Lecture on Alexander von Humboldt in Portland this Wednesday

At Portland State University:

Event: School of the Environment Seminar Series: Alexander von Humboldt (the “Founder of Modern Geography”)

January 26, 2011 Starts: 4:00pm Ends: 5:00pm

Where: Cramer Hall 271

Speaker: Bill Fischer, Department of World Languages & Literature (German), Portland State University

ARTICLE: Another on evolution and Japan

From the Journal of the History of Biology (online first):

The Instinctual Nation-State: Non-Darwinian Theories, State Science and Ultra-Nationalism in Oka Asajirō’s Evolution and Human Life

Gregory Sullivan

Abstract In his anthology of socio-political essays, Evolution and Human Life, Oka Asajirō (1868–1944), early twentieth century Japan’s foremost advocate of evolutionism, developed a biological vision of the nation-state as super-organism that reflected the concerns and aims of German-inspired Meiji statism and anticipated aspects of radical ultra-nationalism. Drawing on non-Darwinian doctrines, Oka attempted to realize such a fused or organic state by enhancing social instincts that would bind the minzoku (ethnic nation) and state into a single living entity. Though mobilization during the Russo-Japanese War seemed to evince this super-organism, the increasingly contentious and complex society that emerged in the war’s aftermath caused Oka to turn first to Lamarckism and eventually to orthogenesis in the hopes of preserving the instincts needed for a viable nation-state. It is especially in the state interventionist measures that Oka finally came to endorse in order to forestall orthogenetically-driven degeneration that the technocratic proclivities of his statist orientation become most apparent. The article concludes by suggesting that Oka’s emphasis on degeneration, autarkic expansion, and, most especially, totalitarian submersion of individuals into the statist collectivity indicates a complex relationship between his evolutionism and fascist ideology, what recent scholarship has dubbed radical Shinto ultra-nationalism.

ARTICLES: Darwin on Stage & Darwin in Japan

From the Journal of Victorian Culture (15:1, April 2010):

Darwin’s Flinch: Sensation Theatre and Scientific Looking in 1872

Tiffany Watt-Smitha

Abstract This article explores the relationship between Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (London: Murray, 1872) and the debates surrounding audiences of sensation theatre. It takes as its starting point a flinch performed by Darwin in a self-experiment at London Zoological Gardens. Darwin’s flinch combined the act of scientific observation with a self-consciously staged emotional gesture. In the 1860s and early 1870s, the passionate and demonstrative audiences of sensation plays were similarly understood to watch themselves feeling. In this economy of emotional surfaces, actors and audience were caught up in unsettling relations between outwards expression and the remote landscape of interior feeling. Entangled in this theatrical instability, Darwin’s scientific observation reflected broader cultural concerns about the reliability of the emotional body. Thus the article offers Darwin’s Expression as an unusual but nonetheless suggestive artefact of theatrical spectatorship in 1872, while also contributing to recent debates about the history of objectivity and its supposedly unemotional and restrained scientific observer. It argues that the technique of self-conscious emotional spectatorship, shared by Darwin and theatre audiences, constituted a distinctive model of late Victorian emotion and visuality, in which communities of spectators were also spectators of themselves.

From Intellectual History Review (19:2, July 2009):

Alien Science, Indigenous Thought and Foreign Religion: Reconsidering the Reception of Darwinism in Japan

Kuang-chi Hunga

First paragraph Beginning in 1877, the American zoologist, Edward S. Morse (1837-1925), initiated a series of lectures on Darwin and his theory at the Tokyo Imperial University. As a former student of Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), a prominent anti-Darwinist at Harvard University in Boston, Morse nevertheless sparked a wave of enthusiasm for Darwinism in Japanese society. In the years to come, Morse was held in great esteem as a cultural hero. Not only was he invited to give talks in a variety of institutions, from the Ministry of Education to public or private clubs, but also this American zoologist was awarded with numerous honours and recognitions. Morse’s influence persisted even after his return to the United States in 1879. In 1883, Morse’s draft lectures were translated by his student, Ishikawa Chiyomatsu (1868-1935), under the title The Evolution of Animals (Dōbutsu shinkaron). In the history of how evolutionism was accepted in Japan, The Evolution of Animals is the fourth book-length work to be published. Nevertheless, in terms of influence and subsequent impact, Morse’s work is probably the first of its kind to draw people’s attention specifically to Charles Darwin (1809-1882), not just to Herbert Spencer (1820-1903). With hindsight, it is even possible that Morse’s elaboration on Darwinism contributed to the publication of Darwin’s works in Japan. In 1881, three years after Morse’s departure, The Descent of Man was translated into The Ancestor of Man (Jinsoron). Fifteen years later, the Japanese version of On the Origin of Species was completed and published by Shigen Seibutsu. Since then, the translation of Darwin’s works has developed into an industry. As Eikoh Shimao puts it, ‘no western scientist’s works have been translated into so many Japanese versions as Darwin’s. No language seems to have produced more different versions of On the Origin of Species than Japanese’.

Update on “A History of the Ecological Sciences”

Over two-and-a-half years ago I posted the links to a series of articles in the Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America: “A History of the Ecological Sciences.” Then there were 27 installments, all by Frank N. Egerton, and now he’s up to #36 (Update: I added #37-42 on July 30, 2012):

1. A History of the Ecological Sciences. Early Greek Origins. Volume 82(1): 93–97. January 2001

2. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 2: Aristotle and Theophrastos. Volume 82(2):149–152. April 2001

3. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 3: Hellenistic Natural History. Volume 82(3):201–205. July 2001

4. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 4: Roman Natural History. Volume 82(4):243–246. October 2001

5. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 5: Byzantine Natural History. Volume 83(1):89–94. January 2002

6. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 6: Arabic Language Science—Origins and Zoological Writings. Volume 83(2):142–146. April 2002

7. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 7: Arabic Language Science—Botany, Geography, and Decline. Volume 83(4):261–266. October 2002

8. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 8: Fredrick II of Hohenstaufen: Amateur Avian Ecologist and Behaviorist. Volume 84(1):40–44. January 2003

9. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 9: Albertus Magnus, a Scholastic Naturalist. Volume 84(2):87–91. April 2003

10. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 10: Botany During the Renaissance and the Beginnings of the Scientific Revolution. Volume 84(3):130–137. July 2003

11. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 11: Emergence of Vertebrate Zoology During the 1500s. Volume 84(4):206–212. October 2003

12. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 12: Invertebrate Zoology and Parasitology During the 1500s. Volume 85(1):27–31. January 2004

13. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 13: Broadening Science in Italy and England, 1600–1650. Volume 85(3):110–119. July 2004

14. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 14: Plant Growth Studies in the 1600s. Volume 85(4):208–213. October 2004

15. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 15: The Precocious Origins of Human and Animal Demography and Statistics in the 1600s. Volume 86(1):32–38. January 2005

16. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 16: Robert Hooke and the Royal Society of London. Volume 86(2):93–101. April 2005

17. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 17: Invertebrate Zoology and Parasitology During the 1600s. Volume 86(3):133–144. July 2005

18. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 18: John Ray and His Associates Francis Willughby and William Derham. Volume 86(4):301–313. October 2005

19. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 19: Leeuwenhoek’s Microscopic Natural History. Volume 87(1):47–58. January 2006

20. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 20: Richard Bradley, Entrepreneurial Naturalist. Volume 87(2):117–127. April 2006

21. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 21: Réaumur and His History of Insects. Volume 87(3):212–224. July 2006

22. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 22: Early European Naturalists in Eastern North America. Volume 87(4):341–356. October 2006

23. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 23: Linnaeus and the Economy of Nature. Volume 88(1):72–88. January 2007

24. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 24: Buffon and Environmental Influences on Animals. Volume 88(2):146–159. April 2007

25. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 25:American Naturalists Explore Eastern North America: John and William Bartram. Volume 88(3):253–268. July 2007

26. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 26. Gilbert White, Naturalist Extrordinaire. Volume 88(4):385–398. October 2007.

27. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 27: Naturalists Explore Russia and the North Pacific During the 1700s. Volume 89(1):39–60. January 2008

28. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 28: Plant Growth Studies During the 1700s. Volume 89(2);159–175. April 2008

29. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 29: Plant Disease Studies During the 1700s. Volume 89(3). July 2008

30. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 30: Invertebrate Zoology and Parasitology During the 1700s. Volume 89(4). October 2008.

31. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 31: Studies of Animal Populations During the 1700s. Volume 90(2). April 2009.

32. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 32: Humboldt, Nature’s Geographer. Volume 90(3). July 2009.

33. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 33: Naturalists Explore North America, mid-1780s–mid-1820s. Volume 90(4). October 2009.

34. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 34: A Changing Economy of Nature.Volume 91(1). January 2009.

35. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 35: The Beginnings of British Marine Biology: Edward Forbes and Philip Gosse. Volume 91(2). April 2010.

36. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 36: Hewett Watson, Plant Geographer and Evolutionist. Volume 91(3). July 2010.

37. A History of Ecological Sciences, Part 37: Charles Darwin’s Voyage on the Beagle. Volume91(4), October 2010.

38a. A History of Ecological Sciences, Part 38A: Naturalists Explore North America, mid-1820s to about 1840. Volume 92(1), January 2011.

38b. A History of Ecological Sciences, Part 38B: Naturalists Explore North America, 1838–1850s. Volume 92(2), April 2011.

39. A History of Ecological Sciences, Part 39: Henry David Thoreau, Ecologist. Volume 92(3), July 2011.

40. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 40: Darwin’s Evolutionary Ecology. Volume 92(4), October 2011.

41. A History of Ecological Sciences, Part 41: Victorian Naturalists in Amazonia—Wallace, Bates, Spruce. Volume 93(1), January 2012.

42. A History of Ecological Sciences, Part 42: Victorian Naturalists Abroad—Hooker, Huxley, Wallace. Volume 93(2), April 2012.

CONFERENCE: Empires of Science in the Long Nineteenth Century

From UCSD Science Studies Program (blog):

Empires of Science in the Long Nineteenth Century
9-10 April @ Huntington Library
Register by 2 April 2010

Empires of Science in the Long Nineteenth Century

This international conference explores the relationship during the long nineteenth century between rapidly developing science and technology and the expansion of territorial empires, exploring issues such as: How was science actually practiced on national and imperial frontiers? What role did science and technology play in the development of political and intellectual empires? What influence did governments and scientific institutions have in creating, regulating, and disseminating scientific research and practice within empire?

Friday, April 9, 2010
8:30 Registration & Coffee

9:30 Welcome Robert C. Ritchie (The Huntington)
Remarks Nigel Rigby (National Maritime Museum)

Session 1 Networks of Empire
Moderator: Nigel Rigby

Crosbie Smith (University of Kent)
Energies of Empire: The Making of Long Distance Ocean Steamships in the
mid-Nineteenth Century

John McAleer (National Maritime Museum)
Stargazers at the Worlds End: Observatories, Telescopes, and Views of
Empire in the Nineteenth-Century British World

12:00 Lunch

Session 2 Mapping Space
Moderator: Kathryn Olesko (Georgetown University)

John Rennie Short (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
Cartographic Encounters on the Nineteenth-Century United States Western

Michael Reidy (Montana State University)
From Oceans to Mountains: The Spatial Construction of Empire

Session 3 Natural History
Moderator: Robert C. Ritchie

Janet Browne (Harvard University)
Nature on Display: Collecting and Showing Natural History Specimens in the
Age of Empire

Daniel Headrick (Roosevelt University)
Botany in the Dutch and British Colonial Empires

Saturday, April 10, 2010
9:00 Registration & Coffee

Session 4 Imperial Spaces
Moderator: Adam R. Shapiro (University of Wisconsin, Madison)

Daniela Bleichmar (University of Southern California)
Rediscovering the New World: Spanish Imperial Science, ca. 1780-1810

Lewis Pyenson (Western Michigan University)
Two Incarnations of Athena: Scientists in the Service of lebensraum in the
Nineteenth Century in the United States, Argentina, and Russia

12:00 Lunch

Session 5 Science and Colonial Identities
Moderator: Warren Dym (Bucknell University)

Saul Dubow (University of Sussex)
British Imperialism, Settler Colonialism, and Scientific Thought in the
Nineteenth-Century Cape

Lina del Castillo (Iowa State University)
The Gran Colombian Cartography Project, 1821-1830

Session 6 Institutions and Imperial Science
Moderator: Daniel Headrick

Rebekah Higgitt (National Maritime Museum)
Exporting Greenwich: The Royal Observatory as a Model for Imperial

Max Jones (University of Manchester)
Heroes of Empire? Geographical Societies, the Media, and the Promotion of


From Daniel Shenton, the new president of the Flat Earth Society in the Guardian: “I haven’t taken this position just to be difficult. To look around, the world does appear to be flat, so I think it is incumbent on others to prove ­decisively that it isn’t. And I don’t think that burden of proof has been met yet.”

I give you:

Earth seen from the Moon, Apollo 8 (1968)

Earth seen from the Moon, Apollo 8 (1968)

Oh, listen to this as well.

ARTICLE: In the field: exploring nature with Carolus Linnaeus

In the journal Endeavour:

Hodacs Hanna, “In the field: exploring nature with Carolus Linnaeus” Endeavour (2010) Article in Press.

Abstract Teaching his students the art of observing nature outdoors was central to the Swedish naturalist Carolus (Carl) Linnaeus (1707–1778). These exercises came to influence both their progress and his work. The open-air classroom was a stage where Linnaeus could demonstrate his skills and mobilize support. It was also a testing, training and recruitment ground: the students’ field observations helped Linnaeus to develop his new scientific nomenclature, and it was in the field that students could train their observational skills and progress from novices to naturalists.

Darwin’s Brave New World

In July of 2009, I posted about a forthcoming Australian Darwin film based on historian Iain McCalman‘s recently published book Darwin’s Armada: Four Voyages and the Battle for the Theory of Evolution:

Award-winning cultural historian Iain McCalman tells the stories of Charles Darwin and his most vocal supporters and colleagues: Joseph Hooker, Thomas Huxley, and Alfred Wallace. Beginning with the somber morning of April 26, 1882—the day of Darwin’s funeral—Darwin’s Armada steps back in time and recounts the lives and scientific discoveries of each of these explorers. The four amateur naturalists voyaged separately from Britain to the southern hemisphere in search of adventure and scientific fame. From Darwin’s inaugural trip on the Beagle in 1835 through Wallace’s exploits in the Amazon and, later, Malaysia in the 1840s and 1850s, each man independently made discoveries that led him to embrace Darwin’s groundbreaking theory of evolution. This book reveals the untold story of Darwin’s greatest supporters who, during his life, campaigned passionately in the war of ideas over evolution and who lived on to extend and advance the scope of his work.

McCalman also coedited a volume of papers, In the Wake of the Beagle: Science in the Southern Oceans from the Age of Darwin, based on a conference by the same name held at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney in March 2009:

Strange as it may seem, the long wake of the tiny HMS Beagle stretches from the nineteenth century into the future of our globe. Charles Darwin spent only three months in Australia, but Australasia and the Pacific contributed to his evolutionary thinking in a variety of ways. One hundred and fifty years after the publication of On the Origin of Species the internationally acclaimed authors of In the Wake of the Beagle provide new insights into the world of collecting, surveying and cross-cultural exchange in the antipodes in the age of Darwin. They explore the groundbreaking work of Darwin and his contemporaries Joseph Hooker, Thomas Huxley and Alfred Wallace, examine the complex trading relationships of the region’s daring voyagers, and take a very modern look at today’s cutting-edge scientific research, at a time when global warming has raised the stakes to an unprecedented level.

The film, Darwin’s Brave New World, is described as:

A 3 x 1hour drama-documentary TV series about how the Southern Hemisphere gave birth to the most controversial idea in science: evolution by means of natural selection. Interweaving dramatic reconstruction with documentary actuality and moving between the 19th century and the 21st, this series is the story of how Charles Darwin’s ‘dangerous idea’ developed during his epic voyage through South America, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands and how that idea forever transformed society and science. A series to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’.

The film premieres at the University of British Columbia later this month, and airs on Australia’s ABC1 November 8th (ep. 1: Origins), 15th (ep. 2: Evolutions), and 22nd (ep. 3: Publish and Be Damned). An extended trailer:

Notice in the trailer a few historians or philosophers of science (Jim Moore, Michael Ruse, and Janet Browne), Richard Dawkins, and David Suzuki.

Recent & Forthcoming Darwin Books

Darwin’s Dogs: How Darwin’s Pets Helped Form a World-changing Theory of Evolution by Emma Townshend:

If you have ever looked at a dog waiting to go for a walk and thought there was something age-old and almost human about his sad expression, you’re not alone; Charles Darwin did exactly the same. But Darwin didn’t just stop at feeling that there was some connection between humans and dogs. English gentleman naturalist, great pioneer of the theory of evolution and incurable dog-lover, Darwin used his much-loved dogs as evidence in his continuing argument that all animals including human beings, descended from one common ancestor. From his fondly written letters home enquiring after the health of family pets to his profound scientific consideration of the ancestry of the domesticated dog, Emma Townshend looks at Darwin’s life and work from a uniquely canine perspective. 

Darwin’s Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Fiction (3rd ed.) by Gillian Beer:

Gillian Beer’s classic Darwin’s Plots, one of the most influential works of literary criticism and cultural history of the last quarter century, is here reissued in an updated edition to coincide with the anniversary of Darwin’s birth and of the publication of The Origin of Species. Its focus on how writers, including George Eliot, Charles Kingsley and Thomas Hardy, responded to Darwin’s discoveries and to his innovations in scientific language continues to open up new approaches to Darwin’s thought and to its effects in the culture of his contemporaries. This third edition includes an important new essay that investigates Darwin’s concern with consciousness across all forms of organic life. It demonstrates how this fascination persisted throughout his career and affected his methods and discoveries. With an updated bibliography reflecting recent work in the field, this book will retain its place at the heart of Victorian studies.

The Voyage of the “Beagle”: Journals and Remarks [ABRIDGED Audio CD] by Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins:

A definite precursor to “On The Origin of Species”, this non-fiction travel journal is a fascinating record of Darwin’s observations of far-flung civilisations and the flora, fauna and human life he found there. His journey took in: Santiago – Cape Verde Islands; Saint Peter and Paul Rocks; Rio de Janeiro; Maldonado; Rio Negro to Bahia Blanca; Bahia Blanca; Bahia Blanca to Buenos Aires; Buenos Aires and St. Fe; Banda Oriental and Patagonia; Santa Cruz, Patagonia, and The Falkland Islands; Tierra del Fuego; Strait of Magellan; Climate of the Southern Coasts; Central Chile; Chiloe Island and Chonos Islands; Concepcion: Great Earthquake; Passage of the Cordillera; Northern Chile and Peru Galapagos; Archipelago Tahiti and New Zealand; Australia; Keeling Island – Coral Formations; and Mauritius to England. Darwin spent much of the voyage exploring on-land rather than at sea, and his explorations led to the beginnings of ‘evolutionary’ theories. He observed, for example, how finches’ beaks varied and seemed localized in shape and form to particular islands or climates. Thus emerged the notion that a kind of ‘natural selection’ rather than a divine power may be responsible – each creature adapting physically to its particular environment over generations. This is an incredibly important and enlightening non-fiction work. 

Darwin in Scotland: Edinburgh, Evolution and Enlightenment by J.F. Derry:

This is the first book on Darwin and Darwinism that wholly concentrates on his time spent in Scotland and the key contributions to his future insights made by the Scottish Enlightenment and the University of Edinburgh. Darwin developed his theories because he attended Edinburgh University – although he participated little in formal tuition, it was through interaction with his tutors, peers and extracurricular groups that he was exposed to an ethos of naturalistic philosophy rooted in the Scottish Enlightenment and, by direct descent, the Ancient Greeks. If he had bypassed Scotland and gone straight to Cambridge, his education would have been theologically-based and unlikely to have given him the perspective that led him to question the prevailing doctrine. It is also the first book to explore the subsequent impact of his work on modern day biologists at the University of Edinburgh. How far have we moved on since Darwin made his discoveries? Are his theories still relevant to modern-day science? Can we say if they will be relevant in the future? And, what should we be teaching future generations? The relevance of Darwin in debate is as important and volatile now as when “The Origin of Species” was first published a century and a half ago. Science and religion seem to have reached an impasse. Intelligent Design, the conflicting view to Darwin’s theory of natural selection, is the new kid on the block that the science gang wants nothing to do with. All the major issues in evolutionary study are covered here, through interviews with scientists, educators and creationists. They include some of the world leaders in the biological sciences at Edinburgh University, and they are most revealing about what Darwin has meant to them and their work. 

The Darwins of Shrewsbury by Andrew Pattison:

Many people have written biographies of Charles Darwin, but the story of his family and roots in Shrewsbury is little known. This book, containing original research, fills that gap. The key player is Charles’ father, Dr Robert Darwin, a larger-than-life character whose financial acumen enabled Charles to spend his whole life on research unencumbered by money worries. Through Susannah, Charles’ mother, we are introduced to the Wedgwood family, whose history was so closely interwoven with the Darwins. The stories of Charles’ five siblings are detailed, and there is a wealth of local material, such as information on Shrewsbury School and its illustrious headmaster, Samuel Butler. The book is fully illustrated with contemporary and modern pictures, and will be of interest to anyone wanting to discover more about the development of Shrewsbury’s most famous son.

Darwin in the Archives: Papers on Charles Darwin from the Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History and Archives of Natural History, edited by Charles Nelson and Duncan M. Porter:

A Special Publication of the journal Archives of Natural History to coincide with the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth.

Philosophy After Darwin: Classic and Contemporary Readings by Michael Ruse

Charles Darwin: After the Origin by Sheila Ann Dean:

What did Charles Darwin do during the 22 years after the Origin of Species was published? “Charles Darwin: After the Origin,” a new book by Darwin scholar Sheila Ann Dean, answers that question and many others about the work Darwin undertook while controversies instigated by the Origin stirred the Victorian world. Published to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the international Darwin Day celebration, the book serves as a companion piece to the to the collaborative 2009 exhibition at Cornell University Library and the Museum of the Earth at the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI). Dean is a guest curator and visiting scholar at the Library, and her book is published by Cornell University Library and PRI.

Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation by Michael Keller and Nicholle Rager Fuller

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins:

In a brilliant follow-up to his blockbuster The God Delusion, Dawkins lays out the evidence for evolution. 

Darwin in Ilkley by Mike Dixon and Gregory Radick

Voyage Round the World: Charles Darwin and the Beagle Collections in Cambridge University by Alison M. Pearn

Darwin: Art and the Search for Origins:

2009 is a double jubilee for Charles Darwin (1809-1882). The world celebrates his 200th birthday and also the 150th anniversary of the first edition of his epoch-making title On the Origin of Species. This book revolutionized the knowledge of biology and led to hot debates between scientists around the world. The present work for the first time documents the influence of Darwinism to the fine arts. The famous Frankfurt museum Schirn presents 150 paintings, drawings and lithographs as well as rare and ex?ceptional documentations. The exhibition includes works by Frederic Church, Frantiek Kupka, Odilon Redon, George Frederic Watts, Arnold Bcklin, Max Ernst and many more thus covering a period from 1859 to the middle of the 20th century.

Darwin’s Notebook: The Life, Times, and Discoveries of Charles Robert Darwin by Jonathan Clements:

Darwin’s Bards: British and American Poetry in the Age of Evolution by John Holmes:

Darwin’s Bards is the first comprehensive study of how poets have responded to the ideas of Charles Darwin in over fifty years. John Holmes argues that poetry can have a profound impact on how we think and feel about the Darwinian condition. Is a Darwinian universe necessarily a godless one? If not, what might Darwinism tell us about the nature of God? Is Darwinism compatible with immortality, and if not, how can we face our own deaths or the loss of those we love? What is our own place in the Darwinian universe, and our ecological role here on earth? How does our kinship with other animals affect how we see them? How does the fact that we are animals ourselves alter how we think about our own desires, love and sexual morality? All told, is life in a Darwinian universe grounds for celebration or despair? Holmes explores the ways in which some of the most perceptive and powerful British and American poets of the last hundred-and-fifty years have grappled with these questions, from Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning and Thomas Hardy, through Robert Frost and Edna St Vincent Millay, to Ted Hughes, Thom Gunn, Amy Clampitt and Edwin Morgan. Reading their poetry, we too can experience what it can mean to live in a Darwinian world. Written in an accessible and engaging style, and aimed at scientists, theologians, philosophers and ecologists as well as poets, critics and students of literature, Darwin’s Bards is a timely intervention into the heated debates over Darwin’s legacy for religion, ecology and the arts. 

In the Wake of the Beagle: Science in the Southern Oceans from the Age of Darwin, edited by Nigel Erskine and Iain McCalman:

This book shows the importance of the southern oceans to Darwin’s theories. Publication coincides with the bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of publication of “On the Origin of Species”. This highly illustrated and beautifully designed full-colour book will examine Darwin (and his contemporaries) from a very modern perspective, linking their voyages with today’s scientific developments and debates about climate change, ecology and creationism. Strange as it may seem, the long wake of the tiny HMS Beagle stretches from the nineteenth century into the future of our globe. Charles Darwin spent only three months in Australia, but Australasia and the Pacific contributed to his evolutionary thinking in a variety of ways. One hundred and fifty years after the publication of “On the Origin of Species” the internationally acclaimed authors of “In the Wake of the Beagle” provide new insights into the world of collecting, surveying and cross-cultural exchange in the antipodes in the age of Darwin. They explore the groundbreaking work of Darwin and his contemporaries Joseph Hooker, Thomas Huxley and Alfred Wallace, examine the complex trading relationships of the region’s daring voyagers, and take a very modern look at today’s cutting-edge scientific research, at a time when global warming has raised the stakes to an unprecedented level.

The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution by Carl Zimmer:

The Tangled Bank is the first textbook about evolution intended for the general reader. Zimmer, an award-winning science writer, takes readers on a fascinating journey into the latest discoveries about evolution. In the Canadian Arctic, paleontologists unearth fossils documenting the move of our ancestors from sea to land. In the outback of Australia, a zoologist tracks some of the world’s deadliest snakes to decipher the 100-million-year evolution of venom molecules. In Africa, geneticists are gathering DNA to probe the origin of our species. In clear, non-technical language, Zimmer explains the central concepts essential for understanding new advances in evolution, including natural selection, genetic drift, and sexual selection. He demonstrates how vital evolution is to all branches of modern biology–from the fight against deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria to the analysis of the human genome. Richly illustrated with over 300 illustrations and photographs, The Tangled Bank is essential reading for anyone who wants understand the history of life on Earth.

Darwin’s Camera: Art and Photography in the Theory of Evolution by Philip Prodger:

Darwin’s Camera tells the extraordinary story of how Charles Darwin not only changed the course of science; he forever changed the way pictures are seen and made. In his illustrated masterpiece, Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1871), Darwin introduced the idea of using photographs to illustrate a scientific theory–his was the first photographically-illustrated science book ever published. Using photographs to depict fleeting expressions of emotion–laughter, crying, anger, and so on–as they flit across a person’s face, he managed to produce dramatic images at a time when photography was famously slow and awkward. The things he wanted to photograph changed too quickly to be photographed easily, and he struggled to get the pictures he needed. So he scoured the galleries, bookshops, and photographic studios of London, looking for pictures to satisfy his demand for expressive imagery. He finally settled on one the giants of photographic history, the eccentric art photographer Oscar Rejlander, to make his pictures. It was a peculiar choice. Darwin was known for his meticulous science, while Rejlander was notorious for altering and manipulating photographs. Their remarkable collaboration, and the lengths they went to to create the pictures Darwin needed, is one of the astonishing revelations in Darwin’s Camera. Darwin never studied art formally, but he was always interested in art and often drew on art knowledge as his work unfolded. He studied art as a student and befriended the artists on the voyage of HMS Beagle, he visited art museums to examine figures and animals in paintings, he made friends with artists, and read art history books. He befriended the celebrated animal painters Joseph Wolf and Briton Riviere, and accepted the Pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner as a trusted guide. He corresponded with legendary photographers Lewis Caroll, Julia Margaret Cameron, and G.-B. Duchenne de Boulogne, as well as many lesser lights. Darwin’s Camera provides the first examination ever of these relationships and their effect on Darwin’s work, and how Darwin, in turn, shaped the history of art. 

The Darwin Experience: The Story of the Man and His Theory of Evolution by John van Wyhe

But Is It Science? The Philosophical Question in the Creation/Evolution Controversy, Updated Edition, edited by Robert T. Pennock and Michael Ruse:

Updated Edition On December 20, 2005, a U.S. district court in Dover, Pennsylvania, ruled in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School Board that teaching Intelligent Design in public school biology classes violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The judge explained that Intelligent Design is not science and “cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.” This case was just the latest attempt by proponents of Intelligent Design or Creationism to undermine the teaching of evolution in high school biology classes. The emotionally charged controversy, which has been going on since the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, shows no sign of letting up. This excellent collection, now fully updated, will inform readers about the history of the debate and bring philosophical clarity to the complex arguments on both sides. The editors, both of whom served as expert witnesses in two different court cases, start by chronicling the heated discussion that surrounded the publication of Darwin’s famous work. In the next part, they present articles that explicate modern evolutionary theory, including philosophical critiques by Karl Popper and others. The selections that follow discuss so-called Creation Science, focusing in particular on the 1981 McLean court case in Arkansas. In the final section, the philosophical issues surrounding the distinction between religion and science in the most recent Kitzmiller case are considered. This outstanding overview of an important contemporary debate shows that philosophy has a vital role to play in major decisions affecting education and interpretations of science and religion. 

Charles Darwin’s Notebooks from the Voyage of the Beagle:

This is the first full edition of the notebooks used by Darwin during his epic voyage in the Beagle. It contains transcriptions of all fifteen notebooks, which now survive as some of the most precious documents in the history of science. The notebooks record the entire range of Darwin’s interests and activities during the Beagle journey, with observations on geology, zoology, botany, ecology, barometer and thermometer readings, ethnography, anthropology, archaeology and linguistics, along with maps, drawings, financial records, shopping lists, reading notes, essays and personal diary entries. Some of Darwin’s critical discoveries and experiences, made famous through his own publications, are recorded in their most immediate form in the notebooks, and published here for the first time. The notebook texts are accompanied by full editorial apparatus and introductions explaining Darwin’s actions at each stage, focussing on discoveries that were pivotal to convincing him that life on Earth had evolved.

Stephen Jay Gould and the Politics of Evolution by David F. Prindle:

Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould was, until his death in 2002, America’s best-known natural scientist. His monthly essays in Natural History magazine were widely read by both scientists and ordinary citizens with an interest in science. One of his books won the National Book Award, and another was a bestseller in three countries. Philosopher Daniel Dennett proclaimed him “America’s evolutionist laureate.” While many people have written about Gould’s science, pro and con, and a few have written about his politics, this is the first book to explore his science and politics as a consistent whole. Political scientist David F. Prindle argues that Gould’s mind worked along two tracks simultaneously –the scientific and the political. All of his concepts and arguments were bona fide contributions to science, but all of them also contained specifically political implications. As one example among many, Prindle cites Gould’s controversial argument that if the “tape of evolution” could be rewound and then allowed to unspool again, nothing resembling human beings would likely evolve. This was part of his larger thesis that people are not the result of a natural tendency toward perfection in evolution, but the result of chance, or as Gould put it, contingency. As Prindle notes, Gould s scientific ideas often sought to attack human hubris, and thus prepare the ground for the political argument that people should treat nature with more restraint. Prindle evaluates Gould’s concepts of punctuated equilibrium (developed with Niles Eldredge), “spandrels”, and “exaptation”; his stance on sociobiology, on human inequality and intelligence testing; his pivotal role in the culture wars between science and fundamentalist Christianity; and claims that he was a closet Marxist, which Prindle disputes. He continually emphasizes that in all these debates Gould’s science cannot be understood without an understanding of his politics. He concludes by considering whether Gould offered a new theory of evolution. Anyone with an interest in one of America’s great scientists, or in paleontology, evolutionary theory, or intellectual history will find Stephen Jay Gould and the Politics of Evolution to be a fascinating exploration of the man and his ideas. 

Defining Darwin: Essays on the History and Philosophy of Evolutionary Biology by Michael Ruse:

Michael Ruse is one of the foremost Charles Darwin scholars of our time. For forty years he has written extensively on Darwin, the scientific revolution that his work precipitated, and the nature and implications of evolutionary thinking for today. Now, in the year marking the two hundredth anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of his masterpiece, On the “Origin of Species”, Ruse re-evaluates the legacy of Darwin in this collection of new and recent essays. Beginning with pre-Darwinian concepts of organic origins proposed by the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant, Ruse shows the challenges that Darwin’s radically different idea faced. He then discusses natural selection as a powerful metaphor; Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of the theory of evolution; Herbert Spencer’s contribution to evolutionary biology; the synthesis of Mendelian genetics and natural selection; the different views of Julian Huxley and George Gaylord Simpson on evolutionary ethics; and the influence of Darwin’s ideas on literature. In the final section, Ruse brings the discussion up to date with a consideration of ‘evolutionary development’ (dubbed ‘evo devo’) as a new evolutionary paradigm and the effects of Darwin on religion, especially the debate surrounding Intelligent Design theory. Ruse offers a fresh perspective on topics old and new, challenging the reader to think again about the nature and consequences of what has been described as the biggest idea ever conceived.

Darwin and the Memory of the Human: Evolution, Savages, and South America by Cannon Schmitt:

When the young Charles Darwin landed on the shores of Tierra del Fuego in 1832, he was overwhelmed: nothing had prepared him for the sight of what he called ‘an untamed savage’. The shock he felt, repeatedly recalled in later years, definitively shaped his theory of evolution. In this original and wide-ranging study, Cannon Schmitt shows how Darwin and other Victorian naturalists transformed such encounters with South America and its indigenous peoples into influential accounts of biological and historical change. Redefining what it means to be human, they argue that the modern self must be understood in relation to a variety of pasts – personal, historical, and ancestral – conceived of as savage. Schmitt reshapes our understanding of Victorian imperialism, revisits the implications of Darwinian theory, and demonstrates the pertinence of nineteenth-century biological thought to current theorizations of memory.

Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails) by Matt Young and Paul K. Strode:

Focusing on what other books omit, how science works and how pseudoscience works, Matt Young and Paul K. Strode demonstrate the futility of “scientific” creationism. They debunk the notion of intelligent design and other arguments that show evolution could not have produced life in its present form. Concluding with a frank discussion of science and religion, Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails) argues that science by no means excludes religion, though it ought to cast doubt on certain religious claims that are contrary to known scientific fact. 

The Art of Evolution: Darwin, Darwinisms, and Visual Culture, edited by Barbara Larson and Fae Brauer:

Inspired by the Charles Darwin bicentennial, The Art of Evolution presents a collection of essays by international scholars renowned for their ground-breaking work on Darwin. The book not only includes a discussion of the popular imagery that immediately followed the publication of On the Origin of Species, but it also traces the impact of Darwin’s ideas on visual culture over time and throughout the Western world. The contributors analyze the visual expression of a broad range of Darwin-inspired subjects, including eugenics, aesthetics and sexual selection, monera and protoplasm theories, social Darwinism and colonialism, the Taylorized body, and the natural history of surrealism. The visual imagery responding to Darwin and Darwinism ranges from popular caricature to state propaganda to major trends within Modern Art and Modernism. This rarely addressed subject will enrich our understanding of Darwin’s impact across disciplines and reveal how transformations in science were manifested visually in so many enticingly unexpected ways.

Charles Darwin, the Copley Medal, and the Rise of Naturalism 1862-1864 by Marsha Driscoll et al.:

Part of the “Reacting to the Past” series, this text consists of a game in which students experience firsthand the tension between natural and teleological views of the world–manifested especially in reconsideration of the design argument commonly known through William Paley’s Natural Theology or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity (1802).

CONFERENCE: Darwin in the Field

From the H-SCI-MED-TECH listserve:

We write to invite interested parties to submit a title and abstract for
a forthcoming conference to be held at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth
Science, University of Cambridge. This falls directly after the Darwin
festival and marks the opening of the new permanent exhibition funded by
the Heritage Lottery Fund, “Darwin the Geologist”.


Darwin in the Field: Collecting, Observation and Experiment

A multi-disciplinary conference

Dates: Saturday 11th to Sunday 12th July 2009

This conference will focus on Charles Darwin’s (1809 – 1882) practical
work in the field and examine the geological, zoological and
anthropological data, observations and experiments upon which he built
his subsequent theorizing. It will take place at the Sedgwick Museum of
Earth Sciences in Cambridge as part of the programme of events to mark
Darwin’s 200^th birthday and the 150^th anniversary of the publication
of /On the Origin of Species/. Associated events include a major new
HLF-funded exhibition and original research on Darwin’s work as a
geologist based on the rocks and minerals that he collected on the
Voyage of the /Beagle/ (1831 – 1836) now held in the collections of the

Although the /Beagle /Expedition was Darwin’s major and perhaps most
widely known period of fieldwork activity, we hope this conference will
explore and illuminate how and where he acquired practical skills prior
to the Voyage (such as his fieldtrip to Wales with Sedgwick and his
scientific education in general). The smaller projects that he
subsequently undertook in later years including plant and animal
breeding, barnacles and earthworms could also be examined.

We are also interested in exploring how Darwin collected and documented
objects and what selection criteria he used prior to their inclusion in
his theories and publications. Darwin’s collections are still very much
alive and subsequent scientists have utilised them for different means.
Finally, we are interested in exploring how they relate to present day

We invite papers from historians, museologists and scientists on the
following themes in Darwin’s life and work:

* collecting practices
* experimental/ identification practices in geology, palaeontology,
zoology and chemistry
* systems of naming and classification
* work aboard the Beagle
* theorizing using collected specimens
* field notebooks and drawings
* early scientific education and teachers in scientific practice
* anthropological investigations
* experiments at Down House
* use of Darwin’s collections and/or specimen theorizing in
historical or contemporary scientific practice

If you are interested in presenting a paper, please submit a title and
an abstract of no more than 500 words to Lyall Anderson
(land07@esc.cam.ac.uk <mailto:land07@esc.cam.ac.uk>) by 20 March 2009.

BOOK REVIEW: Tides of History by Michael S. Reidy

I received this book from the publisher last year, so I am now finally able to put up my review. But I also had to read it for my current graduate class on historical writing, taught by Michael Reidy (my advisor and the author of the book!). And the review:

Tides of History by Michael S. Reidy

Tides of History by Michael S. Reidy

Tides of History: Ocean Science and Her Majesty’s Navy. By Michael S. Reidy. Chicago, London: Chicago University Press, 2008. xiv + 389 pp. Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $40.00 (cloth).

In an essay in William K. Story’s edited volume Scientific Aspects of European Expansion (Varorium, 1996), historian Alan Frost shows how science conducted in the Pacific during European exploration of the late eighteenth century was essentially political in nature. Scientists acted with their respective nations in mind. Michael S. Reidy extends the notion of science for political purposes into the nineteenth century with Tides of History. But while the book’s subtitle, Ocean Science and Her Majesty’s Navy, underscores the connection between advancements in science and the imperial reach of maritime nations (predominantly Britain), Reidy aims for much more than just showing how the British used science to rule the waves. He has other interests in mind, and it is unfortunate that the title of his book misleads the reader of its primary content. Although Reidy does discuss the Admiralty and how tidal science was crucial to military matters, he is more interested in the scientist himself and his role – in particular one giant of science (William Whewell) and plenty of rather unknowns. Even larger still is Reidy’s contribution to a growing field of ocean history, a fresh understanding of history understood through looking at the spaces in between the land that most histories are focused with.

Much of Tides of History details the history of tidal science – of the data collection itself, and the theoretical understanding of the tides (whether or not it was based on data). The narrative of Reidy’s story, told through scientific publications, letters, and the use images (tables and graphs), almost mirrors the flux and reflux of the tides themselves, the ebb and flow of the seas across the globe. Tidal science, and the reasons for studying it, have shifted in importance to various parties through the centuries. Reidy outlines what has gone before, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, before focusing on the nineteenth century, the highest period of Britain’s imperial expansion, and the regional and global tide experiments in the mid-1830s.

Reidy is fond of metaphors, and they abound in Tides of History. For example, Whewell “helped transform the spatial scope of science while simultaneously expanding the terrain of the scientist” (p. 240). This spatiality is important to Reidy in showing how Whewell transformed the study of tides into a Humboldtian research program, rather than the temporal nature of previous studies. In contrast to earlier and recent works on Whewell, Reidy shows how this evaluator of science in Britain was much more than just a man interested in the work of scientists, but a premier scientist himself. The study of tides, which held Whewell’s interest for more than two decades, also influenced Whewell’s philosophical contributions to science – how science should be done and who should do it. Despite Whewell’s insistence that only certain persons could be scientists – those who strived for theoretical understanding of phenomena – he recognized the efforts and contributions of the often overlooked figures in history. Data collectors, calculators, and computers, doing monotonous and tedious work with ink, provided crucial information for “scientists” to devise their theories with. By looking closely at the role of these “subordinate labourers,” as Whewell referred to them, Reidy gives us a much needed contribution to the history of science, a bottom-up history in a field which too often stresses the importance of the man of science. There were many men (and women) of science, whether or not they were considered “scientists.”

While Reidy succeeds in relating the study of the tides to those with economic interests in using that knowledge – merchants, traders, etc. – what is missing from Tides of History, despite its secondary role to an understanding of the emerging scientist in the early Victorian period, is how the military aspect of the study of the tides was actually used. Examples of how the Admiralty benefited from tidal knowledge, grounded in particular events (if records exist), would surely benefit an understanding of the importance of the study of the tides, and of the relationship of scientists with the larger society. Another mistake in Tides of History, in my opinion, is in the introduction of self-registering tide gauges in Reidy’s narrative. Through reading the text, we know that data collectors observed and marked down numbers concerning the tides. We do not know, however, if and how they utilized technological instruments in carrying out their tasks. So, the invention of the self-registering tide gauge, which made it possible to record data without the hand of a person, becomes not as exciting a turn in the narrative as if the reader truly understood how earlier “subordinated labourers” collected information about the rise and fall of tides.

Despite these few problems, Tides of History is a valuable contribution to understanding the culture of science in the early Victorian period, a time when the role of scientists was becoming more connected with commerce and government, in helping to ensure Britain’s imperialistic success and reaping rewards from it. Taken with Richard Drayton’s Nature’s Government: Science, Imperial Britain and the ‘Improvement’ of the World (Yale University Press, 2000), Tides of History offers a more complete picture of the relationship between science and society – of the political and economic importance of science and the increasingly important role of the scientist – in the nineteenth century. This is a valuable book for those interested in nineteenth-century science, the history of physical sciences, imperialism, environmental history, and maritime history to have on their shelves.

First Conference?

Today I submitted an abstract for a paper to give at a conference in March: “Darwin’s Legacy: Evolution’s Impact on Science and Culture” — a multidisciplinary student conference to be held March 19-21, 2009, at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, hosted by The Evolution Learning Community.

The conference will be a unique opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students in the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and arts who are conducting research or creative endeavors related to evolution to present their research, investigate graduate study opportunities, network, enhance their CVs, and enrich the body of knowledge surrounding evolution. 

I submitted an abstract for a paper I did as an undergrad, for the session on “species in space and time”:

“For I Have Not the Means”: Charles Darwin, Transoceanic Dispersal, and the Geography of Science

Michael D. Barton

Thinking about the geographical distribution of plants and animals in relation to his theory of evolution in the 1850s, Charles Darwin tested the germination abilities of seeds after immersion in artificial sea-water. The idea of transoceanic dispersal – that plants and animals can survive long distances over oceans by floating, catching rides on detritus, or being carried by winds or birds – was crucial to Darwin’s theory, and he spent several years doing experiments for validation. Other naturalists, such as Darwin’s botanist friend Joseph Dalton Hooker, had other ideas about the movement of plants and animals. They theorized and “invoked” land bridges and continental extensions where oceans now exist. Plants and animals moved by their own powers across land, rather than being passively dispersed. The botanist Hooker resorted to geology, whereas geologist Darwin relied on the dispersal power of plants.

In debating questions of geographical distribution, however, Darwin and Hooker were debating geographical contexts of science itself. Whereas the history of science has been understood in its social and political contexts, recently historians have sought to understand science’s geographical context. This paper seeks to understand the debate between Darwin and Hooker by examining the social context of Darwin’s life and the spaces in which he experimented. His illness allowed him time and isolation for extensive reading, research, correspondence, observation, and experimentation. Darwin conducted his work differently than how Hooker envisioned professional science to be conducted. Although Darwin was limited in how and where he could conduct his seed experiments, that he conducted them at home and not at a professional institution may have given to Hooker’s reluctance in accepting Darwin’s views on dispersal. The different roles which Darwin and Hooker played in science, Darwin the sedentary naturalist and Hooker the traveling botanist, may shed light on their stances in the seed dispersal debate.

I will be informed of acceptance or not on, of all days, February 12th. Wish me luck!

Darwin’s Dust


Two-toned dust plumes blew northward off the coast of Libya on October 26, 2007Two-toned dust plumes blew northward off the coast of Libya on October 26, 2007

This image comes from the photography blog The Big Picture from The Boston Globe. Each week’s post contains wonderful captures around a particular topic. The week of January 14 was “Earth, observed.” The dust blowing over the Atlantic brings to mind Darwin’s 1845 paper, “An account of the FINE DUST which often falls on Vessels in the ATLANTIC OCEAN,” from the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London (see this paper here on Darwin Online). Darwin writes:

On the 16th of January (1833), when the Beagle was ten miles off the N.W. end of St. Jago, some very fine dust was found adhering to the under side of the horizontal wind-vane at the mast-head; it appeared to have been filtered by the gauze from the air, as the ship lay inclined to the wind. The wind had been for twenty-four hours previously E.N.E., and hence, from the position of the ship, the dust probably came from the coast of Africa. The atmosphere was so hazy that the visible horizon was only one mile distant. During our stay of three weeks at St. Jago (to February 8th) the wind was N.E., as is always the case during this time of the year; the atmosphere was often hazy, and very fine dust was almost constantly falling, so that the astronomical instruments were roughened and a little injured. The dust collected on the Beagle was excessively fine-grained, and of a reddish brown colour; it does not effervesce with acids; it easily fuses under the blowpipe into a black or gray bead.


From the several recorded accounts it appears that the quantity of dust which falls on vessels in the open Atlantic is considerable, and that the atmosphere is often rendered quite hazy; but nearer to the African coast the quantity is still more considerable. Vessels have several times run on shore owing to the haziness of the air: and Horsburgh recommends all vessels, for this reason, to avoid the passage between the Cape Verd Archipelago and the main-land. Roussin also, during his survey, was thus much impeded. Lieut. Arlett found the water so discoloured, that the track left by his ship was visible for a long time; and he attributes this in part to the fine sand blown from the deserts, “with which everything on board soon becomes perfectly caked.”

Professor Ehrenberg has examined the dust collected by Lieut. James and myself; and he finds that it is in considerable part composed of Infusoria, including no less than sixty-seven different forms. These consist of 32 species of siliceous-shielded Polygastrica;3 of 34 forms of Phytolitharia, or the siliceous tissues of plants; and of one Polythalamia. The little packet of dust collected by myself would not have filled a quarter of a tea-spoon, yet it contains seventeen forms.

In 2007, several microbiologists published in Environmental Microbiology an article titled “Life in Darwin’s dust: intercontinental transport and survival of microbes in the nineteenth century.” The abstract

Charles Darwin, like others before him, collected aeolian dust over the Atlantic Ocean and sent it to Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg in Berlin. Ehrenberg’s collection is now housed in the Museum of Natural History and contains specimens that were gathered at the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Geochemical analyses of this resource indicated that dust collected over the Atlantic in 1838 originated from the Western Sahara, while molecular-microbiological methods demonstrated the presence of many viable microbes. Older samples sent to Ehrenberg from Barbados almost two centuries ago also contained numbers of cultivable bacteria and fungi. Many diverse ascomycetes, and eubacteria were found. Scanning electron microscopy and cultivation suggested that Bacillus megaterium, a common soil bacterium, was attached to historic sand grains, and it was inoculated onto dry sand along with a non-spore-forming control, the Gram-negative soil bacterium Rhizobium sp. NGR234. On sand B. megaterium quickly developed spores, which survived for extended periods and even though the numbers of NGR234 steadily declined, they were still considerable after months of incubation. Thus, microbes that adhere to Saharan dust can live for centuries and easily survive transport across the Atlantic.

Darwin relied on finding the means of dispersal of many organisms because, if all life on earth is related through common ancestry, some organisms had to have found ways to travel to new locations (single centers of creations versus the multiple centers of creation that some naturalists, like Louis Agassiz, postulated in order to stay true to scripture). Whether floating as seeds may do, hitchhiking on the feet or in the bowels of birds, or transporting via logs or other flotsam, or even on trains and cars, life finds a way (yes, Malcolm) to new places.

BOOK: Darwin’s Island: The Galapagos in the Garden of England by Steve Jones

Darwin's Island by Steve Jones

Darwin's Island by Steve Jones

Darwin’s Island: The Galapagos in the Garden of England, by Steve Jones, is due out at the end of January. From Little, Brown Book Group:

The Origin of Species is the most famous book in science but its stature tends to obscure the genius of Charles Darwin’s other works. The Beagle voyage, too, occupied only five of the fifty years of his career. He spent only five weeks on the Galapagos and on his return never left Britain again. Darwin wrote six million words, in nineteen books and innumerable letters, on topics as different as dogs, barnacles, insect-eating plants, orchids, earthworms, apes and human emotion. Together, they laid the foundations of modern biology.

In this beautifully written, witty and illuminating book, Steve Jones explores the domestic Darwin, the sage of Kent, and brings his work up to date. Great Britain was Charles Darwin’s other island, its countryside as much, or more, a place of discovery than had been the Galapagos. It traces the great naturalist’s second journey across its modest landscape: a voyage not of the body but of the mind.

NEW BOOK: Darwin Slept Here, by Eric Simons

Overlook Press will be publishing Eric Simons’ Darwin Slept Here: Discovery, Adventure, and Swimming Iguanas in Charles Darwin’s South America in February. Here is the blurb from it’s UK publisher, Duckworth (also Feb. 2009):

One snowy day in Ushuaia, Argentina, the self-proclaimed ‘southernmost city in the world,’ at the end of a long trip designed to put as much distance between himself and a frustrating post-college job as possible, writer Eric Simons picked up a copy of Charles Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle. Simons and two friends had just hiked the mountains overlooking Beagle Channel, and Simons found himself engrossed in Darwin’s account. Like Simons, Darwin was in his mid-twenties when he travelled to the continent, having joined a five-year expedition designed to survey and map the coastline of South America, to serve as the expedition’s naturalist. Simons found himself compelled to return to follow Darwin further into South America – to stand where Darwin had, and to explore the histories, legends and people that had fascinated him two centuries before. Simons trekked to as many of the locations Darwin wrote about as he could find, to see if he could see these places through Darwin’s eyes, and to see what South Americans know about Darwin. 2009 is a double anniversary year for Darwin: The 200th anniversary of his birth in February, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species in November. Part travelogue, part insight into one of the greatest scientific minds in history, Darwin Slept Here will fascinate and enthral.

The book further described in an email I received:

Darwin Slept Here is a travelogue in which Simons, fleeing a soul-sucking post-college job, endeavors to experience the places, people and discoveries mapped out by Darwin’s account. From the mud wrestling clubs of Buenos Aires to the “demon cacti” of the Chilean desert, Simons treks to as many of the locations visited by Darwin as he can find during his quest to see South America through Darwin’s eyes and to mine South Americans’ knowledge of Darwin. With February 12th, 2009 marking the double anniversary of both Darwin’s birth as well as the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species, Darwin Slept Here comes just in time to celebrate and revive one of the most important scientific discoverers of all time. With each chapter headed by the corresponding Beagle Diary entry from Darwin’s trip and in Darwin’s words, Eric Simons’s captivating travelogue revisits the places and recaptures the exhilaration of Darwin’s adventures. It is an innovative look at Darwin’s discoveries and a fresh-eyed journey into South America by an exciting new writer.

De-mounting Louis Agassiz?

A mountain is named after someone who was a racist. Should that mountain’s name be changed?

There is a petition to rename Agassizhorn (in the Alps), named after naturalist and apparent racist Louis Agassiz, after a slave named Renty – thus, Rentyhorn. Here’s the petition, and hat-tip to the Get Outdoors Blog.

I don’t really know what to think about this. I am sure there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of place names across the globe named after people with questionable actions. Why be concerned with this one?

NAT GEO: Are You a Geo-Genius? (October 2008)

From the paper insert with the October 2008 issue of National Geographic:

1. The city of Nuremberg lies in the state of Bavaria, which is located in which country? Answer
2. Kana and Kanji are two major groups of characters in the written language of which Asian country? Answer
3. Karachi and Lahore, both cities with populations greater than five million, are located in which Asian country? Answer
4. Matamoros, once occupied by American troops, is located in which country that controls Baja California? Answer
5. Highway signs in both Gaelic and English are commin in which country? Answer

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

John Gould (Born 14 Sep 1804; died 3 Feb 1881). English ornithologist whose life work produced 41 lavishly illustrated volumes on birds from all over the world, containing in all about 3,000 plates, all lithographed and hand-painted. Of these, his Birds of Australia was particularly significant (1840-69) as the first comprehensive record of the continent’s birds and mammals. With its plates of the birds were descriptions, notes on their distribution and adaptation to the environment. He assisted Charles Darwin with identification of the specimens collected during the voyage of the Beagle. By informing Darwin that the finches belonging to separate species, he provided essential information giving Darwin insight leading to his later development of the theory of evolution.

Alexander von Humboldt (Born 14 Sep 1769; died 6 May 1859). (Baron) Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt was a German natural scientist, archeologist, explorer and geographer, who made two major expeditions to Latin America (1799-1804) and to Asia (1829). During the first, equipped with the best scientific instruments, he surveyed and collected geological, zoological, botanical, and ethnographic specimens, including over 60,000 rare or new tropical plants. He charted and made observations on a cold ocean current along the Peruvian coast, now named, the Humboldt Current. In geology, he made pioneering observations of stratigraphy, structure and geomorphology; he understood the connections between volcanism and earthquakes. Humboldt named the Jurassic System.

Charles Valentine Riley (Died 14 Sep 1895; born 18 Sep 1843). British-born American entomologist who pioneered the scientific study of insects for their economic impact in agriculture. He was a keen observer of relationships in nature, and enhanced his written observations with drawings. He initiated biological control. After studying the parasites and predators of the cottony cushion scale, which was destroying the citrus industry in California, he introduced (1888) a natural enemy of the scale from Australia. The effectiveness of the Vedalia cardinalis beetle in reducing the populations of the cottony cushion scale promoted the study of biological control of pests. He helped establish the Division of Entomology of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

NAT GEO: Are You a Geo-Genius? (August 2008)

From the paper insert with the August 2008 issue of National Geographic:

1. Minsk, a major cultural center, is the capital and largest city of which country? Answer
2. The Malagasy have strong ties with the French and live on the largest island in the Indian Ocean. Name this island. Answer
3. The people of which island country southeast of India are predominantly Sinhalese? Answer
4. Which country moved its capital from Istanbul to Ankara in the early 20th century? Answer
5. Magyars are the predominant ethnic group of which Central European Country? Answer

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Charles Schuchert (Born 3 Jul 1858; died 20 Nov 1942). American invertebrate paleontologist who was a leader in the development of paleogeography, the study of the distribution of lands and seas in the geological past. During the 1880s he made a living drawing fossil illustrations for state geological surveys, while continuing to search for specimens for his own growing collection. After serving as curator of the U.S. National Museum (1894-1904) Charles Schuchert joined the Yale University faculty following their first invertebrate paleontologist, Charles E. Beecher.

NAT GEO: Are You a Geo-Genius? (July 2008)

From the paper insert with the June 2008 issue of National Geographic:

1. Vedas, ancient texts originally composed in Sanskrit, are sacred to what religion in Asia? Answer

2. Sand dunes are a common sight in the westernmost desert of southern Africa. Name this desert. Answer

3. Which West African country, a member of OPEC, is one of the largest producers of oil in the world? Answer

4. The Vai script is an indigenous writing system found in Sierra Leone and what country to its southeast? Answer

5. Hammerfest, often referred to as the northernmost town in Europe, is located in which Scandinavian country? Answer

NAT GEO: Are You a Geo-Genius? (June 2008)

First, check out this colorful gallery of nudibranchs. And from the paper insert with the June 2008 issue of National Geographic:

1. Sparks, a rapidly growing city on the Truckee River, is located near Lake Tahoe in which state? Answer

2. The town of Luray, famous for its bearby caverns, is located in the Shenandoah Valley in which state? Answer

3. For just over half a century, St. Mary’s City was the colonial capital of which state? Answer

4. Green Bay is at the southwestern edge of the Door Peninsula, not far from Lake Michigan in which state? Answer

5. The Rogue River runs through Grants Pass as it flows from the Cascades to the Pacific in which state? Answer