My Darwin talk at OHSU, April 4th

Guest Lecture

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

Darwin Exhibit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darwin’s Virtual Library

The Biodiversity Heritage Library has launched Darwin’s Virtual Library:

Charles Darwin’s Library is a digital edition and virtual reconstruction of the surviving books owned by Charles Darwin. In 1908, Charles Darwin’s son Francis transferred what he called the ‘Darwin Library’ to the Botany School at Cambridge University under the care and control of the Professor of Botany, A. C. Seward. As Francis put it, ‘The library of Charles Darwin has now found a permanent home in his University…’ Of course the library of Charles Darwin is more than the collection of the works he owned at his death. As Francis already appreciated in 1908, ‘The chief interest of the Darwin books lies in the pencil notes scribbled on their pages, or written on scraps of paper and pinned to the last page.’ Darwin did read both systematically and with great intensity. He read to gather evidence, to explore and define the research possibilities of his evolutionary ideas, and to gauge reactions to his own publications. In fact, reading was a major tool in Darwin’s scientific practice. Thus what our digital reconstruction of the Darwin Library delivers is the ability to retrace and reduplicate Darwin’s reading of a wealth of materials.

The portion of the Darwin Library now published at the Biodiversity Heritage Library constitutes Phase 1 of a collaborative project to digitise the Darwin Library works and to provide transcriptions of Darwin’s marginalia side by side with the pages he marked. Phase 1 presents images and marginalia for 330 books, represents 22% of the total 1480 Darwin Library book titles. But, more significantly, these 330 titles represent 44% of the 743 Darwin books that bear his annotations or marks. The latter comprise 28951 annotated and marked book pages and 1624 attached note slips. Plans for further phases to complete digital publication of the remainder of the Darwin Library are now under consideration.

Much more about the collection and its history here.

Hello there!

Sorry blogging has been so light as of late. Just a few things:

My wife started a new job a month ago, as a librarian in the city of Canby about 25 minutes south of Portland. So I am daddy during the week and have some part-time work on the weekends.

Excited for the OMSI Science Pub at the Bagdad Theater tonight. It’s with Rebecca Skloot and she’ll be discussing her book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Hopefully Patrick behaves…

Speaking of my son, he turned 5 on March 27th. He’s getting big! We had a fabulous nature-themed party for him at Tryon Creek State Park:

Patrick's 5th Birthday & Party

Patrick's 5th Birthday & Party

He’ll be starting kindergarten in the fall. The proud parents:

Patrick's 5th Birthday & Party

The freethought conference (pictures) here in Portland at the end of March was great, and it was nice to meet PZ Myers:

2011 Northwest Freethought Conference, Portland State University

I seem to be blogging more at my other blog, Exploring Portland’s Natural Areas, and Patrick and I spent spring break week outside every day

Molalla River State Park, Canby, OR

Next month I will be giving a talk about Darwin and creationist quote-mining for the Secular Humanists of East Portland/CFI (an extended version of what I did for Science Online 2011).

And there are not too may days until the next installment of the history of science blog carnival, The Giant’s Shoulders.

Follow me on Twitter (@darwinsbulldog) and Facebook for constant linkage of Darwin items of interest…

New Darwin letter found

From Harvard Gazette:

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“I was a little excited, but a bit skeptical that it would actually be new,” said Myrna Perez, who, alongside lecturer Alistair Sponsel stumbled across a previously unknown letter from Charles Darwin to his colleague and later nemesis, zoologist Richard Owen.

Across 160 years, Darwin speaks

Discovery of letter sheds light on murky part of the naturalist’s life

While in Houghton Library, sorting through stacks of old manuscripts and letters from the great naturalist Charles Darwin, history of science graduate student Myrna Perez and lecturer Alistair Sponsel stumbled across something extraordinary: a previously unknown letter from Darwin to his colleague and later nemesis, zoologist Richard Owen.

“We initially went [to Houghton] to confirm that a few letters we thought were here at Harvard were actually here,” said Sponsel, who, like Perez, is an affiliate of the Darwin Correspondence Project, whose American editorial office is at Harvard.

“We were not really looking for a new letter,” Perez said. “One of the editors … noticed there were some discrepancies between the letters that the project believed to be at Harvard, and what she could tell from the Harvard catalogs themselves.”

After cross-checking the British lists and the Harvard catalog, Perez came across a letter that couldn’t be found on any of the lists.

“I was a little excited, but a bit skeptical that it would actually be new,” she said. “And then when I got it, I spent a long time looking through our project databases, had Alistair check what I did, and we finally concluded that it was a letter unknown to the project.”

According to Sponsel, Darwin wrote the undated letter in April 1848, long before his landmark book “On the Origin of Species” was published. Darwin would have been 39 years old, but he was already famous as a voyager and author. Owen had previously contributed to Darwin’s book “The Zoology of the Voyage of the HMS Beagle.”

“We can tell with fairly good confidence which Sunday in 1848 he wrote this,” Sponsel said. “The two [Owen and Darwin] were working on a publication for the British Navy, a handbook for people on voyages to teach them how to make scientific observations.”

Perez added, “The letter, and the entire exchange, gives a perspective on the collaborative process of their work and the kind of instructions that Darwin felt were appropriate for new naturalists on naval expeditions. He makes some interesting comments in the letter, saying that he would have loved to have had this kind of manual on his own Beagle voyage.”

“Unknown letters don’t come up very often, maybe about 10 a year,” said Darwin scholar Janet Browne, Aramont Professor of the History of Science and Harvard College Professor. “This letter is unusual in that it is a letter from early in Darwin’s life, before ‘On the Origin of Species’ was written, and with a particular individual with whom he became almost sworn enemies.”

It was “On the Origin of Species” that changed Darwin and Owen’s relationship. After its publication, Owen wrote a cruel review of the book, and the relationship disintegrated.

The discovery comes as part of Perez and Sponsel’s work for the Darwin Correspondence Project, an endeavor begun in the mid-1970s by American scholar Frederick Burkhardt and now based at the University of Cambridge. Participants there and at Harvard are dedicated to cataloging, editing, and publishing Darwin’s correspondence from throughout his life. To date, Browne said, the project has cataloged about 15,000 letters from “unexpected people in all sorts of categories, including women scientists and African colonial administrators.”

“Historians have found principally through this large publishing project that correspondence is a significant element of what scientists used to do,” Browne said. “It turns out that someone like Darwin was writing letters as a way of collecting information. It was part of his scientific method.”

Darwin Statue on Suzzallo Library at University of Washington, Seattle

In 1924, sculptor Allan Clark created 18 statues for the exterior of the Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington in Seattle – Moses, Pasteur, Dante, Shakespeare, Plato, Benjamin Franklin, Justinian, Newton, da Vinci, Galileo, Goethe, Herodotus, Adam Smith, Homer, Gutenberg, Beethoven, Darwin, and Grotius . Well, we’re in Seattle right now (for a giant booksale for something we do; you can support us by ordering books through our Amazon page at that link). We’ve been on the UW campus before, and even looked at the statues, but I hadn’t known there was one of Darwin. I shared someone else’s picture of it before, but since our hotel is on the perimeter of the campus, Patrick and I decided to head over to the library ourselves to check out the statue. Here’s the library in totality:

Fifteen of the statues grace the front of the building, while one is just on the left side, and two just on the right, those being obscured by trees. One of those two is Darwin (maybe that’s why I didn’t see it last time, kind of hard to see), holding what is presumably On the Origin of Species:

Keen observer

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

Ant display, Central Library, Portland

Ant display, Central Library, Portland

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

Real ant on display, Central Library, Portland

Real ant on display, Central Library, Portland

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

E.O. Wilson would be proud!

EXHIBIT: The Children’s Darwin

The children's darwin logo 5

Kids' books about evolution on display

Undergraduate students in the History of Science department (congrats, Piers!) at the University of Oklahoma have begun exhibits, with Professor Katherine Pandora,  which are on display at the university’s History of Science Collections.

The first exhibit is The Children’s Darwin:

Because 2009 marked the 150th anniversary of Origin of Species, it provided a handy rationale for celebrations of Charles Darwin’s science — and a good marketing hook for new children’s titles on Darwin and evolution. What can looking at children’s literature teach us about cultural views of science? And how can it help us to analyze the history of science in public? Those are great starting points for doing research, so we brought the books together for anyone to take a look at some of them and see for themselves!

The exhibit includes twelve recent children’s books about Darwin and evolution, and they are looking for comments here. Which books are on display?

Alan Gibbons, Charles Darwin (Lifelines) (Kingfisher, 2008)

Deborah Hopkinson, The Humblebee Hunter (Hyperion Books, 2010)

Laurie Krebs, We’re Sailing to Galapagos (Barefoot Books, 2007)

✓ Kathryn Lasky, One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin (Candlewick, 2009)

✓ Kristin Lawson, Darwin and Evolution for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities (For Kids series) (Chicago Review Press, 2003)

Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom, What Mr Darwin Saw (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2009)

Sandra Markle, Animals Charles Darwin Saw (Explorers (Chronicle Books)) (Chronicle Books, 2009)

Alice B. McGinty, Darwin (Houghton Mifflin, 2009)

Rosalyn Schanzer, What Darwin Saw: The Journey That Changed the World (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2009)

✓ Peter Sis, The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin (New York Times Best Illustrated Books (Awards)) (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003)

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

A.J. Wood, Charles Darwin and the Beagle Adventure (Templar, 2009)

I’ve got only four out of the dozen, marked by checks!

Some others that could have been part of this exhibit: Young Charles Darwin and the Voyage of the Beagle, Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith, The True Adventures of Charley Darwin, The Riverbank, and Following in Darwin’s Footsteps. And these two are forthcoming: Charles Darwin and the Mystery of Mysteries and Charles Darwin (Giants of Science).

Portland Swag for a Science Nerd

While in Portland last week, I picked up alot of science books, from 1) library book sales, 2) Powell’s, and 3) the vendor exhibits at the meeting of the Public Library Association at the Convention Center (my wife attended the conference, and got me a pass to the exhibits). Here’s what I got:

The Encyclopedia of Evolution: Humanity’s Search for Its Origins (at a library book sale)

Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be (purchased at the exhibits)

Evolution Revolution (free at the exhibits!)

Remarkable Creatures (purchased at the exhibits)

Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith (purchased at the exhibits)

Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives (purchased at the exhibits)

The Age of Wonder: The Romantic Generation and the Discovery of the Beauty and Terror of Science (Vintage) (purchased at Powell’s)

Why Evolution Is True (purchased at the exhibits)

The Invention of Air: A Story Of Science, Faith, Revolution, And The Birth Of America (purchased at the exhibits)

The Genius of Charles Darwin (Dawkins on Darwin DVD set, free at the exhibits!)

The Six-Cornered Snowflake (free at the exhibits!)

And science plaque for my car (purchased at Powell’s)

For all the books purchased at the vendor exhibits, I spent no more than $28! It made for a fun morning.


This Friday we are driving out to Portland for a week (we visited before in Jan. 2009). Catherine is attending the annual conference for the Public Library Association. While there I am meeting with someone at the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry about possibly doing a science education internship this summer. I may or may not have mentioned this, but my next degree following the completion of my Masters in History this May will be a Masters in Science Education, likely through an online program from Oregon State University in Corvallis. The history Ph.D. is not my route. I won’t start for a few years probably, to give some time to pay off some debt.

That said, in May we are moving to Portland. Catherine is actively seeking library positions in the area, and hence my interest in an internship at OMSI. If that happens, I will likely be working on the traveling exhibit Einstein, from late June to late September. Wish me luck for that internship! We will also continue our book-selling through Amazon (store/blog), but need to change our name to something not connected to a geographic location.

While in Portland next week, we are going to of course spend a day at OMSI, another day driving around exploring neighborhoods and libraries, a day to the coast, and while Catherine is at her conference, Patrick and I plan to visit the Japanese Gardens, take the aerial tram, and go to Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge for some birdwatching. We are renting a vacation house for the week in the John Landings neighborhood.

Any suggestions for Portland?

Any sciencey events next week I should know about?

Darwin’s Origin at the National Library of Australia

From the HIST-SCI-TECH listserve:

“What say the birds of Australia to this?” – Darwin’s Origin at the National Library of Australia

Earlier this year, the National Library of Australia acquired a copy of the first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, perhaps one of the most influential books of the nineteenth century.

Believed to be one of the earliest surviving copies of Darwin’s work to have arrived in Australia, the Library’s copy was first owned by Dr William Woolls of Parramatta, N.S.W. and it bears his inscription and the date March 17 1860 on the front free end paper. Woolls, a clergyman and schoolmaster, was also a noted botanist. He wrote many articles and papers on the subject and was made a fellow of the Linnean Society of London in 1865 and was later awarded a doctorate by the University of Göttingen for a dissertation on the botany of the Parramatta region. His name is commemorated in the genus Woollsia, as well as the name of six species.

The book contains many pencilled annotations made by Woolls and these provide a fascinating insight into the reception of Darwin’s revolutionary ideas on a well-educated reader at the other side of the world. Although many of the annotations have faded with the passage of time, some of Woolls notes are still legible. While some of the comments show agreement with Darwin’s theories, other comments call into question the author’s statements, in a couple of instances drawing upon Australian examples. Next to a passage on birds learning to fear man, for example, Woolls has written “what say the birds of Australia to this?”

The digital version of the Library’s copy of Origin is available through our catalogue:

Darwin Round-Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who can head the words of Charlie Darwin…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jerry Coyne on “Why Evolution is True”:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

One week and counting…

… until the fall semester starts. I’ve still got some summer reading to finish up. I’ve been spending time at our new apartment in Butte, Montana. Butte is about an hour (or a little more) west of Bozeman. Since July, my wife Catherine has been working her new job as the digital collections librarian at the Butte-Silverbow Public Library. Bozeman did not have much available for the kind of library job she needed. We planned on her communting to and fro, while I finish up my last year at MSU, and Patrick goes to the on-campus-daycare. Well, it turns out we are changing that. Over the next month we will move to the apartment in Butte (which cuts our rent in half), Patrick will attend a daycare in Butte, and I will commute for school.

So, this semester I have 2 graduate courses myself: world history and 3 credits to work on my own research. I am going to be a teaching assistant (my first time) for a religion course that focuses on the history of Jerusalem over four millenia and the intersection of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam there. This requires me to attend the lectures each week, and facilitate discussion in four 50-minute sessions each week, each with from 20-25 students. The class looks at history, and will not, the professor tells me, be about the theology.

On top of my classes and TAing, in October I am headed to London for a research trip to archives – to the Royal Institution for John Tyndall material (my master’s research), and Kew Gardens for Joseph Dalton Hooker material (for more work on my paper about Darwin’s seed dispersal experiments, which, having presented it at the conference in Cambridge in July, may get published as part of a volume from the Geological Society of London). November sees me attending my first meeting of the History of Science Society, in Phoenix. I will be giving a talk about my experience with blogging about the history of science (the student’s perspective). Another presenter in my session will discuss using blogs for teaching, and another about online image collections and teaching. I think someone was to present on teaching and history of science podcasts, but backed out. I am looking forward to this meeting because I will get to meet yet more science bloggers, and folks connected with the John Tyndall Correspondence Project.

A busy semester, but one I am excited about!


Yellowstone National Park, 1 Aug 2009

Cambridge Trip #6: Darwin the Geologist at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences

Monday, 13 July 2009

After a very nice sleep (not being nervous about presenting a paper) at Granta House, I looked forward to an entire day of relaxation and touring Cambridge. Here’s the street where my bed and breakfast was:

Street with Granta House, Cambridge, England

Street with Granta House, Cambridge, England

Our first stop was the Cambridge University Library to see the exhibit A Voyage Round the World, showcasing the library’s collection of documents, maps, drawings, books, etc. dealing with the voyage of HMS Beagle. An awesome exhibit, but unfortunately no pictures were allowed. I couldn’t even take a picture of a banner for the exhibit in the main lobby of the library. So Richard and I decided to pick up the exhibit’s companion book (Richard spotted me the tenner for it, thanks!). The library and the book:

Cambridge University Library

Cambridge University Library

A Voyage Round the World by Alison M. Pearn

A Voyage Round the World by Alison M. Pearn

Next we headed to the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, to see the new permanent exhibit Darwin the Geologist and the rest of the museum, which, if you like lots of old stuff (fossils, rocks, etc.) crammed in large wooden cabinets, is definitely a place to check out when in Cambridge. On the way there, though, we passed an interesting spot for history of science buffs, the Mathematical Bridge at Queen’s College, built in 1749:

Mathematical Bridge, The River Cam, University of Cambridge

Mathematical Bridge, The River Cam, University of Cambridge

The Queen’s College website debunks the myth that Isaac Newton designed and built the bridge without using nuts or bolts:

For those who have fallen prey to the baseless stories told by unscrupulous guides to gullible tourists, it is necessary to point out that Isaac Newton died in 1727, and therefore cannot possibly have had anything to do with this bridge. Anyone who believes that students or Fellows could have disassembled the bridge (and then failed to re-assemble it, as the myth runs) cannot have a serious grasp on reality, given the size and weight of the wooden members of the bridge. The joints of the present bridge are fastened by nuts and bolts. Earlier versions of the bridge used iron pins or screws at the joints, driven in from the outer elevation. Only a pedant could claim that the bridge was originally built without nails. Other baseless stories are that Etheridge had been a student, and/or had visited China.

Now some pictures from Darwin the Geologist:

Richard Carter observing Darwin the Geologist

Richard Carter observing Darwin the Geologist

Bust of Darwin by Anthony Smith, Darwin the Geologist

Bust of Young Darwin by Anthony Smith, Darwin the Geologist

Computer interactive shows posts from exhibits blog

Computer interactive shows posts from exhibit's blog

Another interactive showing rocks collected on Beagle voyage

Another interactive showing rocks collected on Beagle voyage

HMS Beagle Puzzle

HMS Beagle Puzzle

Darwin, the Young Collector

Darwin, the young collector

Influential books

Influential books

A Letter

A Letter

Fossil finds on the Beagle voyage

Fossil finds on the Beagle voyage

Signature in a geological notebook

Signature in a geological notebook

Recreation of Darwins cabin on HMS Beagle

Recreation of Darwin's cabin on HMS Beagle

The Andes

The Andes

Geologising at the Galapagos Islands

'Geologising' at the Galapagos Islands

Coral Reefs in the Pacific

Coral Reefs in the Pacific

Raw materials & precious metals

Raw materials & precious metals

Touch a rock

Touch a rock

Series of displays showing current research influenced by Darwin

Series of displays showing current research influenced by Darwin

Visitors observing Darwin the Geologist

Visitors observing Darwin the Geologist

Now a look at the rest of the museum:

The Irish Elk, Sedgwick Museum

The Irish Elk, Sedgwick Museum

Deinotherium, Sedgwick Museum

Deinotherium, Sedgwick Museum

Label on Deinotherium

Label on Deinotherium

Allosaurus skull

Allosaurus skull

Statue of Adam Sedgwick

Statue of Adam Sedgwick

The Burgess Shale, Sedgwick Museum

The Burgess Shale, Sedgwick Museum

Sedgwick Museum

Sedgwick Museum

Nice seating area with a kids Darwin library

Nice seating area with a kid's Darwin library

Richard said he saw Darwin in these brachipods. Do you?

Richard said he saw Darwin in these brachipods. Do you?

Iguanodon, Sedgwick Museum

Iguanodon, Sedgwick Museum

Tour group observing Darwin the Geologist

Tour group observing Darwin the Geologist

Typical display in the Sedgwick Museum

Typical display in the Sedgwick Museum

A familiar sight for a guy from Bozeman (Yellowstone)

A familiar sight for a guy from Bozeman (Yellowstone)

In my next post I will share some images from the University Museum of Zoology, including the Darwin exhibit Beetles, Finches and Barnacles.

You can view all the photos from my trip here, if you feel so inclined. Some of Richard’s Cambridge photos are here.

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Suzzallo Library, University of Washington, Darwin

I’ve been to this library a few times (my wife did her Masters in Library and Information Science through UW, online, and we went several times for her residency sessions). I never knew, however, that one of the statues (among many) decorating this library was Darwin. See here for more on the architecture of this library.

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).

One Way to Celebrate Darwin Day & Support Evolution Education

Jonathan Eisen posted 10 simple ways to honor Charlie D (aka Darwin) a few days before this past Darwin Day:

  1. Read one of his books OTHER than Origin of Species (see Darwin online for some there). My favorite is the Voyage of the Beagle but there are many others.
  2. Stop using the terms Darwinism and Darwinian evolution (seeSafina for more on this – I thought this article was a bit of overkill but still has some important points).
  3. Vote against anyone who says Intelligent Design should be taught in science class or that you should “teach the controversy.” Or at least endorse right thinking candidates.
  4. Contribute to evolution education in some way – teaching, writing a book, releasing teaching materials, donate to a museum (e.g., California Academy) or other organization (e.g., NCSE) or even the cool HMS Beagle Project. Just help educate the world about the science of evolution.
  5. Attend some Darwin Day celebration(s).
  6. Get a cool evolution tattoo (see Zimmer for more) or display your support in some outward way.
  7. Support the National Science Foundation (if you are in the US) as they are the strongest supporters of Evolution related research.
  8. Name your kid or pet or boat or city after him.
  9. Visit the Galapagos or at least check out the Darwin Station online.(see pics below …)
  10. Insert your own here …..

I will add to no. 4 that one could donate Darwin/evolution materials to their local public libraries. This past weekend, I visited Anaconda, MT (about 1.5 hours west of Bozeman), a small town that use to be home to the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. When looking around the public library (my wife attended a library conference there), several DVDs of the already small DVD collection stood out: The Case for a Creator, The Case for Christ, Discovering the Mystery of Life, and The Priviliged Planet:

Creationist/antievolution DVDs at a small town library

Creationist/antievolution DVDs at a small town library

In their catalog, I noticed that the Hearst Free Library also has Expelled. Any pro-evolution DVDs? No. They do have the Planet Earth series, however, and that was at the time checked out. I suspect that the pro-creationism/intelligent design DVDs may have been donated. All is fine. Public libraries should not censor materials. It does not upset me that a public library has those materials for people to check out – because people check out the materials on their own. But a library should also have materials offering a pro-evolution stance. I was saddened to see the several DVDs on the shelf and none in support of evolution. So, on Darwin Day (or any day of the year!) why not show your support for science education and donate pro-evolution books or DVDs to your local libraries, especially if it is a library that has difficulty expanding their collection…

As an aside, I was also struck by a portrait on the wall of the Hearst Free Library. The library building is over a century old, and is decorated with all kinds of paintings on its walls and display cases of rocks and shells, etc. But I thought it humorous when I saw a portrait of naturalist and antievolutionist Louis Agassiz:

Potrait of naturalist and antievolutionist Louis Agassiz

Louis Agassiz

Creation/Evolution Display in Renne Library, Montana State University

My contribution to Darwin 2009

My contribution to Darwin 2009

My university’s library does a new display in their lobby each month. I asked if I could do one for February, and they said yes. So, today I put up a display about the creation/evolution controversy in public schools (in February 2007 they did one specifically on Darwin). It is a timeline of some of the legal events in the issue, including one here in Montana (Darby Schools, 2004, see here), laid out on branches of a tree. All the books are either from the library’s collection or my own, and all of the additional literature on evolution and creationism and objects are mine as well. Check out photos here.

A new chapter in science and technology at Huntington Library

From the Los Angeles Times (11/1/08):

Science historian Dan Lewis opened the green cloth cover of “The Origin of Species,” Charles Darwin’s classic work on evolutionary biology, and flipped to Page 20.

And there, in the 11th line of text, was the telltale typo: “Speceies.”

That misprint marked the book as one of the 1,250 copies originally published in London in 1859.

“If you’re at a garage sale and you see an old copy, check for this,” said Lewis, an expert on the history of science and technology at the Huntington Library in San Marino.

Darwin’s book is part of a consolidation of the Huntington’s collection of rare science books with the 67,000-volume Burndy Library, which had been housed at MIT.

Roughly one-fifth of the Huntington’s holdings came through its 2006 acquisition of the Burndy collection, amassed by Bern Dibner, an electrical engineer and scholar who made a fortune after inventing the first solderless electrical connector in 1924.

The gift was made on the condition that the Huntington create a permanent exhibit on the history of science and technology. That promise is set to be fulfilled today with the opening of “Beautiful Science: Ideas That Changed the World,” a permanent exhibit dedicated to books, manuscripts, letters and scientific devices that tell the history of discovery in the fields of astronomy, natural history, medicine and light.

Read the rest of this article here. The Pasadena Star-News also has a piece on this exhibit, with a slideshow of images.

Huntington exhibit spotlights Darwin

From Pasadena Star-News:

Huntington exhibit spotlights Darwin

Photo Gallery: Darwin exhibit

MARINO – Nearly 150 years after Charles Darwin published his seminal work, “Origin of Species,” evolution is still a “polarizing word” in this country, David Zeidberg, director of the Huntington Library, said Friday.

Darwin may be best known for his study of animal evolution – long the primary source of religious debate. But, Zeidberg said, much of Darwin’s understanding of life on Earth was influenced by his lifelong botanical research into how plants change and adapt.

“Darwin’s Garden: An Evolutionary Adventure,” opening today at the Huntington, focuses on that aspect of his work.

The exhibit originated at the New York Botanical Garden and is making its only West Coast appearance at the Huntington. It illustrates the formation of Darwin’s ideas on evolution through more than 60 items, writings in his own hand, rare books and prints, including some from the Huntington’s own Darwin collection.

Darwin’s theory of evolution was formulated within a framework of religious belief, Zeidberg said, and in his time it wasn’t regarded as an “either/or” choice. Subtler “theories of transmutation” had been around for some time, Zeidberg said, put forward by people with religious upbringings suggesting that plants and animals adapted over time.

Proof of that theory in regard to plants is hard to argue with, Zeidberg said.

“There’s the hybridization of plants for food purposes,” he said. “If they were immutable, you couldn’t get a seedless grape.”

Dan Lewis, senior curator at the Huntington’s soon-to-open Dibner Hall of the History of Science, said he wasn’t surprised that evolution is still being questioned.

“Religious beliefs are resilient,” he said. “They live on in the face of many things people call rational or irrational – that’s what makes it faith.”

Still, if alternate theories such as creationism are taught as science rather than religion, Zeidberg said, they should be put to the same rigorous scientific tests as evolution.

The Darwin exhibit has a strong personal touch, reaching back to his childhood in England. A chalk portrait from 1816, with his sister Catherine, shows the 6-year-old Darwin clutching a potted plant to his chest.

The exhibit’s three parts highlight his early formative years and education; his development of “Origin of Species,” based on his botanical research; and evolutionary botany. It chronicles his voyage aboard HMS Beagle, 1831-36, where he collected plants in the Galapagos Islands.

The exhibit runs through Jan. 5 at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, 1151 Oxford Road. For information, visit or call (626) 405-2100.

Darwin’s Garden Opens at The Huntington Library


Darwin’s Garden: An Evolutionary Adventure Opens at The Huntington Library

SAN MARINO, CA Charles Darwin (1809–1882) is best known for his theory of evolution and other natural history achievements, but little is known about his enduring and insightful work with plants and the important role they played in formulating his ideas. “Darwin’s Garden: An Evolutionary Adventure” at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens explores the untold story of these botanical influences, Darwin’s research, his contribution to the understanding of plants, and ultimately, of life in general. The exhibition will be on display in the West Hall of the Library from Oct. 4, 2008, to Jan. 5, 2009.

The exhibition originated at the New York Botanical Garden, with curator David Kohn, Darwin expert and Drew University science and society professor emeritus. “Kohn amply illustrates that Darwin’s early work in botany was the basis for his theories of evolution,” says David Zeidberg, the Avery Director of the Huntington Library, who welcomes the exhibition to its only traveling venue. “Origin of Species focuses on animals, but it was Darwin’s work on plants that laid the foundation for the great work.” Next year marks the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the book.

The exhibition features more than 60 items, including rare books, manuscripts, and prints from the New York Botanical Garden’s collection and loans from private individuals and institutions such as the Cambridge Herbarium, Cambridge University Library, Down House (Darwin’s home), the archives and library of the Gray Herbarium of Harvard University, and the Lindley Library of the Royal Horticultural Society. Some items from Cambridge are too fragile to travel, but facsimiles will Darwin’s Garden: An Evolutionary Adventure be available for viewing. The Huntington will display its own copies of a selection of items from the exhibition checklist, including The Botanic Garden (1791) by Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin; Robert Hooke’s Micrographia (1665), which features drawings of the first microscopic views of plant cells; and James Bateman’s The Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatamala (1837–43), a large-format book containing 40 color plates of orchids.

Darwin’s work with plants provided credible and enduring evidence in support of his theory of evolution through natural selection. He laid the foundation of modern botany as an evolutionary discipline. Darwin also became an expert on virtually every British species of orchid. He discovered and demonstrated that the key to orchid pollination was the touch of an insect’s proboscis, which releases spring-loaded pollen. From this breakthrough Darwin structured a convincing argument for adaptation by natural selection. He contended that plants—no less than animals—are sensitive creatures in possession of behaviors that permit them to respond to their environment, including elements such as sunlight, touch, and gravity. Plants climb over neighbors, track the movement of the sun, capture and digest insects, and respond to the “touch from a child’s hair.” Darwin delighted in discovering these adaptations.

The exhibition is divided into three parts: Darwin’s formative years in education; development of Origin of Species based on botanical work; and evolutionary botany. As an undergraduate, Darwin collected specimens for his botany professor’s herbarium. While still a young man, he traveled aboard the HMS Beagle, writing in his journal that his mind was “a chaos of delight” as he reveled in the luxuriance of tropical forests. He spent much of his time collecting plants along with fossil bones and bird skins. Darwin’s collection of “all plants in flower” from the Galápagos Islands, for example, became the basis for the first flora of that archipelago and provided his strongest evidence for evolution.

“Even before he had gone on that trip, he began to crossbreed plants,” says Zeidberg. “This early study of variation would become another principle of Origin of Species and one of the underlying concepts of the notion of survival of the fittest.”

The exhibition also chronicles Darwin’s professional friendships and intellectual exchanges with leading botanists of the era, including Joseph Dalton Hooker, director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, and Asa Gray, renowned Harvard University botanist, and shows how they contributed to Origin of Species.

The exhibition begins just weeks before the grand opening of The Huntington’s new Dibner Hall on the History of Science. The permanent installation, titled “Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World,” opens Nov. 1 and will showcase galleries devoted to four subject areas: astronomy, natural history, medicine, and light. The section devoted to natural history will include a 20 foot wide display of more than 300 editions and translations of Origins of Species, including one of The Huntington’s four copies of the first edition of that seminal work.

A catalog of the exhibition, Darwin’s Garden: An Evolutionary Adventure, by guest curator David Kohn, will be available for purchase in the Huntington Bookstore & More.