Video courtesy the Linnean Society; conference information here.
Thanks to The Alfred Russel Wallace Website for bringing this to our attention.
February 18, 2009, at The Library of Congress, Washington DC
I am very excited for Matthew to see his book published! I’ve got a copy checked out from my library and hope to delve into it soon…
Matthew J. James, Collecting Evolution: The Galapagos Expedition that Vindicated Darwin (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 304 pp.
Publisher’s description In 1905, eight men from the California Academy of Sciences set sail from San Francisco for a scientific collection expedition in the Galapagos Islands, and by the time they were finished in 1906, they had completed one of the most important expeditions in the history of both evolutionary and conservation science. These scientists collected over 78,000 specimens during their time on the islands, validating the work of Charles Darwin and laying the groundwork for foundational evolution texts like Darwin’s Finches. Despite its significance, almost nothing has been written on this voyage, lost amongst discussion of Darwin’s trip on the Beagle and the writing of David Lack.
In Collecting Evolution, author Matthew James finally tells the story of the 1905 Galapagos expedition. James follows these eight young men aboard the Academy to the Galapagos and back, and reveals the reasons behind the groundbreaking success they had. A current Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, James uses his access to unpublished writings and photographs to provide unprecedented insight into the expedition. We learn the voyagers’ personal stories, and how, for all the scientific progress that was made, just as much intense personal drama unfolded on the trip. This book shares a watershed moment in scientific history, crossed with a maritime adventure. There are four tangential suicides and controversies over credit and fame. Collecting Evolution also explores the personal lives and scientific context that preceded this voyage, including what brought Darwin to the Galapagos on the Beagle voyage seventy years earlier. James discusses how these men thought of themselves as “collectors” before they thought of themselves as scientists, and the implications this had on their approach and their results.
In the end, the voyage of the Academy proved to be crucial in the development of evolutionary science as we know it. It is the longest expedition in Galapagos history, and played a critical role in cementing Darwin’s legacy. Collecting Evolution brings this extraordinary story of eight scientists and their journey to life.
A talk with Alison Pearn of the Darwin Correspondence Project:
The winner of this year’s Royal Society Insight Investment science book prize, which is awarded annually to a work of science writing intended for a non-specialist audience, went to Andrea Wulf for her fantastic biography of Prussian naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt. Humboldt has long been a character of interest to me: not only is “Humboldtian science” a standard topic one learns about in history of science courses (especially Michael Dettelbach’s chapter in Cultures of Natural History), but, as readers here may know, Humboldt was an important influence on Darwin.
Andrea Wulf, The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World (New York: Vintage Books, 2015), 552 pp.
Publisher’s description Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was the most famous scientist of his age, a visionary German naturalist and polymath whose discoveries forever changed the way we understand the natural world. Among his most revolutionary ideas was a radical conception of nature as a complex and interconnected global force that does not exist for the use of humankind alone. In North America, Humboldt’s name still graces towns, counties, parks, bays, lakes, mountains, and a river. And yet the man has been all but forgotten. In this illuminating biography, Andrea Wulf brings Humboldt’s extraordinary life back into focus: his prediction of human-induced climate change; his daring expeditions to the highest peaks of South America and to the anthrax-infected steppes of Siberia; his relationships with iconic figures, including Simón Bolívar and Thomas Jefferson; and the lasting influence of his writings on Darwin, Wordsworth, Goethe, Muir, Thoreau, and many others. Brilliantly researched and stunningly written, The Invention of Nature reveals the myriad ways in which Humboldt’s ideas form the foundation of modern environmentalism—and reminds us why they are as prescient and vital as ever.
In October I had the pleasure of attending a talk that Wulf gave about Humboldt for the Oregon Hardy Plant Society:
For similar talks, check out the recording below…
It appears that folks really want a picture book adaptation of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (I would!), for while artist Sabina Radeva set a goal of under $3,000 for her Kickstarter campaign to produce her adaptation, at less than a day left for donating, the campaign has raised over $60,000! Check out sample images on her website and watch her video about the project:
Janet Browne spoke on Darwin for three lectures at Harvard earlier in November, all of which have been uploaded to YouTube. Enjoy!
Becoming Darwin: History, Memory, and Biography, “Economist of Nature”
Becoming Darwin: History, Memory, and Biography, “Stories of a Scientific Life”
Becoming Darwin: History, Memory, and Biography, “Icon”
Another great excuse to use the Darwin facepalm gif:
Jump to the 44:00 mark:
I wonder if any creationists (including ID proponents), climate change deniers, or anti-vaxxers will bother to listen to this great talk from historian of science Naomi Oreskes. Doubtful.
Although this Kickstarter campaign reached it’s funding goal two days after starting on June 23, it’s still on and you can donate to the effort to publish a book about evolution for preschoolers, Grandmother Fish: a child’s first book of Evolution by Jonathan Tweet and illustrated by Karen Lewis. The really great thing about it is that Eric Meikle from the NCSE is advising on the contents of the book, so it will be very accurate with the science.
Check out the video about the Kickstarter campaign:
Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (New York : Henry Holt and Co, 2014), 336 pp.
A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes.
Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind’s most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.
On a similar note – a new documentary, 6 the Movie:
PBS just finished airing a three-part documentary based on paleontologist Neil Shubin’s book Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body, which he hosted. For anyone interested in evolution and how humans are related to the rest of the animal world, this is a must-see. It’s very well done, visually and with content. You can watch each of the episodes through the PBS website, Shubin tells me, for up to two weeks following the air date for each episode (thus, 4/24 for episode 1, May 1 for episode 2, and May 8 for episode 3. It’s April 25th today, and as of early this morning PST, episode 1 was still viewable. Just click on any of the three images below to view an episode!
In February, BBC’s program In Our Time looked at Social Darwinism, featuring two historians of science, Gregory Radick and Charlotte Sleigh. Listen to the program here.
Robert Richards: ‘All that is most beautiful’: Darwin’s Theory of Morality and Its Normative Validity
Peter Bowler: Imagining a World without Darwin
Darwin, God, & Design – Evolution & the Battle for America’s Soul
Darwin’s Revolution: From Natural Theology to Natural Selection
From March 2013: “Everyone knows Darwin lived in central London early in his career. In his inaugural lecture as Professor of History and Philosophy of Biology, Joe Cain will explore that period. We’ll pay close attention to daily life and its locations around town. What does local history add to the biography of a scientist? We’ll identify local Darwin landmarks and link some key Darwin stories to a bit of recently discovered material. Some of this proved quite unexpected.”
These videos are from a lecture series in October at the University of Alberta, “More than Natural Selection.”
The time travelers: Alfred Russel Wallace and Peter Kropotkin
Kathleen Lowrey – Associate Professor Anthropology University of Alberta
Alfred Russel Wallace, Mars, Extra-Terrestrials and the Nature of the Universe
Robert Smith, Professor, History and Classics University of Alberta
Alfred Russel Wallace, Collector
Andrew Berry, Lecturer on Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Harvard University
Wallace on Science and the Problems of Progress
Martin Fichman, Professor, Department of Humanities York University
Capstone Address – Other Worlds: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Cross-Cultures of Spiritualism
Christine Ferguson, Senior Lecturer, English Literature University of Glasgow