RDF TV features highly-produced video programming, created by The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, and brought to you freely on the web.
Nine videos so far:
From the H-SCI-MED-TECH listserve:
Evolution and the Public (1859-2009) —
The discussion of a scientific idea and its ramifications since Charles
University of Siegen, Artur-Woll-Haus
September 3-5, 2009
Deadline for Proposals: March 1, 2009
Please note: Contributions to this project may take on different forms
When Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution by means of
natural selection scientists and a wider public were well aware that
this concept was more than a scientific explanation for natural
phenomena. They already had a glimpse of what we today well know after a
hundred-and-fifty years of debate: The theory of evolution impinges upon
a great number of principle issues, be they theological, philosophical,
moral, social or political, in short, on the basics of human existence
and society. It holds the promise of a new freedom and new options while
at the same time unveiling new dangers hidden below the surface of
opportunities given to humanity to influence the evolutionary process.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century it is biotechnology and
genetic engineering which drives controversial debates most strongly.
The compatibility of religion and evolution, most pressing question when
the debate was initiated, is still a matter on which feelings run high.
When Darwin’s ideas were transplanted into other fields, people became
sensitized to new possibilities and new risks: for the individual, for
groups defined in social or national terms, for society in general.
Social Darwinism, eugenics and the power to affect creation in
particular fired and, in modernized form, still fire the imagination.
The conference will look at this multifaceted public debate as it was
conducted in the Western world (a focus will be on Europe and North
America), on various levels from academic circles to casual
conversations of ‘ordinary people’, in various media of popular or high
culture stance (literature in the broadest sense, the press, radio,
television, film, internet, museums etc.). In analyzing the debate on
evolution in the public it inquires after an evolution of the public, a
transformation it may have undergone in the process.
Themes of possible contributions should touch on the following
categories of topics, which will structure the conference as well as the
different forms in which its results will be published.
1. The emergence of a public debate
2. Evolution and religion — a controversy without end?
3. The public and the scientist: Images of scientists from Darwin to the
— Darwin in the eyes of contemporaries and subsequent generations
— Ingenious, mad, dangerous? Images of scientists in the nineteenth and
4. From Darwinism to Social Darwinism
5. Eugenics in Europe and North America: Defining an ideal and the
attempts at implementing it
6. The debate on evolution in the age of the human genome:
biotechnology, genetics and man as lord of creation
7. Evolution of the public and the future of the debate.
Proposals for papers are invited from those working in history, history
of science and technology, natural sciences, social sciences,
philosophy, theology, art history, literary criticism, media studies or
related disciplines. Conference language will be English. Thanks to the
Fritz Thyssen Foundation travel funding is available for all speakers.
Please submit an abstract of no more than 500 words in either English or
German together with a short CV before March 1, 2009 for consideration
to Angela Schwarz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since it is a public debate that is to be explored, the results shall be
made accessible to a wider public too. For this reason, conference
papers are supposed to deal with their specific aspects in such a way
that they cannot only be published in a collection in book format, but
will also serve as the background to a (sub-)section in a web-based,
long-term presentation of the debate on evolution (similar to a virtual
exhibition) to be created, organized and hosted at Siegen University
after the conference. Potential speakers are therefore kindly requested
to agree to a publication of their contributions in these two ways.
The way of contributing to the project may differ from the common way of
presenting a paper at a conference and publishing it afterwards in a
book. For we also welcome proposals from those interested in providing
input to the internet presentation only — without wishing to present a
paper at the conference or unable to attend it. If you have further
questions, please do not hesitate to contact the convener at the address
Lehrstuhl für Neuere und Neueste Geschichte
Prof. Dr. Angela Schwarz
FB 1 – Neuere und Neueste Geschichte
Tel.: 0271 / 740 – 4606 0271 / 740 – 4502 (Sekretariat)
Fax: 0271 / 740 – 4596
Descended from Darwin: Insights into the History of Evolutionary Studies, 1900-1970 is a publication from the American Philosophical Society with papers from a 2004 conference. It is edited by Joe Cain and Michael Ruse. Summary:
The main focus was on evolutionary studies in America before, during, and after the famous “evolutionary synthesis” of the 1930s and 1940s. The synthesis period has been the focus of substantial new research and important new thinking. This volume brings together fifteen specialists to explore these developments and to press further. Questions shaping these essays focus on the following broad themes:
- continuity and breaks across generations
- emerging narratives for the period
- new research opportunities at the APS
- new ideas from the research front
- placing evolutionists in the broader context of biology
- future directions
The fifteen papers and prefatory material are freely available online here. The British Society for the History of Science is currently seeking contributors for another volume: Evolution studies in Britain, 1918-1940. See here if interested.
Nature Podcast: Darwin
12 February 2009
Jenny Cousins takes us on a tour of the Darwin family home.
A flight of fancy
Pigeon fancier John Ross shows us what Darwin saw in this popular Victorian pastime.
Darwin: A life in poems
Ruth Padel reads from her new book of poems about her great-great-grandfather Charles Darwin.
Going ape about genomes
A study of four primate genomes reveals key ‘duplication events’ in the evolution of humans.
Darwin the psychologist
Another Darwin descendant, Randal Keynes, tells us how Darwin dabbled in psychology by studying the development of his own children.
Actor Paul Bettany tells us about his role as Darwin in forthcoming film ‘Creation’.
It is a testament to Darwin’s extraordinary insight that it took almost a century for biologists to understand the essential correctness of his views.
Equating evolution with Charles Darwin ignores 150 years of discoveries, including most of what scientists understand about evolution.
The study of how species originate, a process known as speciation, is not only one of evolution’s most active areas of study, but also one of its most contentious.
Biologists know how species are related but lack the tools to show off their discoveries.
Human predation is causing some species to evolve to reproduce at younger ages and smaller sizes, to the long-term harm of the species.
Celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of his seminal book, On the Origin of Species. Special programming includes Evolution Matters, a series of evening lectures featuring Harvard professors, and family programs celebrating Darwin’s life and work. To share these programs with others, download the Evolution Matters poster and the Darwin Anniversary Weekend flyer.
Visit Darwin Day 200 at Harvard for more information on celebration activities across Harvard’s campus.
Darwin at 200: Rethinking the Revolution
Lecture by Janet Browne
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 6:00 PM
On February 12, cities and universities around the world will celebrate “Darwin Day.” But what is being celebrated, the achievements of a single individual or the acceptance of his controversial theory of evolution? Harvard’s Janet Browne, Aramont Professor of the History of Science, will explore Charles Darwin’s cultural significance and what he has come to represent over time: the idea of scientific progress. Free and open to the public in the Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford Street.
Evolution in the Post-Genomic Age
Lecture by Pardis Sabeti
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 6:00 PM
Charles Darwin and Alfred R. Wallace first presented the theory of evolution 150 years ago, yet their ideas still thrive in modern science. Harvard’s Pardis Sabeti, a trailblazer in genomic research and one of today’s “top 100 living geniuses,” will discuss how contemporary scientists are applying the principles of natural selection to mine the human genome and untangle the forces that have shaped our species. Dr. Sabeti is an assistant professor in Harvard University’s Center for Systems Biology and Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. She is also an associate member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Free and open to the public in the Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford Street.
Survival of the Swiftest, Smartest, or Fattest? Human Evolution 150 Years After Darwin
Lecture by Daniel Lieberman
THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 6:00 PM
One hundred and fifty years after the publication of On the Origin of Species, we can now trace several major episodes of natural selection that resulted in modern humans. But, paradoxically, humans have created a world that is leading to a kind of “dysevolution.” Harvard Professor of Biological Anthropology Daniel Lieberman explains how many of the adaptations that enabled us to succeed as active hunter-gatherers, including the ability to store fat for lean time, can now impair our well-being and may even threaten our species’ very survival. Free and open to the public in the Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford Street.
One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin
Family program and booksigning with Kathryn Lasky and Matthew Trueman
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2:00 PM
Children’s book author Kathryn Lasky and artist Matthew Trueman will take us on an illustrated journey through Charles Darwin’s early years—from his childhood activity of collecting beetles in a local pond to his historic voyage around South America in search of the wildlife and geology that would form the basis of his theory of evolution. Free with museum admission.
An Afternoon with Charles Darwin
Family program with Andrew Berry
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2:00 PM
Imagine meeting Charles Darwin! What stories would he tell? What would you ask him? To celebrate the anniversary of his birth, Darwin (as resurrected by Andrew Berry) returns from the past to talk about his life, show some fossils and animal specimens from his voyages, and take you on a walk through the museum’s zoological galleries. Dr. Berry is well-qualified for this role: he teaches evolution at Harvard, runs a history of science program in the United Kingdom on the development of Darwin’s ideas, and even attended the same English high school as Darwin. Free with museum admission.
Check out my photos of “From Astronomy to Zoology: 1,500 years of Women in Science and Technology” at Bozeman’s American Computer Museum here.
From the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:
If there are any Bozeman readers out there, David Quammen (natural history writer and Darwin biographer) will be lecturing on Alfred Russel Wallace (look forward to the December National Geographic) on November 5th:
“The Man Who Wasn’t Darwin: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Founding of Evolutionary Biology”
November 5, 2008, 7:00 pm
Hager Auditorium, Museum of the Rockies
Free, seating is limited (first come first serve)
If anything like the “Darwin and Religion” lecture about 2 years ago, seats will fill fast. I missed it because I wasn’t at the museum early enough to get a ticket. Fortunatley, I met David in the local Coop the very next day, and he offered to look over the Darwin paper I was working on at the time. As the current Stegner Chair of the History Department here, he works with graduate students through reading seminars. For October, we are reading Watson’s The Double Helix to explore memoirs and truth in history, and will meet at his house for conversation and dinner.
From Today in Science History:
Thomas Hunt Morgan (Born 25 Sep 1866; died 4 Dec 1945). American zoologist and geneticist, Nobel laureate (1933), born in Lexington, Kentucky. At Columbia University (1904-28), he began his revolutionary genetic investigations of the fruit fly Drosophila (1908). Initially skeptical of Gregor Mendel’s research, Morgan performed rigorous experiments which demonstrated that genes were linked in a series on chromosomes and are responsible for identifiable, hereditary traits. In 1910 he discovered sex-linkage in Drosophila, and postulated a connection between eye color in fruit flies and human color blindness. With his “fly room” colleagues, he mapped the relative positions of genes on Drosophila chromosomes, then published his seminal book, The Mechanisms of Mendelian Heredity (1915).
From Today in Science History:
Carl Erich Correns (Born 19 Sep 1864; died 14 Feb 1933). German botanist and geneticist who in 1900, independent of, but simultaneously with, the biologists Erich Tschermak von Seysenegg and Hugo de Vries, rediscovered Gregor Mendel’s historic paper outlining the principles of heredity. In attempting to ascertain the extent to which Mendel’s laws are valid, he undertook a classic study of non-Mendelian heredity in variegated plants, such as the four-o’clock (Mirabilis jalapa) which he established (1909) as the first conclusive example of extrachromosomal, or cytoplasmic, inheritance (cases in which certain characteristics of the progeny are determined by factors in the cytoplasm of the female sex cell).
Florentino Ameghino (Born 19 Sep 1853; died 6 Aug 1911). Argentine paleontologist and anthropologist who made significant contributions to the field of vertebrate paleontology and established the Pampas region of Argentina as a rich source of fossils. He discovered over 6,000 fossil species and classified 35 suborders of mammals. Ameghino’s controversial discoveries of stone implements, carved bones, and other signs of a human presence in Argentina during the Pliocene, Miocene, and earlier periods served to increase his worldwide fame.
David Starr Jordan (Died 19 Sep 1931; born 19 Jan 1851). American naturalist, educator, and the foremost American ichthyologist of his time. Jordan was a renowned expert in many fields. For example, he served as an expert witness on the validity of the theory of evolution at the Scopes trial in Tennessee. He was known for his work in education, philosophy, and as a peace activist. He often approached the subject of peace from a biological angle, arguing that war was detrimental to the health of the species because it removed the strongest individuals from the gene pool. Although he campaigned vigorously against US involvement in World War I, once war was declared, he advocated aggressive measures to end the conflict quickly.
Francis Darwin (Died 19 Sep 1925; born 16 Aug 1849). English botanist who was the third son of Charles Darwin, and published the results of his collaboration with his father in the publication of The Movement of Plants (1880).
Georg August Schweinfurth (Died 19 Sep 1925; born 29 Dec 1836). German botanist who travelled in the interior of East Africa (from 1868) and studied the inhabitants together with the flora and fauna of the region. During this journey, in Mar 1870, he discovered the River Welle (Uele), explored the upper Nile basin, and charted the western feeders of the White Nile. He wrote about the cannibalistic practices of the Mangbettu, and his discovery of the pygmy Akka confirmed the existence of dwarf races in tropical Africa (The Heart of Africa, 1873). During 1875-88, he lived in Cairo, where he founded the Royal Geographical Society of Egypt. He made historical, geological, ethnographical and botanical investigations ranging from there to the Arabian desert.
Giacomo Doria (Died 19 Sep 1913; born 1 Nov 1840). Italian naturalist and explorer who conducted important research in systematic zoology. Pursuing his work, he made expeditions to Persia (1862), Borneo (1865-66) and Tunisia (1879). In 1867, he founded the civic museum of natural history in Genoa. The collection he donated became the nucleus of the museum, which he directed for more than 40 years. He was also director of Societa Geografica Italiana (1891-1900). The museum he founded now contains important zoolological, paleontological, botanical, and mineralogical collections from all over the world. These collections are continually growing, now estimated to be more than 3.5 million exhibits.
Olof Swartz (Died 19 Sep 1818: born 21 Sep 1760). Swedish botanist who left a legacy of a collection of plants from his botanical tours of the West Indies, Jamaica, North America, Puerto Rico, Haiti and Cuba between 1783-87. On his return, he described nearly 900 species, most of them new, in Flora Indiae occidentalis (3 vols., 1797-1806). The Swedish Museum of Natural History now holds the collection, about 6000 specimens of phanerogams and ferns, mostly from the West Indies. It is a part of their Regnellian herbarium. He is also noted for his taxonomic studies of specific plant groups, including orchids, mosses and especially ferns. He also published Nova Genera et Species Plantarum seu Prodromus (1788) and Observationes botanicae (1791).
From Today in Science History:
Loren Eiseley (Born 3 Sep 1907; died 9 Jul 1977. Loren (Corey) Eiseley was a U.S. anthropologist, educator, and was one of the preeminent literary naturalists of our time. He wrote for the lay person in eloquent, poetic style about anthropology, the history of the civilatization and our relationship with the natural world. Scientific American published Loren Eisleys’ first popular essay, The Folsum Mystery (1942). Eiseley’s best-known book, The Immense Journey, combines science and humanism in a collection of essays, many with origins to his own early Nebraska experiences. Eiseley became known internationally, winning major prizes and honorary degrees for his unique work.
Abraham Trembley (Born 3 Sep 1710; died 12 May 1784). Swiss naturalist, is best known for his studies of the freshwater hydra, mainly Chlorohydra viridissima. He discovered the freshwater hydra in 1740. His extensive systematic experiments foreshadowed modern research on tissue regeneration and grafting. In 1744, Trembley published that he found that a complete hydra would be regenerated from as little as 1/8th of the parent body. He also succeeded in turning these animals inside out, a remarkably delicate operation which he performed by threading them on horse hairs. Trembley showed that the hydras would survive even this drastic operation. A thorough researcher, Trembley studied three species of hydra and published his findings in 1744.
Joseph de Jussieu (Born 3 Sep 1704; died 11 Apr 1779). French botanist who went with French physicist Charles-Marie de la Condamine’s expedition to Peru to measure an arc of meridian (1735). Therafter, he remained in South America for 35 years, supporting himself chiefly by the practice of medicine. By sending the seed to his brother Bernard, he introduced the common garden heliotrope (Heliotropium peruvianum) into Europe. His extended and arduous explorations in Peru took place mainly in the years 1747-50. The botanical results of these journeys were large, but the greater part of his manuscripts and collections was lost. He returned to Paris in 1771, in poor health. His brothers Antoine and Bernard were also notable botanists.
Barbara McClintock (Died 3 Sep 1992; born 16 Jun 1902). American scientist regarded as one of the most important figures in the history of genetics. In the 1940s and 1950s McClintock’s work on the cytogenetics of maize led her to theorize that genes are transposable – they can move around – on and between chromosomes. McClintock drew this inference by observing changing patterns of coloration in maize kernels over generations of controlled crosses. The idea that genes could move did not seem to fit with what was then known about genes, but improved molecular techniques of the late 1970s and early 1980s allowed other scientists to confirm her discovery. She was awarded the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the first American woman to win an unshared Nobel Prize.
Martin Heinrich Rathke (Died 3 Sep 1860; born 25 Aug 1793). German physiologist and pathologist who was one of the founders of modern embryology. He was the first to describe the embryonic precursors of gill slits and gill arches in the embryos of higher animals – mammals and birds – which have none when fully grown. Rathke compared the development of the air sacs in birds and the larynx in birds and mammals. In 1839, he traced the origin of the anterior pituitary gland from a depression in the roof of the mouth, which embryonic structure is now known as Rathke’s pouch. Rathke also did pioneering work in marine zoology, as being first to describe lancet fish.
From Today in Science History:
William Bateson (Born 8 Aug 1861; died 8 Feb 1926). British biologist who published the first English translation (1900) of Gregor Mendel’s work on heredity which he confirmed with his own experiments, and further demonstrated that heredity was apparent in animals as well as plants. His support of Mendel was as effective in awakening modern understanding of heredity as Huxley provided for Darwin on evolution. Bateson coined (1905) the term genetics for the new science. He recognized gene linkage by which some characteristics are inherited together, rather than all characteristics being inherited independently (as later explained by Morgan). Earlier, he had contributed to understanding of embryology when, in 1885, proposed that the chordates evolved from primitive echinoderms.
Henry Fairfield Osborn (Born 8 Aug 1857; died 6 Nov 1935). American paleontologist and museum administrator who greatly influenced the art of museum display and the education of paleontologists in the United States and Great Britain. In 1891, the American Museum of Natural History hired Osborn as the first curator of the new Department of Vertebrate Paleontology because the trustees had realized that the Museum was falling behind other institutions in developing a collection of dinosaurs and other fossil vertebrates. Within a decade, Osborn assembled a talented staff of curators and collectors, and fossils were soon streaming into the Museum from all over the world. One of Osborn’s favorite groups for study was the brontotheres, and he was the first to carry out comprehensive research on them.
Benjamin Silliman (Born 8 Aug 1779; died 24 Nov 1864). American geologist and chemist who founded the American Journal of Science and wielded a powerful influence in the development of science in the U.S. He was Yale’s first professor of chemistry and natural history (1802). He is best known for researching the chemical composition of a meteorite that fell in 1807, his report being the first scientific account of any American meteor, showed that meteorites are made of materials that exist on the earth. The mineral sillimanite was named after Silliman. In 1811, while experimenting with the oxy-hydric blow-pipe, he reduced many minerals previously considered as elements. His son, also named Benjamin Silliman, became a chemist who recognized that petroleum could be distilled into separate fractions.
From Today in Science History:
Faked nuptial pads In 1926, the midwife toad work done by Paul Kammerer was debunked in an article published by G. Kingsley Noble in Nature. Kammerer was a Viennese biologist who alleged his researches supported the Lamarckian theory of inheritance. In 1918 that he claimed that in his experiments with midwife toads, he had induced nuptial pads that were subsequently hereditary. Noble was a curator herpetology at the American Museum of Natural History. Noble had examined a preserved specimen of Kammerer’s midwife toad Noble found that the nuptial pad had been simulated with injected Indian ink. This set off an academic bombshell. Kammerer took his own life in 1926, but claimed that he was personally innocent. [Ref: Nature v. 118, p. 209-11. ]
From Today in Science History:
William Henry Hudson (Born 4 Aug 1841; died 18 Aug 1922). English (born in Argentina of American parents) author, naturalist and ornithologist. His interest in nature started in his youth when he studied the local flora and fauna in Argentina, where he was born of American parents. After moving to England (1869) he published onithological works including Argentine Ornithology (1888-1899) and British Birds (1895). He followed these with popular books on the English countryside, including Hampshire Days (1903) and Afoot in England (1909). His work helped foster the back-to-nature movement of the 1920s to 1930s, and he was a founder member of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
John Tradescant, the Younger (Born 4 Aug 1608; died 22 Apr 1662). British botanist and gardener who was appointed by King Charles I as Keeper of his Majesty’s Gardens, Vines, and Silkworms at Oatlands Palace in Surrey, where he continued the work of his father John Tradescant the Elder (c.1570-1638). Together, they were among the earliest English botanists. After his apprenticeship, John Tradescant the Younger became a freeman of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners (1634). Three years later, he went to Virginia on a botanical collection expedition (1637-38) “to gather up all raritye of flowers, plants, shells.” His father had served similarly for the king from 1630, travelling abroad several times to bring back new plant species. The son succeeded to the post at Oatland Palace upon his father’s death in 1638.
Walther Flemming (Died 4 Aug 1905; born 21 Apr 1843). German anatomist who was the first to observe and describe systematically the behaviour of chromosomes in the cell nucleus during normal cell division (mitosis, a term he coined in 1882). Thus, he was a founder of cytogenetics as a branch of science to study chromosomes, the cell’s hereditary material. Flemming coined other terms: spireme, aster, chromatin, achromatin, monocentric and dicentric phases. Chromatin (Gr. chroma = colour) referred to certain fragments of the cell nucleus that took on a strong colour from the dyes he used during microscopic study. Flemming did not know of Mendel’s work, so 20 years passed before the genetic implications were realized. Chromosomes, formed from cromatin, were named in 1888 by Waldeyer-Hartz.
From Today in Science History:
Francis Crick (Died 28 July 2004; born 8 June 1916). Francis Harry Compton Crick was a British biophysicist, who, with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins, received the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their determination of the molecular structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the chemical substance ultimately responsible for hereditary control of life functions. Crick and Watson began their collaboration in 1951, and published their paper on the double helix structure on 2 Apr 1953 in Nature. This accomplishment became a cornerstone of genetics and was widely regarded as one of the most important discoveries of 20th-century biology.
Roger Tory Peterson (Died 28 July 1996; born 28 Aug 1908). American ornithologist, author, conservationist, and wildlife artist whose field books on birds, beginning with A Field Guide to the Birds (1934; 4th ed. 1980), did much in the United States and Europe to stimulate public interest in bird study.
Here is the table of contents for the latest issue of the history of science journal Isis (June 2008):
239 After the Double Helix By Angela N. H. Creager and Gregory J. Morgan Abstract
273 Cowboys, Scientists, and Fossils By Jeremy Vetter Abstract
331 Taxonomy and Why History of Science Matters for Science By Andrew Hamilton and Quentin D. Wheeler Abstract
350 Science in the Everyday World By Katherine Pandora and Karen A. Rader Abstract
From Today in Science History:
Rosalind Franklin (Born 25 July 1920; died 16 April 1958). Rosalind Franklin was an English scientist who contributed to the discovery of the molecular structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), a constituent of chromosomes that serves to encode genetic information. Beginning in 1951, she made careful X-ray diffraction photographs of DNA, leading her to suspect the helical form of the molecule, at least under the conditions she had used. When Watson saw her photographs, he had confirmation of the double-helix form that he and Crick then published. She never received the recognition she deserved for her independent work, but had died of cancer four years before the Nobel Prize was awarded to Crick and Watson.
Read Larry Moran’s post from last year.
From Today in Science History:
Carl R. Woese (Born 15 Jul 1928). American microbiologist who recognized the existance of the organisms Archaea as a third domain of life, distinct from the previously recognized two domains of bacteria, and life other than bacteria. On 2 Nov 1977, his identification of methanogens, a form of life dating back some 3.5 billion years, was reported from the University of Illinois. Woese had long studied the evolutionary track of DNA and RNA. In 1976, he was approached by his colleague Ralph Wolfe, who presented a group of methane producing organisms. Woese studied their RNA and recognized their lack of the entire oligonucleotide sequences. Methanogens are found in oxygen-deficient environments, and mostly obtain their energy by reducing CO2 and oxidizing hydrogen, and releasing methane.
Gavin Maxwell (Born 15 Jul 1914; died 7 Sep 1969). Scottish naturalist and author best known for his book Ring of Bright Water (1960), the story of his life in the western Highlands of Scotland with two pet otters. In 1945, he bought the small Hebridean island of Soay, to create a shark fishery there, but his effort was undercapitalized and failed. He found the sharks elusive, difficult to land in a small boat and he underestimated the refrigeration capacity for storage. However, the experience became the source for his book Harpoon Venture (1952). His later enterprises included encouraging Eider Ducks to breed on the small island of Eilean Dudh so that the down from their nests could be harvested, and establishing a collection of wild animals indigenous to Scotland to create a private zoo.
Lee Raymond Dice (Born 15 Jul 1887; died 31 Jan 1977). American zoologist, geneticist and ecologist who introduced biotic provinces to characterize areas of continuous ecological similarity in climate, soils, and topography. He investigated geographical and ecological distribution pertaining to plants and animals in fieldwork throughout the Southwest and Mexico in the 1920s and 30s. When he found C. Hart Merriam’s idea of life zones to be inadequate for modeling distribution patterns, he developed his concept of biotic provinces. Dice demonstrated their application in his book, The Biotic Provinces of North America (1943). He is also known for his derivation of the Dice index, a similarity coefficient used to measure degree of association between biotic samples.
John Wilson (Died 15 Jul 1751; born 1696). English botanist who was the first writer that attempted a systematic arrangement of English indigenous plants in the English language, which he published in Synopsis of British Plants (1744). Wilson was self-taught in botany, and built on the method of Ray, which he had to read in Latin. Wilson preferred to write plainly, in English, recording his finds made on frequent trips into the local countryside. His systematic studies did much to bring some order and place the science on the broad scientific basis. He died at age 55, before finishing a second volume intended to contain the fungi, mosses, grasses, and trees. Wilson remains little known because his book was eclipsed by the writings of Linnæus that became popular shortly after his death.
From Today in Science History:
George Gaylord Simpson (Born 16 June 1902; died 6 Oct 1984). U.S. paleontologist known for his contributions to evolutionary theory and to the understanding of intercontinental migrations of animal species in past geological times. Simpson specialized in early fossil mammals, leading expeditions on four continents and discovering in 1953 the 50-million-year old fossil skulls of dawn horses in Colorado. He helped develop the modern biological theory of evolution, drawing on paleontology, genetics, ecology, and natural selection to show that evolution occurs as a result of natural selection operating in response to shifting environmental conditions. He spent most of his career as a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History.
Barbara McClintock (Born 16 June 1902; died 3 Sep 1992). American scientist regarded as one of the most important figures in the history of genetics. In the 1940s and 1950s McClintock’s work on the cytogenetics of maize led her to theorize that genes are transposable – they can move around – on and between chromosomes. McClintock drew this inference by observing changing patterns of coloration in maize kernels over generations of controlled crosses. The idea that genes could move did not seem to fit with what was then known about genes, but improved molecular techniques of the late 1970s and early 1980s allowed other scientists to confirm her discovery. She was awarded the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the first American woman to win an unshared Nobel Prize.
From Today in Science History:
Francis Crick (Born 8 Jun 1916; died 28 Jul 2004). Francis Harry Compton Crick was a British biophysicist, who, with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins, received the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their determination of the molecular structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the chemical substance ultimately responsible for hereditary control of life functions. Crick and Watson began their collaboration in 1951, and published their paper on the double helix structure on 2 Apr 1953 in Nature. This accomplishment became a cornerstone of genetics and was widely regarded as one of the most important discoveries of 20th-century biology.
William Dampier (Born 8 Jun 1652; died Mar 1715). English navigator who recorded descriptions of native cultures as well as coastlines, rivers, and villages during his several voyages of mapping and exploration around the world. He published these, along with natural history observations, including his experience on 4 Jul 1687 when his ship survived a typhoon. This, one of the earliest known European descriptions of a tropical revolving storm, also presented a new understanding that storms somehow move, rather than remain stationary. He collected plants in Brazil, Australia, Timor and New Guinea. His book A New Voyage Round The World contained descriptions of people, places, things, plants, fish, reptiles, birds and mammals. In effect he was an early contributor to scientific exploration.
Titan Arum In 1937, a specimen of the world’s largest flower, first bloomed in the U.S. in the NY Botanical Garden. The giant Sumatran Titan Arum, Amorphophallus titanum, measured 8½-ft high and 4-ft diam. Its putrid rotting-corpse fragrance repelled visitors. Native in Sumatran jungles of Indonesia, it is known there as the “corpse flower.” Dr. Odoardo Beccari, an Italian botanist, was the first western expert to find the Titan Arum in the Pading Province during 1878. Seeds he sent back to his patron, the Marchese Corsi Salviati were grown in Italy, and a few plants were at Beccari’s request sent to Kew Gardens in England in 1879. One of those seedlings flowered in June 1887. Another plant bloomed there in 1926, to wide attention.
This dispersal event is long overdue. I’ve been having yard sales, cleaning houses, editing Yellowstone papers, withdrawing books. Actually, just one yard sale, one house, and one paper, but a heck of a lot of books! Also I have been watching all the previous Indiana Jones films before going to see the latest (hopefully next weekend). But for now, enjoy your Darwin:
Confessions of a Science Librarian: Darwin: The Evolution Revolution
Three Nelson College students will travel in naturalist Charles Darwin’s footsteps through Britain after winning a prestigious national science film-making competition.
From Today in Science History:
Edward Charles Jeffrey (Born 21 May 1866; died 19 Apr 1952). Canadian-American botanist who worked on the morphology and phylogeny of vascular plants.
Charles Edwin Bessey (Born 21 May 1845; died 25 Feb 1915). American botanist who created the first U.S. undergraduate botanical experimental laboratory at Iowa State University, where he held several positions (1870-84) and inaugurated the systematic study of plant morphology in the U.S. He devised a classification of angiosperm (flowering plant) taxa based on Candolle’s theory of differentiation to emphasize the evolutionary divergence of primitive forms. He moved to become Dean of Agriculture at the University of Nebraska (1884-1915). While in Nebraska, he started a tree planting experiment (1902) that initiated the Nebraska National Forest, the first man-made national forest in the world. He helped influence federal legislation to preserve the giant sequoia trees in California.
Mary Anning (Born 21 May 1799; died 9 Mar 1847). English fossil collector who made her first significant discovery at the age of 11 or 12 (sources differ on the details), when she found a complete skeleton of an Ichthyosaurus, from the Jurassic period. The ten-meter (30 feet) long skeleton created a sensation and made her famous. Anning’s determination and keen scientific interest in fossils derived from her father’s interest in fossil hunting, and a need for the income derived from them to support her family after his death. in 1810. She sold large fossils to noted paleontologists of the day, and smaller ones to the tourist trade. In 1823, Anning made another great discovery, found the first complete Plesiosaurus. Later in her life, the Geological Society of London granted Anning an honorary membership.
Hugo (Marie) de Vries (Died 21 May 1935; born 16 Feb 1848). Dutch botanist and geneticist who introduced the experimental study of organic evolution. His rediscovery in 1900 (simultaneously with the botanists Carl Correns and Erich Tschermak von Seysenegg) of Gregor Mendel’s principles of heredity and his theory of biological mutation, though considerably different from a modern understanding of the phenomenon, resolved ambiguous concepts concerning the nature of variation of species that, until then, had precluded the universal acceptance and active investigation of Charles Darwin’s system of organic evolution.
Today’s “Life of the Day” from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography‘s website is Rosalind Franklin. Read the biography with this ephemeral link.