Charles Darwin in the Smithsonian’s Deep Time fossil hall

Over the Thanksgiving break, my wife and son took a trip to Washington, DC. Among the many, many places they visited was the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. There they got to see the museum’s new Deep Time fossil hall, and they sent me these photos of the Charles Darwin quote and young Darwin statue that fit so prominently in the exhibit. The quote is the last line of On the Origin of Species – “From so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved” – and the statue depicts Darwin writing in a notebook, showing his “I think” tree of life sketch.

Darwin statue at NMNH in DC


Other views of the statue, and information regarding the time capsule that was placed underneath it, at the following links: Smithsonian, Washington Post,, and Washington Post again.

Why Pigeons Matter exhibit at the Utah Museum of Natural History

The exhibit runs September 19, 2014 through January 3, 2016.

News article: Exhibit Puts Darwin Insights On Display

And here are two other short videos about Darwin and pigeons for your enjoyment:

Exhibit near Portland: “Hubble Space Telescope: New Views of the Universe”

Portland area friends, an exhibit about the Hubble Space Telescope, “New Views of the Universe,” will be open this Saturday, November 17 at the Hillsboro Civic Center in Hillsboro, through May.

How did the universe begin? How big is it? What is it made of? What is its ultimate fate? These are some of the questions that scientists have been investigating with the Hubble Space Telescope since its launch in 1990. Not only is Hubble providing us with an unprecedented amount of information about the universe, its breathtaking images—disseminated in the press and over the Internet—have excited more people around the world than any other images in the last decade.

This exciting exhibit makes it possible to see and understand the extraordinary discoveries made by the Hubble Space Telescope. A model Hubble telescope will be on view along with hands-on activities about how the telescope works.

The exhibit also includes several games, infrared light technology and spectacular backlit color images of planets, galaxies, black holes, and many other fascinating cosmic entities captured by Hubble.

On opening day, November 17 at 2 p.m., NASA speaker, Russell L. Werneth, an aerospace engineer at the Goddard Space Flight Center, will give a special lecture. Werneth was the Extravehicular Activity Manager for the Hubble Space Telescope Project who trained astronauts on telescope repair techniques during spacewalks.

Starting November 17, Washington County Museum will be open Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free to members, $6 for adults and $4 for children. Children age 3 and under are free. The Hillsboro Civic Center is located at 150 E Main Street, Hillsboro, OR 97123 and located at the Hatfield Government Center MAX Station Stop (Blue line). For more information, call 503.645.5353 or visit

Hopefully I can get Patrick out there sometime between now and May to check it out!

My Darwin talk at OHSU, April 4th

Guest Lecture

Perhaps I should let folks here know that I will be giving a talk at the Oregon Health & Sciences University here in Portland on Wednesday, April 4th, at 12:30pm in the Old Library Auditorium. It will be for a reception to the small exhibit now on display in the OHSU Library, Rewriting the Book of Nature (see my post here).

Darwin Exhibit

My talk will be “Charles Darwin: Myth vs. History,” an overview of myths about Darwin and corrections of them. I will talk about both what I think are unintentionally created myths (events or characteristics that find their way into popular history, science textbooks, etc.) and those that are indeed intentional, and meant to smeer the reputation of a historical character (mainly, creationist misuse of history).

Reception at 12:00, my talk at 12:30, free and open to the public!

“Rewriting the Book of Nature” Darwin exhibit at OHSU Library

The National Library of Medicine’s small panel exhibit about Darwin is now open at the library of the Oregon Health & Sciences University, here in Portland, until April 21st. Four panels of images and text constitute Rewriting the Book of Nature: Charles Darwin and the Rise of Evolutionary Theory (brochure). Patrick and I went up to OHSU on Tuesday to take a look, but also to meet with the archivist there to discuss a talk I am going to give on April 4th at a noon reception for the exhibit – my first invited talk! I’ll share more details later about the talk, but for now here are pictures of the exhibit:

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

A visceral experience: “Body Worlds & the Brain” at OMSI, Portland, OR

Yesterday I headed to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, sans wife and child, to see the exhibit Body Worlds & the Brain (which opened on October 20th for a limited engagement). From Gunther von Hagens, the exhibit “includes more than 200 authentic human specimens and highlights neuroscience, brain development and performance. Through respectful, aesthetic displays, this all-new exhibition invites intensive study and profound reflection on the power, beauty, and fragility of the human body” (more info). The displays are shown along with large text panels discussing many aspects of being human, from anatomy and development to intelligence  and emotions.

I have always wanted to see one of these exhibits of plastinated cadavers, as I have heard from other people about what they liked about it or did not. Given that the bodies are obtained from individuals knowingly providing themselves for these artistic and didactic displays, there is not much I can complain about (much effort is made in getting this point across in the exhibit). Body Worlds is simply wondrous. My initial impression is amazement, but I am sure over the next few weeks I will think about certain aspects of the exhibit (I should see if the Portland libraries have this book: The Anatomy of Body Worlds: Critical Essays on the Plastinated Cadavers of Gunther von Hagens).

One text panel had the following words, which I think sums up such an endeavor: “The creative process generates the new by seeing the known in an unusual way. It is founded on a sense of wonder and fed by the ability to pursue an idea simply to satisfy our curiosity.” A truly visceral experience. I highly encourage folks in the Portland region to visit OMSI and peruse Body Worlds, especially the dynamic poses of many of the bodies and the various organs shown in stages of disease. How often does one get the opportunity to get so close and personal to what is – and could be – inside all of us?

Enjoy the photos, which I was given permission to take and post for media purposes.

Body Worlds & the Brain at OMSI (November 6, 2011)

Sagittal 3-D Slice Body (1999)

Close-up of Sagittal 3-D Slice Body (1999)

The Angel (2005)

The Digestive System

Blood vessel configuration of the arm

The Ponderer (2005)

The Ponderer (2005), showing the brain and spinal column

Elegance on Ice (2005)

The Ringman (2002)

A plastinated giraffe (2008), which made me think of what a project it must be to pack and ship these exhibits around the world

Interior of Giraffe (2008)

The Yoga Lady (2005)

Skull and brain of an infant

Lungs of a smoker

Sitting Ligament Body (2008)

Expanded skull

The human brain

Blood vessel configuration of a lamb

Obesity Revealed

OMSI visitors observing The Head-Diver (2006)

Another view of Giraffe (2008)

Keen observer

After Patrick and I played at Sand in the City in downtown Portland this morning, we headed over to the Central Library, the main branch of the city’s library system. On the first floor there was a display about ants:

Ant display, Central Library, Portland

Ant display, Central Library, Portland

After we looked at the display and started walking away, Patrick said he saw a real ant in the case. I told him that they were fake ants, but he insisted he saw a real ant, and dragged me back to the case. Lo and behold, a real ant:

Real ant on display, Central Library, Portland

Real ant on display, Central Library, Portland

We shared this discovery with a library worker nearby, and she went and shared it with her supervisor, whom laughed quite loud, for a library.

E.O. Wilson would be proud!

EXHIBIT: The Children’s Darwin

The children's darwin logo 5

Kids' books about evolution on display

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)

Anne H. Weaver, The Voyage of the Beetle (U of New Mexico Pr, 2007)

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).

Exhibit Review for “Darwin the Geologist” (Cambridge, UK)

Darwin the Geologist, Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge

Darwin the Geologist

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

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.

Einstein and physics

Most of my college science courses were related to biology and geology, not much in the way of physics. I just learned that I will be a science education intern for the exhibit Einstein this summer at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (Facebook /Flickr). Awesome!

So, I need to brush up on my physics. Any recommendations for books to check out? Online resources?

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

Since we bought a family pass to OMSI while we were in Portland in March, when my wife said she wanted to drive to Helena, the capital of Montana (little over an hour north of Butte) to find product for our used bookselling, I thought, Patrick & I can check out the little science museum I’ve heard about (the Passport Program for science centers is an awesome thing).

So Patrick & I did. ExplorationWorks: An Interactive Museum of Science & Culture, is a neat little museum nestled in an area of Helena the city is building up, the Great Northern Town Center (also includes a neat carousel we’ll check out some other time). The museum is full of interactive displays teaching about wind, sound, motion, etc., plus a younger kid play room themed as a nature area. We had a lot of fun. Here are some pictures:

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

Great Northern Town Center, Helena, MT

You can see more photos here.

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland

I noticed this comment left on the Facebook fan page for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland on Saturday:

Amoeba – Protozoa (single “simple” cell, “simple” form of life) Turned into a: Human (Trillions of different cells, 11 complex systems, numerous organs, thought process, emotions, 5 senses, teeth, knee caps, gender, etc. etc. etc.) How does one turn into another as OMSI teaches? I like the good science I saw, but was really saddened by the anti-God propaganda.

The person who left that comment is a youth pastor in Idaho and a fan of the Creation Museum on Facebook. Can folks just understand that a “science” museum is not into teaching about or promoting religion?

Today I visited OMSI for the first time – what a cool museum. We were there only a few hours, and one of those hours was taken up by my interview for a science education internship this summer. Patrick was overly tired, so we decided that he and I will come back later in the week while Catherine is at her library conference to explore some more. Plus, we bought a family pass!

Here are some photos from today:

OMSI, Portland, OR

OMSI, Portland, OR


OMSI inspires curiosity

Samson the T. rex

Samson the T. rex

Who is Samson?

Samson the T. rex

Samson the T. rex

Patrick & I in an earthquake simulator

Patrick & I in an earthquake simulator

Time for pulleys

Time for pulleys

Going down

Going down

View from OMSI

View from OMSI

Another view of Portland & Willamette River

Another view of Portland & Willamette River

w/ Patrick

w/ Patrick

Evolution book in The Science Store

Evolution book in The Science Store

Lines for "Hubble," which opened there today at the IMAX

Lines for "Hubble," which opened there today at the IMAX (I liked the name of the cafe - Galileo's)

More photos here.

The Tract House: A Darwin Addition

A Call for Observations in Natural History

A Call for Observations in Natural History

The museum of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia (Twitter/Facebook/Flickr), whose long-running exhibit Dialogues with Darwin was nicely captured in photos (set on Flickr) by biologist Colin Purrington (Axis of Evo/Twitter/Facebook), has just launched The Tract House: A Darwin Edition.

Artist Lisa Anne Auerbach solicited tracts—manifestos, diatribes, stories, rants, and poems—written by the general public, friends, neighbors, artists, poets, and even a Nobel Prize winner in response to Darwin’s life and ideas. Auerbach and graphic designer Roman Jaster then created printed ephemera based on this writing. The resulting tracts feature the same off-beat illustrations, chaotic type styles and breathless urgency that are the hallmark of religious and political tracts without being kitschy or retro.

You can view all the various Darwin tracts here.

How to Host a Successful Dinner Party: "Darwin was Right/Wrong"

How to Host a Successful Dinner Party: "Darwin was Right/Wrong"

Darwin/evolution video miscellany

So what if Darwin was a racist? (The Atheist Experience):

Lincoln and Darwin (with Sandra Herbert):

Darwin FormfromForm (Univ. of Cincinnati’s Darwin-inspired art exhibit):

Darwinian Grandeur: A Biologist’s Journey Through Evolution’s Tangled Bank (lecture with Kenneth Miller):

Darwinian Grandeur: A Biologist’s Journey Through Evolution’s Tangled Bank (Q&A with Kenneth Miller):

“beagle” (Composed and performed in the Spring of 2009 for the bicentennial of Charles Darwin):

Darwin’s Edinburgh and An Entangled Bank (exhibits):

Creation Museum in Eastern Montana

Biblical History Exhibit, Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum (Photo: GDFM)

Biblical History Exhibit, Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum (Photo: GDFM)

From Helena’s Independent Record (23 October 2009):

Glendive dinosaur museum presents fossils in a biblical context

By DONNA HEALY Billings Gazette

GLENDIVE – The head and monstrous jaws of a tyrannosaurus rex sculpture poke through the outer wall of the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum.

Inside, life-size castings of dinosaur skeletons offer the polished look of a big-city science museum. But a quote from Genesis clues in visitors that the 20,000-square-foot building, which opened in Glendive this summer, is not your standard natural-history museum.

Instead, the museum, located in an area of Montana known for world-class dinosaur fossils, offers a literal, biblical account of creation.

Spotlighted on the main floor, an 18-foot-tall replica of a T. rex skeleton engages in battle with a meat-eating dinosaur ridged by spines.

The new facility is the second-largest dinosaur museum in the state, dwarfed only by the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman.

“We are totally different from the Museum of the Rockies in that we present fossils and all the exhibits in the context of biblical creation,” said Otis E. Kline Jr., the museum’s founder and director.

Jack Horner, the curator of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies, agrees the two museums are fundamentally different.

“It’s not a science museum at all,” Horner said. “It’s not a pseudo-science museum. It’s just not science. There’s nothing scientific about it.”

The Glendive museum’s self-guided tour starts with a series of questions challenging established science on the origins of life.

One of those questions asks whether dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago or coexisted with humans. Although the idea flies in the face of the consensus of scientific thought, it may hold sway with the one-third of adult Americans estimated by Gallup polls to believe the Bible is the actual word of God and should be taken literally.

Continue reading this article here.

It’s a shame that the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum (read Creation Museum) exists in a state that has the Museum of the Rockies. So, it seems, creationism has a hold in Montana from its western region (remember the intelligent design fiasco in Darby?), in Bozeman (the Center of Discovery and Creationism Conference 2010), to its eastern border in Glendive.

The NCSE has a list of evolution/creation issues in Montana.

Darwin’s Westminster life showcased in new display

Darwin in London

Darwin in London

From the HIST-NAT-HIST listserve:

Darwin’s Westminster life showcased in new display

Press Release Source: The Linnean Society of London

Published: 25th November 2009

As a year of activities and events celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin nears completion, visitors to his final resting place – Westminster Abbey, have had the opportunity to find out more about his life and work through a new display.  Compiled as part of the “Charles Darwin, A Genius in the Heart of London” project, co-ordinated by the Linnean Society of London and Westminster Archives and generously funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the display focuses on Darwin’s life in Westminster both as a member of a number of Learned Societies and as a resident.  “Darwin was a member of many Learned Societies in Westminster” said Camilla Bergman, Project Officer.  The Geological Society of London, the Linnean Society of London, the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), the Royal Society and the Zoological Society of London have all contributed to this display which features many different aspects of Darwin’s work”.

The display also features artwork and textiles created by young people from Westminster Schools highlighting important elements of Darwin’s life, particularly his Voyage on the Beagle and has created a lot of interest from visitors to Westminster Abbey.  ”We think the exhibition in the Abbey is excellent and lots of people are looking at it” said Canon Jane Hedges.  .  The display will remain at Westminster Abbey until 27th November before moving to Westminster Archives, the Royal Society and The Linnean Society of London.  For details of dates and viewing times please visit the Charles Darwin: A Genius in the Heart of London project website

American Computer Museum in Bozeman

The American Computer Museum in Bozeman has recently moved to a new location, essentially on the Montana State University campus. I’ve posted about the museum before here, here, here, here, here, and here.

If you are in the area in December, admission to the museum is free for that month. It’s worth spending a little time there, for according to E.O. Wilson, ACM is “Inch for inch, the best museum in the world.”

My photos from the museum’s exhibits: Bacon to Bits, Women in Science, and Darwin/Lincoln.

Darwin Round-Up

Monday, November 16th is the deadline for submissions to Charlie’s Playhouse’s “Ask the Kids” [about evolution] project.  More information here.

I somehow neglected to share Ben Fry’s very cool digital rendition of the six editions of On the Origin of Species and the changes therein: “The Preservation of Favoured Traces.”

The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences blog that accompanies their new Darwin as a geologist exhibit (my pics) has a short write up on the “Darwin in the Field” conference I attended last July, here. Also, the newsletter of the Palaeontological Association (they provided funding for the conference, including travel money for myself and a post-doc at the Smithsonian) has a report of the conference written by, well, me! You can see it at the bottom of page 56 in this PDF.

Two freely available articles from Bioscience: “The Darwinian Revelation: Tracing the Origin and Evolution of an Idea” [PDF] by James Costa and “Ten Myths about Charles Darwin” [PDF] by Kevin Padian [previous posts with Padian].

Nature has started a series on Darwin and culture called “Global Darwin”: “Darwin and culture,” “Global Darwin: Eastern enchantment,” and “Global Darwin: Contempt for competition.” These pieces explore a variety of reactions to Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Also titled “Global Darwin” is a 2009 lecture by Jim Secord. Access it here. At the same site are lectures by Janet Browne and Rebecca Stott.

Here is a page for the National Library of Medicine’s exhibit Rewriting the Book of Nature: Charles Darwin and the Rise of Evolutionary Theory, and two sets of pictures on Flickr showing a Darwin exhibition (Darwin’s Legacy) at the National Museum of Natural History, sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries.

Darwin Online has put up the annotated copy of On the Origin of Species owned by Darwin’s third son, and experimental assistant, Francis.

Videos of many lectures from the University of Cambridge’s Darwin Festival in July are up on YouTube.

Darwinfest: Bold Ideas Change Worlds, at ASU, has its own website. Darwin biographer Janet Browne will give a lecture on November 13th. Previous lectures from throughout 2009 are available for download.

Historian of science Jim Endersby will talk on “Darwin, Hooker, and Empire” on November 18th  in conjunction with the American Philosophical Society’s exhibition Dialogues with Darwin: An Exhibition of Historical Documents and Contemporary Art. Website here, and a fun Flickr photo set of post-it notes that visitors filled out and placed on a tree of life diagram. Another recent lecture of Endersby’s, “Smashing Species: Joseph Hooker and Victorian Science” for the Royal Society, can be downloaded as an mp3.

Christ’s College, Cambridge has a website for Darwin, with lots of resources.

“Who can head the words of Charlie Darwin…”

Cambridge Library Collection’s Life Science series offers reprints of many historically important books (71 titles), many of which are on Amazon.

Via Genomicron, “This View of Life: Evolutionary Art for the Year of Darwin”:

Evolutionary art is the topic of many books this year: Charles Darwin and Victorian Visual Culture by Jonathan Smith; Endless Forms: Charles Darwin, Natural Science, and the Visual Arts by Jane Munro; Darwin: Art and the Search for Origins; The Art of Evolution: Darwin, Darwinisms, and Visual Culture by Barbara Larson and Fae Bauer; Darwin’s Camera: Art and Photography in the Theory of Evolution by Phillip Prodger; Reframing Darwin: Evolution and Art in Australia by Jeanette Hoorn; and Darwin’s Pictures: Views of Evolutionary Theory, 1837-1874 by Julia Voss.

In Evolution: Education and Outreach is an article by U. Kutschera called “Darwin’s Philosophical Imperative and the Furor Theologicus: “In 1859 Charles Darwin submitted a manuscript entitled “An Abstract of an Essay on the Origin of Species and Varieties through Natural Selection” to John Murray III, who published the text under the title On the Origin of Species. On many pages of this book, Darwin contrasts his naturalistic theory that explains the transmutation and diversification of animals and plants with the Bible-based belief that all species were independently created. On the last page of the first edition, published in November 1859, where Darwin speculated on the origin of the earliest forms of life from which all other species have descended, no reference to “the Creator” is made. In order to conciliate angry clerics and hence to tame the erupted furor theologicus, Darwin included the phrase “by the Creator” in the second edition of 1860 and in all subsequent versions of his book (sixth ed. 1872). However, in a letter of 1863, Darwin distanced himself from this Bible-based statement and wrote that by creation he means “appeared by some wholly unknown process.” In 1871, Darwin proposed a naturalistic origin-of-life-concept but did not dare to mention his “warm little pond hypothesis” in the sixth definitive edition of the Origin (1872). I conclude that the British naturalist strictly separated scientific facts and theories from religious dogmas (Darwin’s “philosophical imperative”) and would not endorse current claims by the Catholic Church and other Christian associations that evolutionary theory and Bible-based myths are compatible.”

EEO also has a piece about the traveling Darwin exhibition by Chiara Ceci, “Darwin: Origin and Evolution of an Exhibition”: “Two hundred years after his birth, Darwin, originated by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, is the most important exhibition about the English scientist ever organized for the general public. This traveling exhibition has appeared in many versions worldwide, and a study of the relationships between local developers of the various editions of the exhibition underlines how a scientific exhibition and, more generally, science communication can succeed in striking a good equilibrium between universal content and cultural determinants.”

“Discover the principles of evolution through animations, movies and simulations” at Evolution of Life.

Several articles have appeared this year in the Journal of the History of Biology touching on Darwin and evolution in general: “Capitalist Contexts for Darwinian Theory: Land, Finance, Industry and Empire” (M.J.S. Hodge); “The Origins of Species: The Debate between August Weismann and Moritz Wagner” (Charlotte Weissman); “Edward Hitchcock’s Pre-Darwinian (1840) ‘Tree of Life'” (J. David Archibald); “Tantalizing Tortoises and the Darwin-Galápagos Legend” (Frank J. Sulloway); “‘A Great Complication of Circumstances’ – Darwin and the Economy of Nature” (Trevor Pearce); “Charles Darwin’s Beagle Voyage, Fossil Vertebrate Succession, and ‘The Gradual Birth & Death of Species'” (Paul D. Brinkman); “Darwin and Inheritance: The Influence of Prosper Lucas” (Ricardo Noguera-Solano and Rosaura Ruiz-Gutiérrez); and “Of Mice and Men: Evolution and the Socialist Utopia. William Morris, H.G. Wells, and George Bernard Shaw” (Piers J. Hale).

A Darwin article in Plant Biology: “From Charles Darwin’s botanical country-house studies to modern plant biology”: “As a student of theology at Cambridge University, Charles Darwin (1809-1882) attended the lectures of the botanist John S. Henslow (1796-1861). This instruction provided the basis for his life-long interest in plants as well as the species question. This was a major reason why in his book On the Origin of Species, which was published 150 years ago, Darwin explained his metaphorical phrase `struggle for life’ with respect to animals and plants. In this article, we review Darwin’s botanical work with reference to the following topics: the struggle for existence in the vegetable kingdom with respect to the phytochrome-mediated shade avoidance response; the biology of flowers and Darwin’s plant-insect co-evolution hypothesis; climbing plants and the discovery of action potentials; the power of movement in plants and Darwin’s conflict with the German plant physiologist Julius Sachs; and light perception by growing grass coleoptiles with reference to the phototropins. Finally, we describe the establishment of the scientific discipline of Plant Biology that took place in the USA 80 years ago, and define this area of research with respect to Darwin’s work on botany and the physiology of higher plants.”

And another in Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences: “Dog fight: Darwin as animal advocate in the antivivisection controversy of 1875”: “The traditional characterization of Charles Darwin as a strong advocate of physiological experimentation on animals was posited in Richard French’s Antivivisection and medical science in Victorian England (1975), where French portrayed him as a soldier in Thomas Huxley’s efforts to preserve anatomical experimentation on animals unfettered by government regulation. That interpretation relied too much on, inter alia, Huxley’s own description of the legislative battles of 1875, and shared many historians’ propensity to foster a legacy of Darwin as a leader among a new wave of scientists, even where personal interests might indicate a conflicting story. Animal rights issues concerned more than mere science for Darwin, however, and where debates over other scientific issues failed to inspire Darwin to become publicly active, he readily joined the battle over vivisection, helping to draft legislation which, in many ways, was more protective of animal rights than even the bills proposed by his friend and anti-vivisectionist, Frances Power Cobbe. Darwin may not have officially joined Cobbe’s side in the fight, but personal correspondence of the period between 1870 and 1875 reveals a man whose first interest was to protect animals from inhumane treatment, and second to protect the reputations of those men and physiologists who were his friends, and who he believed incapable of inhumane acts. On this latter point he and Cobbe never did reach agreement, but they certainly agreed on the humane treatment of animals, and the need to proscribe various forms of animal experimentation.”

“Darwinism Comes to Penn” [PDF], in The Pennsylvania Gazette: “A century-and-a-half after the November 1859 publication of On the Origin of Species, a Penn microbiologist looks back at how Darwin’s ideas were received by some of the University’s leading thinkers.”

In the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, “WWDD? (What Would Darwin Do?)” [PDF], looks at evolution research and publishing: “We have just celebrated the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species. While I hope we all rejoiced in the success of evolutionary biology and its continued growth, we should not become complacent. Although these are indeed events to celebrate, we still face the real threat of general ignorance of Darwin’s ideas. World leaders (or would-be world leaders) still promote superstition, stories and unthinking acceptance of dogma over scientific evidence. Evolutionary biologists have succeeded in investigating the magnificence, the wonder, the complexity, and the detail of evolution and its role in generating biodiversity. Evolutionary biologists have been less successful in making this relevant to those who are not biologists (and even, alas, some biologists). Is evolutionary biology likely to thrive when governments demand an immediate return on their research investment? How do we begin to educate others as to the value and importance of evolutionary research? I do not begin to claim that I can fathom the mind of Darwin, but I cannot help wondering – what would Darwin do today? Would he respond? How would he respond? And, what would be the form of his response?”

Jerry Coyne on “Why Evolution is True”:

Daniel Dennett on “Darwin and the Evolution of Why”:

A new book “offers a primer in the history of the development of evolution as a discipline after Darwin’s book and in how evolution is defined today”: The Origin Then and Now: An Interpretive Guide to the Origin of Species (Princeton University Press, 2009) by UCR biologist David Reznick. You can read the introduction on the publisher’s page for the book.

Richard Dawkins closes his latest book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by going through and detailing each line of the famous closing paragraph (“There is grandeur in this view of life…”) of On the Origin of Species. It’s available online, for you, to read, and ponder.

“The Evolution of Charles Darwin,” a 4-part series on CBC Radio One: “Ideas pays tribute to Charles Darwin and celebrates the 150th anniversary of the publication of his transformational and contentious book, On the Origin of Species. Darwin’s theory of evolution through Natural Selection completely changed how we think about the world. In this 4-part series, Seth Feldman guides us through the life and ideas of Charles Darwin, a creative genius. The series is produced by Sara Wolch.” Via Adrian.

Via The Evolution List, The Darwinian Revolutions Video Series: “This series of six online videos is a brief introduction to Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection and its implications.” The short videos are: Darwinian Revolutions, Evolutionary Ancestors, Lamarck’s Theory, One Long Argument, Mendel-Eclipse of Darwin, and The Evolving Synthesis.

The November 2009 issue of Naturwissenschaften is devoted to Darwin. The articles are “Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, directional selection, and the evolutionary sciences today” [PDF] (Ulrich Kutschera); “Darwin’s warm little pond revisited: From molecules to the origin of life” [PDF] (Hartmut Follmann and Carol Brownson); “Charles Darwin, beetles and phylogenetics” [PDF] (Rolf G. Beutel, Frank Friedrich and Richard A. B. Leschen); “The predictability of evolution: Glimpses into a post-Darwinian world” [PDF] (Simon Conway Morris); and “Evolutionary plant physiology: Charles Darwin’s forgotten synthesis” [PDF] (Ulrich Kutschera and Karl J. Niklas).

Two more articles consider Darwin and the origin of life. In Endeavour James E. Strick offers “Darwin and the origin of life: public versus private science”: “In the first twenty years after the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, an intense debate took place within the ranks of Darwin’s supporters over exactly what his theory implied about the means by which the original living organism formed on Earth. Many supporters of evolutionary science also supported the doctrine of spontaneous generation: life forming from nonliving material not just once but many times up to the present day. Darwin was ambivalent on this topic. He feared its explosive potential to drive away liberal-minded Christians who might otherwise be supporters. His ambivalent wording created still more confusion, both among friends and foes, about what Darwin actually believed about the origin of life. A famous lecture by Thomas H. Huxley in 1870 set forth what later became the ‘party line’ Darwinian position on the subject.” In Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres, Juli Peretó, Jeffrey L. Bada and Antonio Lazcano offer another analysis in “Charles Darwin and the Origin of Life”: “When Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species 150 years ago he consciously avoided discussing the origin of life. However, analysis of some other texts written by Darwin, and of the correspondence he exchanged with friends and colleagues demonstrates that he took for granted the possibility of a natural emergence of the first life forms. As shown by notes from the pages he excised from his private notebooks, as early as 1837 Darwin was convinced that “the intimate relation of Life with laws of chemical combination, & the universality of latter render spontaneous generation not improbable”. Like many of his contemporaries, Darwin rejected the idea that putrefaction of preexisting organic compounds could lead to the appearance of organisms. Although he favored the possibility that life could appear by natural processes from simple inorganic compounds, his reluctance to discuss the issue resulted from his recognition that at the time it was possible to undertake the experimental study of the emergence of life.”


PZ Myers live-blogged on Pharyngula talks given at Chicago’s big Darwin festival, Darwin/Chicago 2009. Science Life also has a piece about the conference.

From the August 24, 2009 issue of Significance, two Darwin articles: “Darwin, Mendel and the evolution of evolution” by R. Allan Reese: “The history of science is full of myths. Darwin has his fair share; but Gregor Mendel, his fellow scientist and contemporary, has suffered even more. R. Allan Reese disentangles what we like to believe about Mendel from what we should believe—and finds a modern species whose origin was not by conventional evolution;” and “Cousins: Charles Darwin, Sir Francis Galton and the birth of eugenics” by Nicholas W. Gillham: “Sir Francis Galton, scientist, African Explorer and statistician, was a key figure in statistical history. He was the man who devised the statistical concepts of regression and correlation. He was also Charles Darwin’s cousin. And, inspired by his reading of Darwin, he was the founder of eugenics: the “science” of improving the human race through selective breeding. Nicholas Gillham tells of a darker side to statistics and heredity.”Sir Francis Galton, scientist, African Explorer and statistician, was a key figure in statistical history. He was the man who devised the statistical concepts of regression and correlation. He was also Charles Darwin’s cousin. And, inspired by his reading of Darwin, he was the founder of eugenics: the “science” of improving the human race through selective breeding. Nicholas Gillham tells of a darker side to statistics and heredity.”

In Archives of Natural History of October 2009 is a short article, “Letters from Alfred Russel Wallace concerning the Darwin commemorations of 1909” by Henry A McGhie.