Forthcoming Books about Richard Owen

Richard Owen: Biology Without Darwin by Nicolaas A. Rupke (July 2009 from Univ. of Chicago Press):

In continuation of earlier research into the life and work of Richard Owen, non-Darwinian theories about the origin of life and of species are being explored. Current emphasis is on early-nineteenth century representatives of “Neither creation nor evolution, but the third way in thinking about the origin of species.” [info]

Owen’s Ape and Darwin’s Bulldog: Beyond Darwinism and Creationism by Christopher E. Cosans (February 2009 from Indiana University Press):

With the debate between Richard Owen and Thomas Huxley on the differences between the ape and human brains as its focus, this book explores some of the ways in which philosophical ideas and scientific practice influenced the discussion of evolution in the years before and after Darwin’s publication of “Origin of Species” in 1859. It also shows how this episode can shed light on current philosophical notions of scientific practice and how they in turn influence our understanding of the history of science. The book advances the current historical discussion of the Owen-Huxley debate by making clear that Owen’s anatomical claims had much more support than most historians and philosophers of science assume.

Other Owen books from the University of Chicago Press:
On the Nature of Limbs: A Discourse
The Hunterian Lectures in Comparative Anatomy, May and June 1837

Charles Darwin’s visit to Cwm Idwal on August 14th 1831

Originally uploaded by Darkroom Daze

Slate plaque at the interpretative centre at Ogwen Cottage just below Cwm Idwal, commemorating Charles Darwin’s visit to Cwm Idwal on August 14th 1831, and Evan Roberts (first Nature Reserve Warden, 1954). The quotations are given in English (green) and Welsh (red). The quotation by Darwin relates to the glacial origin of the scenic features of Cwm Idwal.

Today in Science History: Scopes Monkey Trial development

From Today in Science History:

In 1925, a meeting of local leaders was held in Dayton, Tennessee, to plan a challenge to that state’s new law, the Butler Act, which made it illegal to teach Darwin’s theory of evolution in a public school. George W. Rappelyea and other local leaders of the small mining town met at Robinson’s drug store. The American Civil Liberties Union in New York, concerned by the law’s infringement on constitutional rights, had advertised an offer to give legal support to any teacher who would challenge the law. Rappelyea saw the publicity that would accompany such a trial as an opportunity to promote his town. He approached John T. Scopes, a 24-year-old teacher and football coach, who was hesitant at first, to test the legality of the law in court.

More about the Scopes Monkey Trial at Famous Trials in American History, and a comment from Brian at Laelaps in his review of Monkey Trials and Gorilla Sermons.

Another Meme: A Favorite Historical Figure of Mine

I was tagged for this meme by John at Thoughts in a Haystack, a while ago. I just can’t write about Darwin for my favorite historical character. I mean, that’s all I share anyways. So I am going to offer 7 random/weird, or just interesting, things or quotes about one of Darwin’s colleagues and friends, the botanist, biogeographer, traveler, and Kew Gardens administrator, Joseph Dalton Hooker.

1. An interesting anecdote from his childhood as recalled later in life (1887):

… my father used to take me on excursions in the Highlands, where I fished a good deal, but also botanised; and well I remember on one occasion, that, after returning home, I built up by a yheap of stones a representation of one of the mountains I had ascended, and stuck upon it specimens of the mosses I had collected on it, at heights relative to those at which I had gathered them. This was the dawn of my love for geographical botany.

2. And from the same 1887 speech:

… my great delight was to sit on my grandfather’s knee and look at the pictures in Cook’s ‘Voyages’. The one that took my fancy most was the plate of Christmas Harbour, Kerguelen Land, witht he arched rock standing out to sea, and the sailors killing penguins; and I thought I should be the happiest boy alive if ever I would see that wonderful arched rock, and knock penguins on the head.

3. Hooker is usually referred to as a botanist, a traveler, and an administrator, as the titles of two biographies attest – Joseph Dalton Hooker: Botanist, Explorer, and Administrator and Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker: Traveller and Plant Collector. A forthcoming book will stress the imperialist nature of Hooker’s career – that as a botanist, traveler, and administrator of a government-funded institution, Hooker contributed to Britain’s imperial ambitions, especially in the manner of colonial and economic botany. Another work in progress stresses that along with being a respectable traveler and explorer, Hooker was a first rate mountaineer. When on the glaciers at the base of Kinchinjhow in the Himalayas, Hooker had attained the highest elevation of any European in history, surpassing Alexander von Humboldt’s near-summit ascent of the 19,275 ft. Chimborazo in Chile in 1802. So then, an uber-title for a biography: Joseph Dalton Hooker: Botanist, Explorer, Traveller, Plant Collector, Administrator, Imperialist, and Mountaineer.

4. Hooker, quite possibly the first non-family member to hear of Darwin’s theory of natural selection, and instrumental in urging Darwin to publish what become On the Origin of Species, was the first naturalist to collect botanical specimens in a new world armed with the theory of evolution through natural selection. Also, in the introductory essay of his Flora Tasmania (published in December of 1860), Hooker ‘confessed’ his conversion to Darwin’s ideas.

5. The surgeon and official naturalist aboard H.M.S. Beagle while Darwin was aboard (and whom left the voyage in Brazil) was also the surgeon Hooker was assistant to on the 1839-1843 Antarctic voyage of H.M.S. Erebus and H.M.S. Terror, the same retro-fitted ships that were part of the unsuccessful Franklin Expedition to navigate the Northwest Passage later in the 1840s. Oh, the surgeon was Robert McCormick, and he was also part of an unsuccesful expedition in search of Franklin.

6. Hooker, along with American botanist Asa Gray, took part in a botanical survey in the Rocky Mountains in 1877, headed by Ferdinand V. Hayden (of Yellowstone National Park fame), head of the U.S. Geological Survey. Quite luxurious accomodations for the Englishman (see photo).

7. From historian Michael Reidy:

After his successful attempt to climb above 19,000 feet, the narrative changes to one of imperial adventure, a topic that has excited past historians. From the Donkia Pass, Hooker literally fled into Tibet, out-riding the Sikkim guards sent to the border to deter him. His violation on entering Tibet placed the Sikkim Rajah in a difficult position, as he was perpetually fearful of angering his Chinese neighbors. Upon Hooker’s return, the Sikkim authorities arrested Hooker’s climbing companion, Archibald Campbell, who alerted Hooker by yelling “Hooker! Hooker! the savages are murdering me!” Campbell was bound, beaten, and tortured. Though Hooker was never actually arrested, his guides were bound and placed in stocks, and Hooker was “retained.” He refused to leave his companion behind. As he put it, “I kept as near as I was allowed, quietly gathering rhododendron-seeds by the way.” Campbell was eventually freed, and the British used the episode to annex further territory from Sikkim.

Much of this information on Joseph Dalton Hooker comes from this biography, and a paper my advisor presented at a conference last year.


And now I bestow this task to these blogs:

A. Lincoln Blog

Sir Charles Lyell Born Today

From Today in Science History:

Born 14 Nov 1797; died 22 Feb 1875. (Baronet) Scottish geologist largely responsible for the general acceptance of the view that all features of the Earth’s surface are produced by physical, chemical, and biological processes through long periods of geological time. The concept was called uniformitarianism (initially set forth by James Hutton).

There is a post at Paleoblog with further biographical information about Lyell. And here are the letters from Lyell to Darwin and from Darwin to Lyell at the Darwin Correspondence Project (I find this page better to bookmark, if you want to search by correspondent).

Louis Agassiz Born

Louis Agassiz (May 28, 1807-December 14, 1873)

“Jean) Louis (Rodolphe) Agassiz was a Swiss-born U.S. naturalist, geologist, and teacher who made revolutionary contributions to the study of natural science with landmark work on glacier activity and extinct fishes. Agassiz began his work in Europe, having studied at the University of Munich and then as chair in natural history in Neuchatel in Switzerland. While there he published his landmark multi-volume description and classification of fossil fish. In 1846 Agassiz came to the U.S. to lecture before Boston’s Lowell Institute. Offered a professorship of Zoology and Geology at Harvard in 1848, he decided to stay, becoming a citizen in 1861. His innovative teaching methods altered the character of natural science education in the U.S.”

Louis Agassiz at UC Berkeley
Agassiz’s correspondence with Charles Darwin
A blog post about the Agassiz statue and the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake (image here)

I know of no great celebrations for the bicentenary of Agassiz’s birth, and this article and post discuss the possibilities of why.

Darwin for Memorial Day

A letter to The New York Times discusses a Darwin letter and his personality.

Choose Your Own Adventure:
Creation Museum: Prepare to Believe (a sneak peek), or
The Creation Museum: Teaching Ignorance Since 2007 A.D.

UPDATE: Ken Ham, who is behind the Creation Museum, and Lawrence Krauss of DefCon, appeared on The O’Reilly Factor on May 28. Some posts (1, 2, 3) discuss the exchange, and a commentary at Laelaps.

Here’s a blog for the Biodiversity Heritage Library, and their main website, which is involved with the Encyclopedia of Life project.

Naturalist and archaeologist John Lubbock died today in 1913. From Today in Science History:

“1st Baron Avebury. English banker, politician, naturalist and archaeologist who coined the terms Neolithic and Paleolithic. Like his father, astronomer Sir John William Lubbock, his scientific work was an avocation. Lubbock was a friend and advocate of Charles Darwin. He discovered the first fossil remains of musk-ox in England (1855), and undertook archaeological work identifying prehistoric cultures. As a naturalist, he studied insect vision and colour sense. He published a number of books on natural history and primitive man. In 1870, he became a member of Parliament. The legislation he initiated included the Bank Holidays Act (1871) and the Ancient Monuments Act (1882) and the Shop Hours Act (1886). He was made a peer in 1900.”

Lubbock’s correspondence with Charles Darwin.
Biographies here and here.

More Weekend Reading

Another NPR story on Carl Linnaeus

Geological Society opens archives (temporarily) at The Red Notebook: a Darwinian weblog

The Discovery Institute on (sadly) The Textbooks Don’t Lie: Haeckel’s Faked Drawings Have Been Used to Promote Evolution

An abstract of a paper, “Darwin and the imperial archive” by Paul White, author of Thomas Huxley: Making the “Man of Science”, to be presented at the conference “Nature behind glass: historical and theoretical perspectives on natural science collections” in September:

‘The imperial archive’ is an expression used predominantly by literary scholars to describe a vision that emerged in the Victorian period of an empire ruled by knowledge rather than brute force. This view of knowledge as a form of governing power gained a new impetus from emerging disciplines of geography, biology, and anthropology. Networks of collectors and surveyors issuing from institutions like the British Museum, the Royal Geographical Society, and the India Office supplied civil bureaucracies with facts gathered at a distance, facts that were both discrete and comprehensive, cumulative and unifiable. Such an archive has been seen not as a facet of imperial control, however, but rather as a substitute for fragile territorial dominion: a “fantasy of knowledge collected and united in the service of state and empire” (Richards). Darwin’s evolutionary theory is regarded as crucial to this programme, providing a unifying framework in which information about peoples of the world could be placed, and a legitimation of European conquest. Historians of anthropology and post-colonial scholars have tended to agree about the complicity of Darwinian theory in the proliferation of racialist discourses that seem, in turn, to underpin imperial practices of collecting, ordering and display in the period, such as the census of British populations in the colonies launched in 1869 by the
Ethnological Society, that involved the mapping and measurement of native peoples for the purposes of racial taxonomy. In addressing this question of Darwin’s relation to imperial culture, I want to take a different approach. Rather than look primarily at Darwinian theory, or as Darwin scholars have often done, to look at his biography or publications, I want to examine instead his own imperial archive, to look at the practice of building such an archive, as it were, from the ground up, and in its migration from private collection to public display. Darwin’s
zoological and botanical collecting, pursued through a world-wide network of correspondents, is now well known. Still relatively unexplored however is his large and varied collection of materials on human evolution, in particular, on emotional expression, gathered through scientific questionnaires and photography. I will argue that there was a distinctive difference in the ways in which Darwin pursued knowledge of non-Europeans, as compared with the techniques by which other naturalists sought to generate a science of colonized peoples. This comparison of how the imperial archive was actually assembled will serve to highlight and critique some of the assumptions behind scholarship on imperial history and anthropology. If the ‘imperial archive’ appears detached from the application of force, it is because the colonial ‘context’ has been erased from the original material in its collation and transfer to print. In many cases, the emotions Darwin gathered from non-European peoples could only be generated in circumstances of imperial dominion, and in settings where British control was absolute. On the other hand, the movement of such materials from private to public knowledge was in itself highly fragile and contingent. Darwin’s collecting was informed by new technologies of
observation, measurement and display, whose implementation was far from straightforward or authoritative, and in the case of ethnographic photography, ultimately uncontrollable.

William Whewell Born

William Whewell (May 24, 1794-Mar 6, 1866)

“British scientist, best known for his survey of the scientific method and for creating scientific words. He founded mathematical crystallography and developed Mohr’s classification of minerals. He created the words scientist and physicist by analogy with the word artist. They soon replaced the older term natural philosopher. Other useful words were coined to help his friends: biometry for Lubbock; Eocine, Miocene and Pliocene for Lyell; and for Faraday, anode, cathode, diamagnetic, paramagnetic, and ion (whence the sundry other particle names ending -ion). In metereology, Whewell devised a self-recording anemometer. He was second only to Newton for work on tidal theory. He died as a result of being thrown from his horse.”

biography at The Victorian Web

review of a PhD dissertation by Michael S. Reidy (who happens to be my undergrad advisor)

Whewell’s correspondence with Charles Darwin

Happy Birthday Linnaeus!

Carolus Linnaeus (May 23, 1707-Jan 10, 1778)

“Swedish botanist and explorer who was the first to frame principles for defining genera and species of organisms and to create a uniform system for naming them.”
Currently I am reading Paul Farber‘s introduction to to the history of natural history as a discipline, Finding Order in Nature: The Naturalist Tradition from Linnaeus to E.O. Wilson. The writing is done very well. The first chapter discusses Linnaeus’ and Buffon‘s contributions to natural history, and their differing perspectives on ordering life. In reference to Linnaeus encouraging his students to travel in order to collect more plants, and that only European naturalists could rightly name and classify species (for local inhabitants are lacking in knowledge), Farber writes, “Just as missionaries attempted to save the souls of indigenous peoples, Linnaeus’s apostles sought to save the species of the world for a second naming.” (p. 12)
Farber refers to this as a type of cultural imperialism, as well as naturalists aiding in the imperial expansion of European powers.