(1):32–38. January 2005
16. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 16: Robert Hooke and the Royal Society of London. Volume 86(2):93–101. April 2005
17. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 17: Invertebrate Zoology and Parasitology During the 1600s. Volume 86(3):133–144. July 2005
18. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 18: John Ray and His Associates Francis Willughby and William Derham. Volume 86(4):301–313. October 2005
19. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 19: Leeuwenhoek’s Microscopic Natural History. Volume 87(1):47–58. January 2006
20. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 20: Richard Bradley, Entrepreneurial Naturalist. Volume 87(2):117–127. April 2006
21. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 21: Réaumur and His History of Insects. Volume 87(3):212–224. July 2006
22. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 22: Early European Naturalists in Eastern North America. Volume 87(4):341–356. October 2006
23. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 23: Linnaeus and the Economy of Nature. Volume 88(1):72–88. January 2007
24. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 24: Buffon and Environmental Influences on Animals. Volume 88(2):146–159. April 2007
25. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 25:American Naturalists Explore Eastern North America: John and William Bartram. Volume 88(3):253–268. July 2007
26. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 26. Gilbert White, Naturalist Extrordinaire. Volume 88(4):385–398. October 2007
Just some sites I came across today:
MIT OpenCourseWare, free online course materials covering a wide range of topics. Of interest here are History of Science, Toward the Scientific Revolution, The Rise of Modern Science, History and Anthropology of Medicine and Biology, Social Study of Science and Technology, Nature, Environment, and Empire, People and Other Animals, and Darwin and Design (literature).
The Darwin-L Archives, a discussion group for academic professionals in the historical sciences that was active from 1993–1997. The site notes that “[i]n spite of its name, Darwin-L did not focus specifically on the work of Charles Darwin, but rather covered the entire range of palaetiology from an explicitly comparative perspective, including evolutionary biology, historical linguistics, textual transmission and stemmatics, historical geology, systematics and phylogeny, archeology, paleontology, historical geography, cosmology, and historical anthropology.”
Museum Studies e-Journal from the University of Oklahoma, first issue has an article about the role of podcasting in museums. Also at UO, their history of science collections, online being some digitized books, scientist portraits, and image gallery.
Linnaeus’ personal copy of his Systema Naturae (1st edition, 1735), an important document for the emergence of taxonomic classification of living organisms, was put on display at two American locales to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Linnaeus’ birth (see this link for posts with Linnaeus celebration information). First, it was on display at the New York Botanical Garden from November 8-10, including some talks, one with Edward O. Wilson. Then it went to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History from November 13-14 as “A Tribute to Carl Linnaeus,” part of a symposium, “Three Hundred Years of Linnaean Taxonomy.” The blog of the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) originally posted on this, and digitized versions of Systema Naturae are available at the BHL or Botanicus.org.
Wonders and the Order of Nature is more than just a collection of stories about marvels. As a cornucopia of contexts, this book provides a wealth of social, cultural, religious, and political forces behind the history of wonders and the history of the emotion of wonder itself. In several ways, however, Daston and Park offer some broader themes. In their sweep through six centuries (from the High Middle Ages through the enlightenment), they show how the passions of wonder and curiosity have defined what objects were worthy of study and collection (and use) by European elites, be they courtly princes, natural philosophers, medical men, or theologians. Within those definitions emerge a multitude of boundaries – natural/unnatural, domestic/exotic, learned/lay (cultivated/vulgar), particulars/universals, theology/secularism, natural/artificial, empiricism and reason/ignorance, common/rare, physical experience/text experience, utility/futility, and ordinary/extraordinary – that help to understand how European elites viewed wonders and connected them to their lives.
 Daston and Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, p. 25.
 Ibid., p. 41.
 Ibid., p. 41.
 Ibid., p. 52.
 Ibid., p. 52.
 Ibid., p. 65.
 Ibid., p. 62.
 Ibid., p. 74.
 Ibid., p. 68.
 Marjorie Schwarzer, Riches, Rivals & Radicals: 100 Years of Museums in America (Washington, DC: American Association of Museums, 2006), p. 70.
 Schwarzer, Riches, Rivals & Radicals: 100 Years of Museums in America, p. 10.
 Daston and Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, p. 77.
 Ibid., p. 101.
 Ibid., p. 114.
 Ibid., p. 118.
 Ibid., p. 124.
 Ibid., p. 133.
 Ibid., p. 147.
 Ibid., p. 158.
 Ibid., p. 158.
 Ibid., p. 164.
 Ibid., p. 167.
 Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park, “Unnatural Conceptions: Monsters in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century France and England,” Past and Present 92 (1981): 20-54.
 Daston and Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, p. 201.
 Ibid., p. 202.
 Ibid., p. 220.
 Ibid., p. 218.
 Ibid., p. 230.
 Ibid., p. 249.
 Ibid., p. 277.
 Ibid., p. 273.
 Ibid., p. 267.
 Ibid., p. 301.
 Ibid., p. 361.
 Ibid., p. 363.
 Ibid., p. 158.
 Ibid., p. 230.
 Ibid., p. 343.
 Ibid., p. 350.
First, Thomas at Biomedicine on Display has a post about historian of science Jim Endersby‘s new book, A Guinea Pig’s History of Biology. Harvard University Press describes the book as “how this curious creature [guinea pigs] and others as humble (and as fast-breeding) have helped unlock the mystery of inheritance.” Jim has reviews and information about the organisms discussed in the book at his website. He also has another book out next year, Imperial Nature: Joseph Hooker and the practices of Victorian science, which he describes:
The book uses the career of Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817–1911) to explore three of the major themes in the historiography of Victorian science: the reception of Darwinism; the consequences of empire; and, the emergence of a scientific profession. Each of its nine thematic chapters looks at a particular scientific practice – such as travelling, classifying or writing – and examines its role in Hooker’s work and its broader significance as a way of placing science within the rapidly developing social world of nineteenth-century Britain.
These were added to The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online between October 29 and November 1, 2007:
Lubbock, J. 1870. [Attempt, at the behest of Darwin, ‘to insert the words, “whether married to a first cousin” in the census.] Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates, 3rd series, 22 July 1870, col. 817; 26 July 1870, cols. 1006-1007). Images
Two newly discovered descriptions of Darwin’s specimens:
Cobbold, T. S. 1873. Notes on Entozoa—Part I. [Read 10 October] Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 47 (18 November): 736-742, 1 plate. Images
Cobbold, T. S. 1874. Notes on Entozoa. Part II. [Read 2 January] Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 48 (3 February): 124-8, 1 plate. Images
Venn, J. A. ed. 1944. Alumni Cantabrigienses… Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Part 2, vol. 2, pp. 228-9. [Darwin family entries] Images
Chancellor, Gordon. ‘A man who has seen half the world’: Introduction to Beagle field notebook 1.9
[Darwin, C. R.] 1871. [Letter praising Truths for the Times]. The Index, a weekly paper devoted to free religion (Toledo, Ohio) 2 No. 25 (24 June): 196. Images
Michael Ryan at Paleoblog posted about today’s Darwin-history tidbit, also here:
from Today in Science History:
In 1827, Charles Darwin was accepted into Christ’s College at Cambridge, but did not start until winter term because he needed to catch up on some of his studies. A grandson of Erasmus Darwin of Lichfield, and of Josiah Wedgwood, he had entered the University of Edinburgh in 1825 to study medicine, intending to follow his father Robert’s career as a doctor. However, Darwin found himself unenthusiastic about his studies, including that of geology. Disappointing his family that he gave up on a medical career, he left Edinburgh without graduating in April 1827. His scholastic achievements at Cambridge were unremarkable, but after graduation, Darwin was recommended by his botany professor to be a naturalist [gentlemanly companion] to sail on HM Sloop [?] Beagle.
See this letter for his “brilliant establishment.”
“Darwin and Christ’s College” by John van Wyhe
Admissions books of Christ’s College, Cambridge at Darwin Online
Christ’s College Darwin sculpture update at The [Old] Beagle Project Blog
From Today in Science History:
John Gould (born 14 Sep 1804; died 3 Feb 1881): English ornithologist whose life work produced 41 lavishly illustrated volumes on birds from all over the world, containing in all about 3,000 plates, all lithographed and hand-painted. Of these, his Birds of Australia was particularly significant (1840-69) as the first comprehensive record of the continent’s birds and mammals. With its plates of the birds were descriptions, notes on their distribution and adaptation to the environment. He assisted Charles Darwin with identification of the specimens collected during the voyage of the Beagle. By informing Darwin that the finches belonging to separate species, he provided essential information giving Darwin insight leading to his later development of the theory of evolution.
Alexander von Humboldt (born 14 Sep 1769; died 6 May 1859): (Baron) Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt was a German natural scientist, archeologist, explorer and geographer, who made two major expeditions to Latin America (1799-1804) and to Asia (1829). During the first, equipped with the best scientific instruments, he surveyed and collected geological, zoological, botanical, and ethnographic specimens, including over 60,000 rare or new tropical plants. He charted and made observations on a cold ocean current along the Peruvian coast, now named, the Humboldt Current. In geology, he made pioneering observations of stratigraphy, structure and geomorphology; he understood the connections between volcanism and earthquakes. Humboldt named the Jurassic System.
Charles Darwin’s correspondence to and from Humboldt.
These were added to The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online on August 28 and 29, 2007:
Lyell, Charles. 1863. The geological evidences of the antiquity of man with remarks on the origin of species by variation. 3rd edition, revised. London: John Murray. Images [Images from Google books]
[Recollections of Darwin at Cambridge by John Maurice Herbert] (2 June 1882). Text
[Recollections of Darwin by Rev. John Brodie Innes] (nd). Text
[Recollections of Darwin by William Allport Leighton] (c. 1886). Text
[Recollections of Charles Darwin] (c. mid 1880s). Text
These were added to The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online on August 24, 2007:
Bennett, T. 1861. Dun horses. The Field 17 (18 May): 431. Images
‘Eques (Argyllshire)’. 1861. Dun horses. The Field 17 (8 June): 494-5. Images
Herschel, J. F. W. 1840. A preliminary discourse on the study of natural philosophy. Part of Dionysius Lardner’s Cabinet cyclopædia. London. Images [Images from Google books]
I only offer this information because next week I will be reading selections from Pliny’s Natural History along with a chapter about him in Roger French’s Ancient Natural History.
Richard Carter, FCD adds Pliny to list of top scientists
Wikipedia: Pliny the Elder
From Today in Science History:
Died 24 Aug 79 A.D. (born 23 A.D.) Roman savant and author of the celebrated Natural History, in 37 volumes an encyclopaedic work of very uneven accuracy that was nonetheless an authority on scientific matters up to the Middle Ages. He prepared this as a digest of two thousand ancient books written by nearly five hundred writers. He was mostly undiscriminating regarding the accuracy of the content. Though he rejected, for example, the possibility of immortality, he also rejected Pytheas’ valid theory that the moon was responsible for tides. Correctly, he accepted the spherical form of the Earth. As another example, he included various theories on the origin of amber, one correct among others fanciful and wrong. The book dealt in subjects ranging from astronomy, geography, and zoology. He died in the eruption of Vesuvius, too anxious to witness the event to retreat from the ashes and toxic gases.