ARTICLE: Darwin’s Technology of Life

In the journal Isis for December 2019:

Darwin’s Technology of Life

Giuliano Pancaldi

Abstract Some of Darwin’s views on descent with modification were developed alongside his adoption of a number of concepts inspired by the domain that we would now call science and technology. Focusing on the period from Darwin’s circumnavigation journey to the publication of the Origin in 1859, this essay explores the rich manuscript and published documentation left by Darwin to trace in detail his exposure to contemporary technologies and notions of invention. It argues that the parallel Darwin established on several occasions between the history of life on earth and human inventions was more than a metaphor. According to Darwin’s radical evolutionary perspective, life and invention—including his own theory explaining descent with modification—belonged to the same domain. It further argues that Darwin’s technology of life approach allowed him to make room for a plurality of causes driving evolutionary change, while at the same time avoiding the question of the origin of life. This same approach helped him to mold his scientific persona, while marking his distance from a mixed population of naturalists that included materialists as well as exponents of speculative German natural philosophy, although these were all frequent sources of reflection during his most creative years.

PLAY AGAIN

[Cross-posted from Exploring Portland’s Natural Areas]

On Friday night Patrick and I headed to the Multnomah Arts Center in Portland for a free screening of the documentary PLAY AGAIN. Here’s a description:

One generation from now most people in the U.S. will have spent more time in the virtual world than in nature. New media technologies have improved our lives in countless ways. Information now appears with a click. Overseas friends are part of our daily lives. And even grandma loves Wii.

But what are we missing when we are behind screens? And how will this impact our children, our society, and eventually, our planet?

At a time when children play more behind screens than outside, PLAY AGAIN explores the changing balance between the virtual and natural worlds. Is our connection to nature disappearing down the digital rabbit hole?

This moving and humorous documentary follows six teenagers who, like the “average American child,” spend five to fifteen hours a day behind screens. PLAY AGAIN unplugs these teens and takes them on their first wilderness adventure – no electricity, no cell phone coverage, no virtual reality.

Through the voices of children and leading experts including journalist Richard Louv, sociologist Juliet Schor, environmental writer Bill McKibben, educators Diane Levin and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, neuroscientist Gary Small, parks advocate Charles Jordan, and geneticist David Suzuki, PLAY AGAIN investigates the consequences of a childhood removed from nature and encourages action for a sustainable future.

I really enjoyed the film, and the different personalities of the six Portland-based teenagers and their various reactions to being outside. They were taken into wilderness by TrackersPDX, a wilderness survival education group in Portland. While the teenagers learned to construct their own bows and arrows, I felt something was lacking in the film: a general sense of wonder about nature. In order to connect our youth with nature, to get themselves away from their televisions, computers, and various hand-held devices, must they learn to be, as TrackersPDX classifies, Rangers, Wilders, Mariners, and Artisans? I believe connecting to nature is fulfilled by the simple act of being in nature, by observing landscapes and wildlife and flowers and rivers, and the interactions between it all. If students want to learn how to survive in the wild, that’s okay, but I think the first start to moving away from screens is by showing children the inherent awesomeness of nature.

That said, the film is great, and there are some nice thoughts from Louv, McKibben, and Suzuki about the larger picture. How can we expect our children growing up now and children-to-be to make crucial decisions about their world if they have never had any experiences in nature. From the film: “What they do not know, they will not protect and what they do not protect they will lose” (Charles Jordan, previous Portland Parks and Recreation Director).

I wish I had the money to buy a copy of the film they had there.

Producer Meg Merrill was on hand at the screening, as were two of the teenagers. Some photos:

Play Again producer Meg Merrill

Play Again producer Meg Merrill

Play Again producer Meg Merrill and teenagers from the film

Play Again producer Meg Merrill and teenagers from the film

Play Again poster

Play Again poster

Patrick on stage at the Multnomah Arts Center

Patrick on stage at the Multnomah Arts Center

Teenagers from Play Again film talk to viewers

Teenagers from Play Again film talk to viewers

I encourage you to peruse the film’s website, Facebook page, and here’s the trailer:

Further clips from the film (some not in final version):

Some local media:
Moms’ film counters nature-deficit disorder Moms make work of play, nature in film
New documentary ‘Play Again’ unplugs six Portland-area teens
‘Play Again’ returns to Portland roots with environmental cause

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

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

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

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

ExplorationWorks, Helena, MT

Great Northern Town Center, Helena, MT

You can see more photos here.

Darwin’s Marginalia

Darwin wrote in his books. Soon we may all be able to read what he scribbled on those pages – easily. From JISC:

The hand-written annotations Charles Darwin made on 700 of the books in his personal library were painstakingly transcribed in the 1980s [and published in Charles Darwin’s Marginalia in 1990].  

Now, thanks to high-resolution digital imagery and an international partnership between Cambridge University Library, Darwin Manuscripts Project at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Natural History Museum in London and the Biodiversity Heritage Library (a collective of ten major natural history museum libraries, botanical libraries, and research institutions in the US and UK), Darwin’s marginalia will be digitally married to the texts they illuminate, allowing scholars to learn his thoughts on a wide range of topics.

The project is supported by the JISC/NEH Transatlantic Digitization Collaboration grant programme offered by the NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) and JISC.

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.

PREVIOUS: Cambridge Trip #5: Darwin Groupies Explore CambridgeCambridge Trip #4: Darwin in the Field Conference, Pt. 2Cambridge Trip #3: Darwin in the Field ConferenceCambridge Trip #2: Finding My WayCambridge Trip #1: Traveling

Darwin exhibit brings British naturalist to life

17th-Century Garb? (read the article)

17th-Century Garb? (read the article)

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Darwin exhibit brings British naturalist to life

Curious whether Charles Darwin got in trouble as a kid? Wonder what he’d say to people who don’t believe his theory of evolution? Have questions about the English naturalist’s religious views?

Ask him yourself.

Duquesne University reveals its “synthetic” Darwin at the Carnegie Science Center today. The permanent exhibit centers around a video projection of an actor answering questions as though he were Darwin being interviewed in his study. Visitors ask questions using a touch screen monitor arranged to look like Darwin’s cluttered desk.

“Nobody knows Darwin as a person,” said Duquesne biology professor John Pollock, co-creator of synthetic Darwin. “They’ve heard of evolution, they’ve heard his name, maybe, but a lot of people don’t even know he was English.”

To help people get to know the pioneering scientist, whose 200th birthday is a week from today, Pollock and fellow Duquesne biophysics professor David Lampe partnered with city institutions to create lectures and exhibits about him.

Schools can use a version of synthetic Darwin in lesson plans; museums can buy the software for their own exhibits.

To breathe life into Darwin, dead 126 years, the professors turned to actor Randy Kovitz of Lawrenceville and Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center, which created synthetic interviews with Benjamin Franklin and George Westinghouse.

“It’s a way to make history a living, breathing experience,” said Shirley Saldamarco, supervising producer at the technology center.

Kovitz was fitted with a bald-cap, bushy sideburns and 17th-century garb. He perfected a British accent and read up on Darwin, deciding to portray him with enthusiasm for science shown through gestures and tone of voice.

Saldamarco’s team filmed Kovitz for three days answering 199 of the most popular questions from a survey of 1,000 Pittsburghers. The answers were researched by Lampe and based on Darwin’s writing. Several of the questions were put to scientists, lawyers and religious leaders. Their answers are included in the exhibit to provide modern-day perspective.

On Wednesday morning, Kovitz got his first look at the man whose character he assumed.

“It’s really disconcerting,” said Kovitz, whose 30-year acting career includes movies, TV shows and Broadway plays.

“Really, I just tried to be as honest as I could with what I was saying, because they were his words,” Kovitz said. “I’m very pleased that it could be used to educate people, especially kids, about Darwin and his work.”

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.

HOST: Journal of History of Science and Technology

HoST is “an on-line international journal devoted to the History of Science and Technology. It explores the cultural and social dimensions of science and technology in history across the world,” and is “edited in Lisbon by a group of Portuguese historians of science and technology but it aims to publish contributions from scholars worldwide and reach an international audience. It only accepts papers in English as a strong commitment to cross-cultural dialogue.”

Other online history of science journals: Spontaneous Generations and Hydra.

Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Awards

Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Awards

The American Computer Museum proudly announces the Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Awards which will be presented by Dr. Wilson in person on April 9, 2009 in Bozeman, Montana to honorees whose scientific discoveries, inventions or work has helped advance the biodiversity of life on Earth.

Dr. Edward O. Wilson is Pellegrino University Research Professor in Entomology for the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. Biography

Thursday, April 9, 2009 schedule:

1:30 P.M.: Free public forum at the Montana State University Brick Breeden Fieldhouse (no tickets required to attend) with Dr. Wilson, the honorees and special guests.

6:30 P.M.: Awards dinner by reservation only at the Montana State University Strand Union Building. For dinner ticket information please call (406) 582-1288.

Sponsors: Montana State University’s College of Letters & Science   College of Engineering  Humanities Institute

Additional sponsorships are available for individuals and organizations from both the public and private sectors. For information on becoming a sponsor please call (406) 582-1288.

The six honorees are:

 

For exemplary scientific and public outreach work: Dr. Jane Lubchenco (Yes, that Jane)

For seminal and exemplary mathematical work with the development and applications of fractals: Dr. Benoît Mandelbrot

For seminal and exemplary engineering work with Ecohydrology: Dr. Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe

 

For pioneering and seminal scientific work with climatology, global warming and other aspects of atmospheric science: Dr. Steve Running

For exemplary scientific and public outreach work: Dr. Michael Soulé

For scientific work with thermal/hot spring microbial diversity, ecology and evolution: Dr. David Ward

Please click here for more information on the honorees.

 

External Hard Drive

I need to get one to store thousands of photos and lots of short videos… any recommendations for a brand/type of external hard drive, under $100?


I’ve been saving photos/videos to CDs, and recently one disc of videos of my son is now not responding when I insert in in my laptop, which probably means I didn’t burn the videos on it right (but I usually check that things go on discs when I burn), or for some reason the disc is worthless now… I need something easier and more reliable than the many CDs I have accumulated since my son was born…

The Beagle Project’s Big News

I am slow to share this news, but the HMS Beagle Project (now a registered charity) has announced their partnership with NASA:

We’re going to be working with NASA on a joint science, education and outreach programme centred on a direct link between the International Space Station and the new Beagle as she retraces the 1831-1836 voyage that carried a certain young naturalist around the world.

For budding biologists and astronauts alike, the new Beagle shall inspire all!

Congrats Karen & Peter…

Darwin’s Famous Journey Is Recreated in Second Life

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Darwin’s Famous Journey Is Recreated in Second Life

The ways in which people celebrate the life and work of Charles Darwin are evolving.

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, the University of Cincinnati has recreated the Galapagos Islands, where Darwin conducted some of his famous research, in Second Life. The project is part of the university’s 2009 Darwin Sesquicentennial Celebration.

Read the rest of this article.

How to Show Natural History: the Old & the New

the Old: Living on Earth‘s radio show for the week of August 15th:

Amazing Rare Things: Naturalist and documentary film-maker Sir David Attenborough talks with host Steve Curwood about his book, “Amazing Rare Things: The Art of Natural History in the Age of Discovery.” In the book, Sir Attenborough explores how artists exposed Europeans to nature in the New World, beginning in the 15th century.”

the New: iNaturalist.org:

“iNaturalist.org encourages the participation of all nature enthusiasts, including, but not exclusive to, hikers, hunters, birders, beach combers, mushroom foragers, park rangers, ecologists, and fishermen. Through these different perceptions and expertise of the natural world, we hope to create extensive community awareness of local biodiversity. This site combines common web technologies to provide a fun and efficient way to record, find, and share nature observations. It also provides forums and community spaces for nature enthusiasts to interact and meet others with similar interests. Through fostering these nature observations and communities, we hope to encourage further exploration and appreciation of our local environments.” [Hat-tip to Bora]

REPOST: The 2009 Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Awards

NOTE: In efforts to “spread the good news” about these awards, please do share this, especially if you have a science/nature blog or other online forum suitable for this.

I am happy to announce this information from George Keremedjiev and Bozeman’s American Computer Museum. In 2006, biologist Edward O. Wilson visited, gave a lecture, and signed books in Bozeman, as part of accepting the 2006 George R. Stibitz Computer and Communications Award for his proposal to create an electronic encyclopedia of all life (EOL, and see this TED talk).

Now, Bozeman and Montana State University will host in 2009 the first ceremony for recipients of the Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Awards, which, according to the
website, “will will be presented by Dr. Wilson in person to honorees who have pioneered, invented, developed or used modern technology to help advance the biodiversity of life on planet Earth.”

A free public forum in the afternoon and a tickets-required awards dinner in the evening are scheduled for Thursday, April 9, 2009.

Four honorees have been announced so far:

Dr. Jane Lubchenco Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology, Distinguished Professor of Zoology, Oregon State University
Dr. Steve Running Professor & Director, Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group (NTSG), College of Forestry & Conservation, University of Montana, Missoula, MT
Dr. Michael Soulé Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz
Dr. David Ward Professor of Microbial Ecology, Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, Montana State UniversityBozeman, MT

Updates about the awards, the events, and its honorees will be updated on this website.

[Photo credit: E.O. Wilson signing books in Bozeman, Montana, 2006]

Links to this post:
Uncommon Ground
The Ant Room

The 2009 Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Awards

NOTE: In efforts to “spread the good news” about these awards, please do share this, especially if you have a science/nature blog or other online forum suitable for this.

I am happy to announce this information from George Keremedjiev and Bozeman’s American Computer Museum. In 2006, biologist Edward O. Wilson visited, gave a lecture, and signed books in Bozeman, as part of accepting the 2006 George R. Stibitz Computer and Communications Award for his proposal to create an electronic encyclopedia of all life (EOL, and see this TED talk).

Now, Bozeman and Montana State University will host in 2009 the first ceremony for recipients of the Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Awards, which, according to the website, “will will be presented by Dr. Wilson in person to honorees who have pioneered, invented, developed or used modern technology to help advance the biodiversity of life on planet Earth.”

A free public forum in the afternoon and a tickets-required awards dinner in the evening are scheduled for Thursday, April 9, 2009.

Four honorees have been announced so far:

Dr. Jane Lubchenco Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology, Distinguished Professor of Zoology, Oregon State University
Dr. Steve Running Professor & Director, Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group (NTSG), College of Forestry & Conservation, University of Montana, Missoula, MT
Dr. Michael Soulé Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz
Dr. David Ward Professor of Microbial Ecology, Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, Montana State UniversityBozeman, MT

Updates about the awards, the events, and its honorees will be updated on this website.
Links to this post:

Exhibit: "Gutenberg: Religion, Science & Literature"

A new exhibit at Bozeman’s American Computer Museum, mentioned on this blog here.

Exhibit traces history of knowledge
By KARIN RONNOW Chronicle Staff Writer
The history of written communication – books, newspapers and even e-mails – dates back at least 4,300 years, George Keremedjiev says, pointing at a clay tablet from what is now Iraq, “where writing began.” Then came the alphabets and numerals in Arabic, Egyptian and Greek, Keremedjiev, founder of the American Computer Museum in Bozeman, said. By the Middle Ages, Catholic monks hovered over parchment, copying the Bible in Latin by hand, letter by letter in tiny script.Then in 1450, Johannes Gutenberg invented a mechanical printing press and the information revolution began, Keremedjiev said.The written word and ideas suddenly became available to the European masses. Long-held precepts were challenged. Ideas were written down and published.
All of this is summarized in a new exhibit “Gutenberg: Religion, Science & Literature,” at the computer museum on North Seventh Avenue. The one-of-a-kind, somewhat eclectic collection celebrates the 550th anniversary of the Gutenberg press, and opens Saturday, Dec. 22. “I realized that a lot of people were not cognizant that the information age goes back centuries, to the Gutenberg press and the history of the book,” Keremedjiev said Thursday. “That isn’t taught in schools right now. And young people, especially, have to know this history because their world is so different from all of this. “It all goes back to books,” he said. So Keremedjiev designed an exhibit to tell that story.

The centerpiece is an 1816 “faithful reproduction” of the original press from the American Bible Society in New York City. “I had a dream about two months ago that I should get a Gutenberg press,” he said. “I got online and found a 10-year-old e-mail on a blog” indicating that the Bible society was looking for a home for the thick, weighty, wooden replica. He got in touch, and it turned out the press hadn’t yet been adopted. One thing led to another and the press was shipped to the museum this fall. Keremedjiev, whose day job is helping to automate manufacturing plants around the world, collects artifacts of the history of knowledge. His collection, now part of the nonprofit museum, includes everything from centuries-old books by Charles Darwin and Sir Isaac Newton, to mainframe computers that fill a room to laptop computers that are so big and clunky they’re really, he says, “more like ‘thigh-top.’” But all of that can be traced to Gutenberg, a goldsmith, businessman and inventor, who invented the press in the mid-15th century in Germany’s Rhine Valley. The first movable type, made of clay, was actually invented in China in 1041. Gutenberg mechanized the technology. He combined movable type, oil-based ink and a wooden printing press – much like the screw olive and wine presses of his day — to make a practical printing system, according to Wikipedia. “Legend has it that the idea came to him ‘like a ray of light.’”

To put Gutenberg in historical context, the Web site for his hometown (http://www.mainz.de/gutenberg/english/index.htm) offers this: “The 15th century marks the transition from the Middle Ages to Modern Times. In virtually all areas of human interaction there were far-reaching changes. Dangerous and long sea voyages of Portuguese and Spanish explorers opened up new worlds. Technical innovations, a marked increase in written communication even outside monastery walls, attempts to reform the church, a first spread of humanistic thought, as well as new art forms were some of the positive developments of this time.” The first book off Gutenberg’s press was a Bible, a page, or “leaf,” of which is displayed in the exhibit. About 180 Gutenberg Bibles were printed, most on paper and a few on “exquisite parchment,” according to Gutenberg’s hometown Web site. The books sold for 30 florins apiece, about three years’ wages for an average clerk. An estimated 48 Gutenberg Bibles exist today.

Gutenberg’s invention made it possible to produce less-expensive books more rapidly, which in turn contributed to the rise of science, the Renaissance and the Reformation, according to historians.Keremedjiev said he “rounded up books that changed the world,” for the exhibit. For example, there is Francis Bacon’s book about his contention that “there were two ways to understand the world,” Keremedjiev said, “religious revelation and observations of nature. And they coexisted.” He also has early editions of works by the “father of science” Galileo Galilei, philosopher John Locke, astronomer Johannes Kepler and theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, among others. The books illustrate the evolution of knowledge that led, centuries later, to the invention of the computer. Keremedjiev, who knows the story of each author/scientist and of each book, drew from private collections, including his own, to assemble the exhibit.

“Gutenberg” will be on display for three months. Schools, churches and private groups are encouraged to call for reservations.For more information, visit http://www.compustory.com/.