Darwin, evolution & science books for holiday gift giving (2019)

This is a great time of the year to gift science books to family and friends, or even yourself – axial tilt is the reason for the season, after all. Here are some recent books about Darwin, evolution, and related topics:

FOR YOUNGER READERS

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Darcy Pattison, Pollen: Darwin’s 130 Year Prediction (Little Rock, AR: Mims House, 2019, 33 pp.; illustrated by Peter Willis) ~ This award-winning book looks at a very specific aspect of Darwin’s work: his predicting that a type of moth would be found that would be adapted to pollinating a specific orchid flower. The year is 1862, and Darwin receives a package with a specimen of a star orchid from Madagascar, with a 11.5 inch nectary. He predicts that a species of moth with a very long proboscis (a flexible, elongated part of an insect’s mouth) must exist in Madagascar that can pollinate such a flower. Darwin knew of no such species, and his fellow naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace thought about this problem too. Darwin died without such a species being found, but in 1903 a new species of hawk moth from Madagascar was described that indeed had such a proboscis. While many considered this moth and the star orchid to be a great match, still no one had witnessed the act of pollination between the two. Not until 1992, at least, when the German entomologist Lutz Thilo Wasserthal set up a camera in a tent where he placed some of these orchids, and while the moth is rare he was able to capture a photo of this species pollinating the star orchid. And thus, Darwin’s prediction 130 years before was shown as correct. This book does a great job in telling a scientific mystery story and introducing various biological concepts. The publisher also has children’s books about the physicist Michael Faraday, the physicist Ernst Chladni, and on how a 1919 eclipse tested Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Order Pollen: Darwin’s 130 Year Prediction: Publisher, Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound (for those wishing to learn more about this topic, check out these three articles: 1/2/3).

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Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species adapted and illustrated by Sabina Radeva (New York: Penguin/Crown Books for Young Readers, 2019, 64 pp.; see some images here) This is a beautiful adaptation of Origin for elementary-aged children. The author, a graphic designer with a background in biology, begins by sharing a Biblical view of creation via illustration (without mention of the Bible or Christianity), followed by a brief overview of Buffon’s and Lamarck’s thoughts. Then comes Darwin, the Beagle voyage, and his return home to England and his long, hard work on his theory until he publishes Origin. The focus then turns from Darwin’s life to the theory itself: variation in nature is covered before discussing artificial selection, then the struggle for existence before introducing natural selection. The Tree of Life concept comes next, followed by discussions of the difficulties that Darwin anticipated about his theory and tackled in his book: the imperfection of the geological record, organs of extreme perfection, instinct, migration (geographical distribution), and the mutual affinities of organic beings. The book largely follows the organization of Origin, and toward the end the author shares a quote from Darwin – “In the distant future I see open fields for far more important research… Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history” – next to an image of the familiar, but unfortunately erroneous, depiction of the evolution of man from apes as a linear process ending in Darwin himself (this type of illustration is known as the “March of Progress”). While I adore the rest of this book, I am bummed that this depiction of evolution crept in – it remains pervasive in people’s understanding of the subject. That said, the whole of the book is splendid, richly illustrated and peppered with many quotes from Origin, and includes much more information in an author’s note, a list of misconceptions about evolution, and an appendix bringing recent ideas in biology to bear on Darwin’s theory. Radeva has done a fine job of making Darwin’s theory comprehensible for younger readers. Order Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: Publisher, Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound (Richard at The Friends of Charles Darwin also shared about this book, the UK version).

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Blake Edgar, Smithsonian Dinosaurs and Other Amazing Creatures from Deep Time (New York: Penguin/Smithsonian Books, 2019, 64 pp.) ~ Earlier in 2019, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC reopened its long-awaited renovation of their fossil halls, called Deep Time. My spouse and son were fortunate to spend some time there recently on a quick DC trip over Thanksgiving break (I shared a short video my son took on Twitter). This is a companion book to the exhibit, and includes breathtaking artwork from paleoartist Julius Csotonyi (his paintings serve as murals throughout the exhibit). The publisher describes the book as “present[ing] some of Earth’s strangest and most unusual creatures from as early as 3.8 billion years ago. Beginning with the first evidence of life, it moves through periods of biodiversity and mass extinction and into a look at the first dinosaurs, mammals, pterosaurs, and other fauna and flora from the Archean to the Quarternary eras. It offers a rare look at some of the world’s most fascinating creatures from sauropods, the largest creatures to ever walk the land, to the top carnivorous predator Tyrannosaurus rex, as well as the mastodons, saber-toothed cats, dire wolves, walrus-whales, and other beasts that seem outlandish to us now.” This is a book that children and adults can both enjoy. Order Smithsonian Dinosaurs and Other Amazing Creatures from Deep Time: Publisher, Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

FOR OLDER READERS

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Bill Jenkins, Evolution Before Darwin: Theories of the Transmutation of Species in Edinburgh (New York: Edinburgh University Press, 2019, 232pp.) ~  Publisher’s description: “This book is the first major study of what was probably the most important centre of pre-Darwinian evolutionary thought in the British Isles. It sheds new light on the genesis and development of one of the most important scientific theories in the history of western thought. It was long believed that evolutionary theories received an almost universally cold reception in British natural history circles in the first half of the nineteenth century. However, a relatively recently serious doubt has been cast on this assumption. This book shows that Edinburgh in the late 1820s and early 1830s was witness to a ferment of radical new ideas on the natural world, including speculation on the origin and evolution of life, at just the time when Charles Darwin was a student in the city. Those who were students in Edinburgh at the time could have hardly avoided coming into contact with these new ideas.” Order Evolution Before Darwin: Publisher, Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

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Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species (London: Natural History Museum, 2019, 520 pp.) ~ This is a small, and handsome facsimile edition of the second edition of Origin from 1860, with a green cover mimicking that of the original first edition from 1859 (the title page bears a stamp stating “British Museum Natural History”, so I assume this is taken from the Natural History Museum’s own collection). Darwin’s single diagram of a tree of life is included as the book’s endpapers, and while the text is that of the second, the “Historical Sketch” from the third edition is included. From the short introduction: “Reproduced here is the second edition… which is essentially the same as the first edition, with a few minor corrections, and so reflects Darwin’s original thoughts before the additional evidence and reviews emerged” (anyone wishing to learn in great detail the difference between the different editions of Origin and their publication histories should head here). While there are many current editions of Darwin’s Origin one could have on their shelf, this affordable and highly-pleasing edition would be a great way to go. Order On the Origin of Species: Publisher, Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

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Ricardo Rozzi, Kurt Heidinger, and Francisca Massardo, Tracing Darwin’s Path in Cape Horn (Denton/Punta Arenas, Chile: University of North Texas Press/ Universidad de Magallanes, 2018, 288 pp.) ~ This is quite the book for any serious Darwin aficionado or armchair – or actual – traveler/naturalist. From the publisher: “Charles Darwin spent the majority of his 1831-1836 voyage around the world in southern South America, and his early experiences in the Cape Horn region seem to have triggered his first ideas on human evolution. Darwin was not only a field naturalist, but also a scholar of the observations of the European explorers who preceded him. This book illuminates the foundations of Cape Horn’s natural history that oriented Darwin’s own explorations and his ideas on evolution, which acquire the highest relevance for planetary sustainability and environmental ethics. Richly illustrated with maps and color photographs, this book offers a guide to the sites visited by Darwin, and a compass for present-day visitors who can follow Darwin’s path over the sea and land that today are protected by the UNESCO Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve.” Order Tracing Darwin’s Path in Cape Horn: Publisher, Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

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Susannah Gibson, The Spirit of Inquiry: How One Extraordinary Society Shaped Modern Science (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019, 400 pp.) ~ From the publisher: “Cambridge is now world-famous as a centre of science, but it wasn’t always so. Before the nineteenth century, the sciences were of little importance in the University of Cambridge. But that began to change in 1819 when two young Cambridge fellows took a geological fieldtrip to the Isle of Wight. Adam Sedgwick and John Stevens Henslow spent their days there exploring, unearthing dazzling fossils, dreaming up elaborate theories about the formation of the earth, and bemoaning the lack of serious science in their ancient university. As they threw themselves into the exciting new science of geology – conjuring millions of years of history from the evidence they found in the island’s rocks – they also began to dream of a new scientific society for Cambridge. This society would bring together like-minded young men who wished to learn of the latest science from overseas, and would encourage original research in Cambridge. It would be, they wrote, a society “to keep alive the spirit of inquiry”. Their vision was realised when they founded the Cambridge Philosophical Society later that same year. Its founders could not have imagined the impact the Cambridge Philosophical Society would have: it was responsible for the first publication of Charles Darwin’s scientific writings, and hosted some of the most heated debates about evolutionary theory in the nineteenth century; it saw the first announcement of x-ray diffraction by a young Lawrence Bragg – a technique that would revolutionise the physical, chemical and life sciences; it published the first paper by C.T.R. Wilson on his cloud chamber – a device that opened up a previously-unimaginable world of sub-atomic particles. 200 years on from the Society’s foundation, this book reflects on the achievements of Sedgwick, Henslow, their peers, and their successors. Susannah Gibson explains how Cambridge moved from what Sedgwick saw as a “death-like stagnation” (really little more than a provincial training school for Church of England clergy) to being a world-leader in the sciences. And she shows how science, once a peripheral activity undertaken for interest by a small number of wealthy gentlemen, has transformed into an enormously well-funded activity that can affect every aspect of our lives.” Order The Spirit of Inquiry: How One Extraordinary Society Shaped Modern Science: Publisher, Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound (reviews can be found at Nature, Kirkus Reviews, The Biologist, The Geological Society, and Times Higher Education).

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Nature’s Explorers: Adventurers who recorded the wonders of the natural world (London: Natural History Museum, 2019, 240 pp.) ~ Ten years ago I had the pleasure of spending a little time in the library at the Natural History Museum, London. I was offered a look at Alfred Russel Wallace material there. So many books on shelves and some on display on top of the shelves, one could have spent all day perusing the collection of historic natural history texts. Fortunately, the museum’s publishing division regularly puts out books that showcase what’s in their collection and beyond, such as Expeditions and Endeavours: Images of Nature, Women Artists: Images of Nature, Art of Nature: Three Centuries of Natural History Art from Around the World, Rare Treasures from the Library of the Natural History Museum, and The Art of British Natural History. The current book, Nature Explorer’s, consists of chapters on 23 explorers and naturalists with full color images of natural history illustrations, portraits, maps, or other drawings. For folks interested in Darwin, he’s here of course, as well as Wallace, botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker, Wallace’s fellow explorer in the Amazon, Henry Walter Bates, ornithologist John Gould, and Conrad Martens, the artist on HMS Beagle from 1832-4. That’s only six chapters – there’s plenty to explore in the other seventeen, folks whose work “constituted what we might now look back on and recognise as a first broad survey of our planet, its life and its people” Order Nature’s Explorers: Adventurers who recorded the wonders of the natural world: Publisher, Amazon (UK), Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

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Charles H. Smith, James T. Costa, and David Collard, eds., An Alfred Russel Wallace Companion (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019, 416 pp.) ~ I will be reviewing this book in the near future for Reports of the National Center for Science Education, so for now will simply share the publisher’s description: “Although Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913) was one of the most famous scientists in the world at the time of his death at the age of ninety, today he is known to many as a kind of ‘almost-Darwin,’ a secondary figure relegated to the footnotes of Darwin’s prodigious insights. But this diminution could hardly be less justified. Research into the life of this brilliant naturalist and social critic continues to produce new insights into his significance to history and his role in helping to shape modern thought. Wallace declared his eight years of exploration in southeast Asia to be ‘the central and controlling incident’ of his life. As 2019 marks one hundred and fifty years since the publication of The Malay Archipelago, Wallace’s canonical work chronicling his epic voyage, this collaborative book gathers an interdisciplinary array of writers to celebrate Wallace’s remarkable life and diverse scholarly accomplishments. Wallace left school at the age of fourteen and was largely self-taught, a voracious curiosity and appetite for learning sustaining him throughout his long life. After years as a surveyor and builder, in 1848 he left Britain to become a professional natural history collector in the Amazon, where he spent four years. Then, in 1854, he departed for the Malay Archipelago. It was on this voyage that he constructed a theory of natural selection similar to the one Charles Darwin was developing, and the two copublished papers on the subject in 1858, some sixteen months before the release of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. But as the contributors to the Companion show, this much-discussed parallel evolution in thought was only one epoch in an extraordinary intellectual life. When Wallace returned to Britain in 1862, he commenced a career of writing on a huge range of subjects extending from evolutionary studies and biogeography to spiritualism and socialism. An Alfred Russel Wallace Companion provides something of a necessary reexamination of the full breadth of Wallace’s thought—an attempt to describe not only the history and present state of our understanding of his work, but also its implications for the future.” Order An Alfred Russel Wallace Companion: Publisher, Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound (see a review at Victorian Web).

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Elizabeth Hennessy, On the Backs of Tortoises: Darwin, the Galapagos, and the Fate of an Evolutionary Eden (New Haven: Yale UNiversity Press, 2019, 336 pp.) ~ Publisher’s description: “The Galápagos archipelago is often viewed as a last foothold of pristine nature. For sixty years, conservationists have worked to restore this evolutionary Eden after centuries of exploitation at the hands of pirates, whalers, and island settlers. This book tells the story of the islands’ namesakes—the giant tortoises—as coveted food sources, objects of natural history, and famous icons of conservation and tourism. By doing so, it brings into stark relief the paradoxical, and impossible, goal of conserving species by trying to restore a past state of prehistoric evolution. The tortoises, Elizabeth Hennessy demonstrates, are not prehistoric, but rather microcosms whose stories show how deeply human and nonhuman life are entangled. In a world where evolution is thoroughly shaped by global history, Hennessy puts forward a vision for conservation based on reckoning with the past, rather than trying to erase it.” Order On the Backs of Tortoises: Publisher, Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound (see a review from NPR).

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Oren Harman and Michael R. Dietrich, eds., Dreamers, Visionaries, and Revolutionaries in the Life Sciences (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018, 336 pp.) ~ This is the third in a series of books from the same editors providing short biographies of a wide variety of biologist and researchers in the life sciences: first with Rebels, Mavericks, and Heretics in Biology (2009) and then Outsider Scientists: Routes to Innovation in Biology (2013). I’ve particularly enjoyed the biographies of Ernst Haeckel by Robert J. Richards and Rachel Carson by Janet Browne. Here’s the publisher’s description: “What are the conditions that foster true novelty and allow visionaries to set their eyes on unknown horizons? What have been the challenges that have spawned new innovations, and how have they shaped modern biology? In Dreamers, Visionaries, and Revolutionaries in the Life Sciences, editors Oren Harman and Michael R. Dietrich explore these questions through the lives of eighteen exemplary biologists who had grand and often radical ideas that went far beyond the run-of-the-mill science of their peers. From the Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, who coined the word “biology” in the early nineteenth century, to the American James Lovelock, for whom the Earth is a living, breathing organism, these dreamers innovated in ways that forced their contemporaries to reexamine comfortable truths. With this collection readers will follow Jane Goodall into the hidden world of apes in African jungles and Francis Crick as he attacks the problem of consciousness. Join Mary Lasker on her campaign to conquer cancer and follow geneticist George Church as he dreams of bringing back woolly mammoths and Neanderthals. In these lives and the many others featured in these pages, we discover visions that were sometimes fantastical, quixotic, and even threatening and destabilizing, but always a challenge to the status quo.” Order Dreamers, Visionaries, and Revolutionaries in the Life Sciences: Publisher, Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound (if you have access, here’s a review in the Journal of the History of Biology).

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The Paleozoic, written and illustrated by Estrella Vega. This foldout presentation of prehistoric creatures is fantastic. Five books, one for each of the periods of the Paleozoic Era. Line them all up and it is 42 ft long! As Vega calls it, “Prehistory Unfolded.” For more information, visit estrellavega.com (or find each of the books here on Amazon). She has the Mesozoic Era is in the works…

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M. J. S. Hodge, Before and After Darwin: Origins, Species, Cosmogonies, and Ontologies (Routledge, 2019, 362 pp.) ~ This is the first volume a paperback (i.e., much cheaper) edition of a previously published two-volume collection of Darwin or evolutionary thought articles by historian of science Hodge. From the publisher: “This is the first of a pair of volumes by Jonathan Hodge, collecting all his most innovative, revisionist and influential papers on Charles Darwin and on the longer run of theories about origins and species from ancient times to the present. The focus in this volume is on the diversity of theories among such pre-Darwinian authors as Lamarck and Whewell, and on developments in the theory of natural selection since Darwin. Plato’s Timaeus, the Biblical Genesis and any current textbook of evolutionary biology are all, it may well seem, on this same enduring topic: origins and species. However, even among classical authors, there were fundamental disagreements: the ontology and cosmogony of the Greek atomists were deeply opposed to Plato’s; and, in the millennia since, the ontological and cosmogonical contexts for theories about origins and species have never settled into any unifying consensus. While the structure of Darwinian theory may be today broadly what it was in Darwin’s own argumentation, controversy continues over the old issues about order, chance, necessity and purpose in the living world and the wider universe as a whole. The historical and philosophical papers collected in this volume, and in the companion volume devoted to Darwin’s theorising, seek to clarify the major continuities and discontinuities in the long run of thinking about origins and species.” A paperback edition of the second volume – Darwin Studies: A Theorist and his Theories in their Context – is forthcming. Order Before and After Darwin: Origins, Species, Cosmogonies, and Ontologies: Publisher, Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

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Thierry Hoquet, Revisiting the ‘Origin of Species’: The Other Darwins (New York: Routledge, 2018, 252 pp.) ~ From the publisher: “Contemporary interest in Darwin rises from a general ideal of what Darwin’s books ought to contain: a theory of transformation of species by natural selection. However, a reader opening Darwin’s masterpiece, On the Origin of Species, today may be struck by the fact that this ‘selectionist’ view does not deliver the key to many aspects of the book. Without contesting the importance of natural selection to Darwinism, much less supposing that a fully-formed “Darwinism” stepped out of Darwin’s head in 1859, this innovative volume aims to return to the text of the Origin itself. Revisiting the ‘Origin of Species’ focuses on Darwin as theorising on the origin of variations; showing that Darwin himself was never a pan-selectionist (in contrast to some of his followers) but was concerned with “other means of modification” (which makes him an evolutionary pluralist). Furthermore, in contrast to common textbook presentations of “Darwinism”, Hoquet stresses the fact that On the Origin of Species can lend itself to several contradictory interpretations. Thus, this volume identifies where rival interpretations have taken root; to unearth the ambiguities readers of Darwin have latched onto as they have produced a myriad of Darwinian legacies, each more or less faithful enough to the originator’s thought. Emphasising the historical features, complexities and intricacies of Darwin’s argument, Revisiting the ‘Origin of Species’ can be used by any lay readers opening Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. This volume will also appeal to students and researchers interested in areas such as Evolution, Natural Selection, Scientific Translations and Origins of Life.” Order Revisiting the Origin of Species: The Other Darwins: Publisher, Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

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David Sloan Wilson, This View of Life: Completing the Darwinian Revolution (New York: Pantheon/Penguin, 2019, 304 pp.) ~ From the publisher: “It is widely understood that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution completely revolutionized the study of biology. Yet, according to David Sloan Wilson, the Darwinian revolution won’t be truly complete until it is applied more broadly—to everything associated with the words “human,” “culture,” and “policy.” In a series of engaging and insightful examples—from the breeding of hens to the timing of cataract surgeries to the organization of an automobile plant—Wilson shows how an evolutionary worldview provides a practical tool kit for understanding not only genetic evolution but also the fast-paced changes that are having an impact on our world and ourselves. What emerges is an incredibly empowering argument: If we can become wise managers of evolutionary processes, we can solve the problems of our age at all scales—from the efficacy of our groups to our well-being as individuals to our stewardship of the planet Earth.” Order This View of Life: Completing the Darwinian Revolution: Publisher, Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound (read an excerpt here, and reviews at Nature, Psychology Today, Massive Science, Kirkus Reviews, and Publisher’s Weekly).

For more book ideas, see:

  Darwin, evolution & science books for holiday gift giving (2018)
  New graphic novels about Humboldt’s and Darwin’s travels
  New book provides wide overview of the history of natural history
  BOOK: Creatures of Cain: The Hunt for Human Nature in Cold War America

Also, my friends at The Well-Read Naturalist and The Friends of Charles Darwin always have recommendations and reviews for new nature books to check out.

New graphic novels about Humboldt’s and Darwin’s travels

Humboldt & Darwin graphic novels

Two recent books take the world travels of two of the most important figures in the history of science and digest them into readable and visually appealing formats. As graphic novels, these books have the potential to reach audiences who would not necessarily pick up Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of America: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World or Charles Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle.

Andrea Wulf and Lilian Melcher (illustrator), The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt (Pantheon, 2019), 272 pp. [Amazon|Powell’s|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound]

Publisher’s description Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was an intrepid explorer and the most famous scientist of his age. His restless life was packed with adventure and discovery, but his most revolutionary idea was a radical vision of nature as a complex and interconnected global force that does not exist for the use of humankind alone. His theories and ideas were profoundly influenced by a five-year exploration of South America. Now Andrea Wulf partners with artist Lillian Melcher to bring this daring expedition to life, complete with excerpts from Humboldt’s own diaries, atlases, and publications. She gives us an intimate portrait of the man who predicted human-induced climate change, fashioned poetic narrative out of scientific observation, and influenced iconic figures such as Simón Bolívar, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Darwin, and John Muir. This gorgeous account of the expedition not only shows how Humboldt honed his groundbreaking understanding of the natural world but also illuminates the man and his passions.

Links: reviews from Nature, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus; an animation for the book; story on Science Friday (and excerpt)

Fabien Grolleau and Jérémie Royer (illustrator), Darwin: An Exceptional Voyage (Nobrow, 2019), 184 pp. [Amazon|Powell’s|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound]

Publisher’s description This sweeping, intelligent and immersive biographical graphic novel from award-winning creators, joins legendary scientist Charles Darwin as a young man, as he embarks on his voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle. ~ It is the year 1831. A gifted but distracted young man named Charles Darwin has been offered a place aboard the H.M.S. Beagle, in a chain of events that will change both his life and the course of modern science. Join him on an epic journey of thrilling discovery as he explores remote corners of the natural world and pieces together the very beginnings of his revolutionary theory of evolution.

Links: review from Multiversity Comics; excerpt from The Comics Journal

Darwin, evolution & science books for holiday gift giving (2018)

‘Tis the season for holiday gift giving (to others or to yourself, no shame there), so I thought I’d share about some recent books about evolution and related topics that might strike in you a desire to spread the good news (of science!).

FOR YOUNGER READERS

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Rebecca Stefoff and Teagan White (illustrator), Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: Young Readers Edition (New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2018, 176. pp.) ~ As she has done for other books (Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, Jared Diamond’s The Third Chimpanzee, and Charles C. Mann’s 1493), Stefoff has taken an important book and adapted it for a younger audience, using more accessible language and including copious illustrations and photographs, and while remaining true to Darwin’s chapter structure, has provided updated information on topics that have, well, evolved since Darwin’s time. If On the Origin of Species continues to be a book that everyone has an opinion about yet have never actually read (it can be a challenging read), perhaps they can start with this handsome large format edition. It surely deserves a place on the shelves of middle and high school libraries. Order Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: Young Readers Edition: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Grandmother Fish

Jonathan Tweet and Karen Lewis (illustrator), Grandmother Fish (New York: Feiwel & Friends, 2016, 32 pp.) ~ This fantastic book about evolution for preschool-aged kids is not new, but I shared about it previously and it is worth mentioning again! Order Grandmother Fish: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

One Iguana, Two Iguanas

Sneed B. Collard III, One Iguana, Two Iguanas: A Story of Accident, Natural Selection, and Evolution (Thomaston, ME: Tilbury House, 2018, 48 pp.) ~ I have not looked at a copy of this book myself, but Greg Laden has. Here’s the publisher’s description: “Natural selection and speciation are all but ignored in children’s nonfiction. To help address this glaring deficiency, award-winning children’s science writer Sneed Collard traveled to the Galapagos Islands to see for himself, where Charles Darwin saw, how new species form. The result is this fascinating story of two species of iguana, one land-based and one marine, both of which developed from a single ancestor that reached the islands millions of years ago. The animals evolved in different directions while living within sight of one another. How is that possible?” Geared toward upper elementary and middle grade readers. Order One Iguana, Two Iguanas: A Story of Accident, Natural Selection, and Evolution: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

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Marion Dane Bauer and Ekua Holmes, Ekua (illustrator), The Stuff of Stars (Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2018, 40 pp.) ~ Going further back that biological evolution, this book puts the Sagan-esque notion of everything being made of “star stuff” – that all the matter that makes up every organism, including humans, was first created in the furnaces of stars billions of years ago – into a beautiful presentation of words and art. For some science-minded people who live without religion, appreciating our elemental connection to the universe can serve as a secular spirituality, and The Stuff of Stars serves as a perfect introduction of this idea. Order The Stuff of Stars: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Drift

Ince, Martin, Continental Drift: The Evolution of Our World from the Origins of Life to the Future (Blueprint Editions, 80 pp.; titled Drift in the UK for WeldonOwen Publishing) ~ It is difficult to discuss the evolution of animals on Earth without bringing in geology: how plates of earth’s crusts moving around the globe over millions of years has had a major effect on the evolutionary lineages of organisms. Continental Drift by science writer Martin Ince, begins with the formation of Earth 4.5 billions years ago and the formation of land around 3.4 bya, and then passes through periods of geologic time (Cambrian, Devonian, Permian, Jurassic, Cretaceous, Paleogene, Anthropocene, etc.), describing the movement of plates and evolution of organisms during those periods. Copiously illustrated with drawings and photographs, as well as large maps showing how the earth’s land appeared in each period, this book is perfect for upper elementary and middle grade students wishing to learn more about the history of our planet and its life. In fact, curious adults will find value in pouring through its pages. Order Drift: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

When the Whales Walked

Dougal Dixon and Hannah Bailey (illustrator), When the Whales Walked: And Other Incredible Evolutionary Journeys (London: words & pictures, 2018, 64 pp.) ~ I have not seen a copy of this book yet, but it looks like an important one to teach readers about transitional fossils. The publisher’s description: “Step back in time and discover a world where whales once walked, crocodiles were warm-blooded and snakes had legs! Meet terrifying giant birds, and tiny elephants living on islands in this fascinating creature guide like no other. Learn how whales once walked on four legs before taking to the oceans; how dinosaurs evolved into birds; and how the first cats were small and lived in trees. Featuring a stunning mix of annotated illustrations, illustrated scenes and family trees, evolution is explained here in a captivating and novel style that will make children look at animals in a whole new way.” Order When the Whales Walked: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Galapagos Girl

Marsha Diane Arnold and Angela Dominguez (illustrator), Galápagos Girl/Galapagueña (New York: Lee & Low Books, 2018, 40 pp.) ~ This is a charming picture book about a young girl born and raised on Floreana island in the Galápagos, who grew up among its unique animals and has made a life of researching, protecting, and educating about the Galápagos and its wildlife. Her name is Valentina Cruz, and through her story readers will learn about what it means to spend time in nature and value protecting it. The publisher’s description: “For Valentina, living on the Galápagos islands means spending her days outside, observing the natural world around her. She greets sea lions splashing on the shore, scampers over lava rocks with Sally-lightfoot crabs, and swims with manta rays. She is a Galápagos girl, and there is no other place she’d rather be! But this wondrous world is fragile, and when Valentina learns her wild companions are under threat, she vows to help protect them and the islands. Whimsical illustrations by Pura Belpré Honoree Angela Dominguez transport readers to the unique Galápagos islands, which shelter a number of diverse plant and animal species that can be found nowhere else on the planet. Come discover this beautiful world with Valentina and her animal friends!” The book is presented in both English and Spanish, and Mr. Darwin only receives a single mention, in a note at the end of the book about finches. This book is, after all, about Valentina, not Charles, as there are many persons connected to the history of these islands. Order Galápagos Girl/Galapagueña: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

 

FOR OLDER READERS

Unnatural Selection

Katrina von Grouw, Unnatural Selection (Princeton University Press, 2013, 304 pp.) ~ This book came out in the summer, but I shared about it previously and it is worth mentioning again! Order Unnatural Selection: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Life on Earth (1)

David Attenborough, Life on Earth: The Greatest Story Ever Told (London: William Collins, 2018, 352 pp.) ~ A classic, updated. From the publisher: “David Attenborough’s unforgettable meeting with gorillas became an iconic moment for millions of television viewers. Life on Earth, the series and accompanying book, fundamentally changed the way we view and interact with the natural world setting a new benchmark of quality, influencing a generation of nature lovers. Told through an examination of animal and plant life, this is an astonishing celebration of the evolution of life on earth, with a cast of characters drawn from the whole range of organisms that have ever lived on this planet. Attenborough’s perceptive, dynamic approach to the evolution of millions of species of living organisms takes the reader on an unforgettable journey of discovery from the very first spark of life to the blue and green wonder we know today. Now, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the book’s first publication, David Attenborough has revisited Life on Earth, completely updating and adding to the original text, taking account of modern scientific discoveries from around the globe. He has chosen beautiful, completely new photography, helping to illustrate the book in a much greater way than was possible forty years ago. This special anniversary edition provides a fitting tribute to an enduring wildlife classic, destined to enthral the generation who saw it when first published and bring it alive for a whole new generation.” Order Life on Earth: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Darwin's Most Wonderful Plants

Ken Thompson, Darwin’s Most Wonderful Plants: Darwin’s Botany Today (London: Profile Books, 2018, 256 pp.) ~  In five chapters Thompson takes a look at Darwin’s seven books that cover botanical topics, from his first on orchids in 1862 to The Power of Movement in Plants in 1880. From the publisher: “Ken Thompson sees Darwin as a brilliant and revolutionary botanist, whose observations and theories were far ahead of his time – and are often only now being confirmed and extended by high-tech modern research. Like Darwin, he is fascinated and amazed by the powers of plants – particularly their Triffid-like aspects of movement, hunting and ‘plant intelligence’. This is a much needed book that re-establishes Darwin as a pioneering botanist, whose close observations of plants were crucial to his theories of evolution.” Order Darwin’s Most Wonderful Plants: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Tangled Tree, The.JPG

David Quammen, The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018, 480 pp.) ~ Currently making my way through this new offering from one of the best science writers we have. Quammen tells the intriguing story of how molecular biologists rewrote the tree of life, centering on the work of Carl Woese (billed as one of the most important biologists of the 20th century that you’ve never heard of) but including Lynn Margulis and a great many others. Quammen blends science with storytelling in such a fashion that one feels as if they are witnessing science at work as it is happening – it’s ups and downs, its triumphs and lesser moments. With plenty of Darwin to start the narrative off. Highly recommended. Order The Tangled Tree: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Wall of Birds, The

Jane Kim and Thayer Walker, The Wall of Birds: One Planet, 243 Families, 375 Million Years – A Visual Journey (New York: Harper Design, 2018, 224 pp.) ~ Ever since I first saw social media posts showing the work in progress for a mural on a wall at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology‘s office, I have been in awe of Jane Kim’s bird and other scientific illustrations. They are absolutely gorgeous, and this new book by Kim shares her experience doing the mural and about all the birds presented, including dinosaurs! Order The Wall of Birds: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound. More info about the wall here, and Jane’s website here.

Cruisin' the Fossil Coastline

Kirk Johnson and Ray Troll (artist), Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline: The Travels of an Artist and a Scientist along the Shores of the Prehistoric Pacific (Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2018, 290 pp.) ~ A follow up to Johnson and Troll’s Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway: An Epoch Tale of a Scientist and an Artist on the Ultimate 5,000-mile Paleo Road Trip (2007), which followed the author and artist through the American West in search of fossils and paleontologists, Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline does the same for the stretch of coastline from southern California up north into Alaska. Johnson is a fine writer, and Troll’s unique art style never disappoints. Order Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Galapagos Life in Motion.jpeg

Walter Perez and Michael Weisberg, Galápagos: Life in Motion (Princeton University Press, 2018, 208 pp.) ~ For someone who hopes to visit the Galápagos in their lifetime but is not sure if it will happen, this book of photographs by Walter Perez is an antidote to waiting for such an opportunity. From the publisher: “The Galápagos Islands are home to an amazing variety of iconic creatures, from Giant Tortoises, Galápagos Sea Lions, Galápagos Penguins, and Ghost Crabs to Darwin’s finches, the Blue-footed Booby, and Hummingbird Moths. But how precisely do these animals manage to survive on―and in the waters around―their desert-like volcanic islands, where fresh water is always scarce, food is often hard to come by, and finding a good mate is a challenge because animal populations are so small? In this stunning large-format book, Galápagos experts Walter Perez and Michael Weisberg present an unprecedented photographic account of the remarkable survival behaviors of these beautiful and unique animals. With more than 200 detailed, close-up photographs, the book captures Galápagos animals in action as they feed, play, fight, court, mate, build nests, give birth, raise their young, and cooperate and clash with other species.” Order Galápagos: Life in Motion: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Charles Darwin - A Reference Guide to His Life and Works

J. David Archibald, Charles Darwin: A Reference Guide to His Life and Works (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2018, 232 pp.) ~ I have yet to view a copy of this book, but I have liked Archibald’s other books about Darwin and evolution so I expect this to serve as a useful resource. Here is the publisher’s description: “Charles Darwin: A Reference Guide to His Life and Works provides an important new compendium presenting a detailed chronology of all aspects Darwin’s life. The extensive encyclopedia section includes many hundreds of entries of various kinds related to Darwin – people, places, institutions, concepts, and his publications. The bibliography provides a comprehensive listing of the vast majority of Darwin’s works published during and after his lifetime. It also provides a more selective list of publications concerning his life and work.” Order Charles Darwin: A Reference Guide to His Life and Works: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

ARTICLE: Darwin the geologist in southern South America

New in Earth Sciences History:

Darwin the geologist in southern South America

Robert H. Dott, Jr. and Ian W. D. Dalziel

Abstract Charles Darwin was a reputable geologist before he achieved biological fame. Most of his geological research was accomplished in southern South America during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle (1831–1836). Afterward he published four books and several articles about geology and coral atolls and became active in the Geological Society of London. We have followed Darwin’s footsteps during our own researches and have been very impressed with his keen observations and inferences. He made some mistakes, however, such as appealing to iceberg rafting to explain erratic boulders and to inundations of the sea to carve valleys. Darwin prepared an important hand-colored geological map of southern South America, which for unknown reasons he did not publish. The distributions of seven map units are shown. These were described in his books wherein he also documented multiple elevated marine terraces on both coasts of South America. While exploring the Andean Cordillera in central Chile and Argentina, he discovered two fossil forests. Darwin developed a tectonic theory involving vertical uplift of the entire continent, which was greatest in the Andes where magma leaked up from a hypothetical subterranean sea of magma to form volcanoes and earthquakes. The theory had little impact and was soon eclipsed by theories involving lateral compression of strata. His and other contemporary theories suffered from a lack of knowledge about the earth’s interior. Finally with modern plate tectonic theory involving intense lateral compression across the Andean Cordillera we can explain satisfactorily the geology so carefully documented by Darwin.

ARTICLE:The London Baedeker for the Darwin enthusiast

In the latest Evolution: Education and Outreach (Dec. 2015):

The London Baedeker for the Darwin enthusiast

Martha Monica Muñoz

Abstract Public interest in Charles Darwin and in scientific climate of the Victorian era continues to grow. Darwin hobbyists are visiting sites around the world relevant to the life of Charles Darwin: The Galápagos Islands, Tierra del Fuego, Scotland and, of course, his native England. But as even as the number of Darwin enthusiasts continues to swell, there are few handbooks available to guide visitors through sites relevant to his life. Here I describe my experiences traveling through London in search of the sites relevant to Darwin’s life. I give a general review of each historic site and describe what travelers might expect to find. I also offer some background history to each of the locations, and describe how each site relates to Darwin and his works.

BOOK REVIEW: The Adventures of Piratess Tilly

My kids and I have enjoyed a new children’s book that combines adventure, the natural world, and poetry, with a little Darwin thrown in.

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The Adventures of Piratess Tilly (Newburyport, MA: White Wave Press, 2014, 32 pp), by Elizabeth Lorayne with beautiful watercolor illustrations by Karen Watson, follows Tilly aboard the ship Foster, with her crew of sailors and a rescued koala named Yuki, on adventures across the globe. Tilly patches her own clothes, reads books for inspiration, and examines and sketches natural history specimens. Yuki navigates while the crew handles the ship. In these pages, their destination is the Galapagos Islands, but they come across pirates kidnapping baby tortoises and must intervene!

The text of the story is given as descriptive and action-filled haiku, one per page, and feels to me like what a group of children playing might conjure up with their imaginations. It’s fun, visually appealing, and charming. And, much to the book’s benefit, Darwin is given a nod in two of the haiku – “Staterooms full of books / Darwin and Potter inspire / Lofty dreams unfold” & “Many days passing / Best used for examining / What would Darwin think?” – and a portrait on the cabin wall. Darwin would think, how cool to have a female-led adventure! Will Tilly’s adventures continue? I hope so.

Check out the book’s website for lots of info, and an active Facebook page.

BOOK REVIEW: The Galapagos: A Natural History

This would be no surprise to anyone: I hope to visit the Galapagos someday. It won’t happen in the near future, so for now I’ll settle for reading books about the famous islands, and get jealous of my uncle-in-law who recently posted photos from his travels in South America to his Facebook page, including the Galapagos. He did bring me back this t-shirt, however! 10359073_10154320780050249_1253261699024635731_o I mentioned reading books about the Galapagos, and I recently finished a new one: The Galapagos: A Natural History by science journalist Henry Nicholls (who previously wrote Lonesome George: The Life and Loves of a Conservation Icon). It’s not a very long book – the reading pages (minus acknowledgments and an appendix) come in at just 144 pages – yet Nicholls packs a wealth of information very succinctly in ten chapters that can each be read in short bursts (perfect for a father of young children like me!). So, what does a slim book like The Galapagos: A Natural History give the reader? The answer: a delightful overview of interesting natural history topics that serve as a general introduction of the islands. This is not a field guide, however, and Nicholls does not discuss every species of plant or animal to be found on “The Encantadas” but rather describes what visitors are likely to see or be interested in knowing more about. Also, he peppers these descriptions with history, culture, politics, and economics of the islands to flesh out the context of their natural offerings. He describes scientific observations of the past – much more than Darwin’s five weeks – and present, and the work of the many organizations on the islands which seek to protect and conserve its natural history.

Nicholls begins with two chapters looking at geographical aspects of the islands: their geologic origin and their place in the Pacific Ocean, both of which have much to do with the insular flora and fauna to be found there. He then moves on to oceanic bird species before tackling plants, invertebrates, and land birds (where we learn about the island’s famous finches and perhaps more important mockingbirds). Iguanas of various types and the well-known Galapagos tortoises are discussed in a chapter about reptiles. The final three chapters are devoted to humans – the discovery and history of exploration of the islands; conservation work being done there (to counter the environmental destruction laid upon the native plants and animals); the tourism industry; local culture and politics; and more.

The Galapagos: A Natural History is an enjoyable read. For someone with more than a passing interest in the islands, by picking this book up and rereading a chapter here and there, Nicholls will allow me to daydream of visiting the Galapagos.

My friend John Riutta also posted about this book on his website The Well-Read Naturalist.

Darwin Sign Project

Capture

Today I learned about a fun project at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos:

Those who have visited Galapagos will know that the sign outside the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) is a popular spot to have your photograph taken. In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the research station, the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) and the Friends of Galapagos Organisations are asking you to send in your photos beside the sign to contribute to a giant montage that will go on display at the new visitor centre. It is a great opportunity for you to become a part of Galapagos history!

Submissions will be accepted until 20 January 2015 (when the CDRS turns 51 years old) and all eligible participants will be notified via email to view the final photo collection online.

A voluntary donation with each photo submission will be put towards building repairs and maintenance of the research station, helping to keep CDF at the forefront of Galapagos conservation science for years to come.

If you’ve got such a photo, head here to submit it! Wish I had such a photo…

BOOK: Naturalists at Sea: Scientific Travellers from Dampier to Darwin

Glyn Williams, Naturalists at Sea: Scientific Travellers from Dampier to Darwin (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013), 328 pp.

On the great Pacific discovery expeditions of the “long eighteenth century,” naturalists for the first time were commonly found aboard ships sailing forth from European ports. Lured by intoxicating opportunities to discover exotic and perhaps lucrative flora and fauna unknown at home, these men set out eagerly to collect and catalogue, study and document an uncharted natural world. This enthralling book is the first to describe the adventures and misadventures, discoveries and dangers of this devoted and sometimes eccentric band of explorer-scholars. Their individual experiences are uniquely their own, but together their stories offer a new perspective on the extraordinary era of Pacific exploration and the achievements of an audacious generation of naturalists. Historian Glyn Williams illuminates the naturalist’s lot aboard ship, where danger alternated with boredom and quarrels with the ship’s commander were the norm. Nor did the naturalist’s difficulties end upon returning home, where recognition for years of work often proved elusive. Peopled with wonderful characters and major figures of Enlightenment science—among them Louis Antoine de Bouganville, Joseph Banks, John Reinhold Forster, Captain Cook, and Charles Darwin—this book is a gripping account of a small group of scientific travelers whose voyages of discovery were to change perceptions of the natural world.

John Tyndall and 19th Century Science

On Tuesday I head from Portland to Big Sky, Montana for a conference, “John Tyndall and 19th Century Science”:

The conference will bring together some of the past and current participants of the John Tyndall Correspondence Project to discuss issues raised by the NSF-funded project. It will also include a workshop for the editors of the anticipated twelve volumes of Tyndall’s letters, currently under contract with Pickering & Chatto. The conference will be held from at the 320 Ranch in Big Sky, Montana.

I will be presenting the paper I wrote when I was a graduate student at Montana State University, about John Tyndall’s 1872-3 lecture tour in the United States. It’ll be nice to see some familiar faces and some new ones from the project. And I am looking forward to meeting Darwin biographer Janet Browne, who is giving the keynote lecture. And it does not hurt that the conference is being held here:

I’ll fly back on Thursday.

ARTICLE: Questions of Inscription and Epistemology in British Travelers’ Accounts of Early Nineteenth-Century South America

From the Annals of the Association of American Geographers (published online May 2011):

Questions of Inscription and Epistemology in British Travelers’ Accounts of Early Nineteenth-Century South America

Innes M. Keighren & Charles W.J. Withers

Abstract This article examines the problems of truth and of trust in travelers’ narratives. Following a review of work on travel writing and the place of printed travel narratives in the making of geographical enquiry, we discuss how issues of inscription and credibility are intrinsic to the material and epistemic transformation of narratives from their manuscript beginnings to their printed form. Particular attention is paid to the narratives of travel in early nineteenth-century South America issued by the London publisher John Murray. By interrogating the embodied practices of travel writing, this article investigates the ways in which Murray’s authors sought to establish a correspondence between their lived experiences and the textual representations of those experiences. The article focuses on the epistemological bases to travelers’ claims to truth and how they evaluated differently the significance of direct observation and the oral and textual testimony of third parties in the production of travel accounts that sought to reveal a newly independent South America to the reading public. In its examination of the complex connections linking author, publisher, and audience, the work has implications for scholars interested in the relationship between writing and the printed word in geography.

A brief mention is made of Darwin: “What was taking place there and with these authors was more common than might be supposed: Darwin modified his written reports on South America and on much else for fear of offending his wife and peers; African travelers regulated their published work for fear of audience reproof; polar explorers commonly redacted their narratives between the field and the study Because this is so, the way in which travelers chose to write their accounts matters as a subject of scholarly attention, as does the relationship between narrative as practice and audiences’ and publishers’ perceptions of texts’ value and credibility” (p. 13)

Darlingtonia californica

Darlingtonia californica

Photo: Darlingtonia State Natural Site, north of Florence, Oregon, August 7, 2011
Illustrations: Francis Ernest Lloyd, The Carnivorous Plants (New York: Dover, 1976 [1942]), plate 5.

We went camping last weekend on the Oregon coast and made a quick stop to see these pitcher plants. When we got home I pulled out this copy of The Carnivorous Plants that my grandfather owned and found some neat illustrations of Darlingtonia. So I thought I’d put a photo with the illustrations. You can view more photos here.

Darwin made just one mention of Darlingtonia in his Insectivorous Plants (1875, p. 453), when summarizing in the very last paragraph the three classes of such plants:

There is a second class of plants which, as we have just seen, cannot digest, but absorb the products of the decay of the animals which they capture, namely, Utricularia and its close allies; and from the excellent observations of Dr. Mellichamp and Dr. Canby, there can scarcely be a doubt that Sarracenia and Darlingtonia may be added to this class, though the fact can hardly be considered as yet fully proved.

Darlingtonia was described by John Torrey (1796-1873) in 1853 and named after William Darlington (1782–1863), a botanist in Philadelphia.

Darlingtonia State Natural Site

Thoughts on Science Online 2011

This past weekend I attended the 5th annual Science Online conference in North Carolina (I have wanted to go for several years now but was unable, however this time I received some travel money, thanks to Bora & Anton!).

Somewhere over Texas

Somewhere over Texas on my way to North Carolina

[From the website: Read the posts and tweets, see the photos and watch the videos uploaded by our participants, hashtag #scio11]

Bulldog

Opening reception on Thursday night (Photo credit: Louis Shackleton)

Bora, the BlogFather

I certainly felt welcomed, Bora!

For this “unconference” about communicating science on the internet, I participating in a session on the history of science with Greg Gbur, Eric Michael Johnson, Holly Tucker, and Randi Hutter Epstein. Greg, a physicist who blogs at Skulls in the Stars (@drskyskull), discussed ways in which the history of science can help scientists in their own research, while Eric Michael Johnson, a history of science PhD (Primate Diaries in Exile, @ericmjohnson) gave a quick plea for bridging the sciences and humanities. Holly (Scientia Curiosa, Wonders and Marvels, @history_geek) and Randi (website, @rhutterepstein) both discussed, essentially, the idea of presentism in history of medicine as it related to each of their books, Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution (which all attendees received in their swagbag!) and Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank. John McKay wanted to be part of this session, but was unable – he was there in spirit.

Listening to Darwin's Bulldog!!!

Me in the history of science session (Photo credit: Stacy Baker)

For my part, I discussed the creationist tactic of quote-mining Darwin, gave some examples, and called for science writers to be weary of using quotes – know thy source and know thy context in which the quotee was writing. Here are my slides:

I will put up another post with the tweets about the history of science session (future link) [EDIT: click here to see a messy Word document with those tweets]. Unfortunately, my laptop got sick and since I do not own a smartphone, I was unable to be online (kind of ironic given the nature of the conference).

The best part of this conference, first and foremost for me, was the opportunity to meet in person many people whose blogs I have read for several years, chatted with, shared information online, friends on Facebook, followers on Facebook, etc. Putting IRL personalities and faces to online personas and avatars is interesting, and it felt weird being recognized and approached by people whom I have never shared physical space with before. It was a pleasure to meet, in no particular order: Brian Switek, Carl Zimmer, David Dobbs, Ed Yong, Tom Levenson (again),  Hannah Waters, Krystal D’Costa, Stacy Baker and her biology students, Kevin Zelnio, Glendon Mellow, Louis Shackleton, Karen James (again), Miriam Goldstein, Jason Goldman, Minjae Ormes, Alice Bell, Carin Bondar, Carl Boettiger, Lucas Brouwers, John Hawks, Anne Jefferson, Blake Stacey, Sheril Kirshenbaum, David Orr, Joshua Rosenau, Janet Stemwedel, scicurious, Christie Wilcox, Jeremy Yoder, and Danielle Lee; and to meet some new faces: Lisa Gardiner, Kate Clancy, Holly Menninger, Brian Krueger, Brian Malow, Emily Willingham, Alexandra Levitt, and Stephanie Zvan.

Michael and SkySkull

With Skyskull (Photo credit: Greg Gbur/Skyskull)

Other sessions I attended were: Technology and the Wilderness (technology, i.e. smartphone apps, should be an accessory to nature experiences and education, not a replacement; #techwild, wiki); Still Waiting for a Superhero – Science Education Needs YOU! (an opportunity to hear from Stacy Baker’s biology students); Parenting with Science Online (Carin Bondar will have resources up on the wiki soon); Science-Art: The Burgeoning Fields of Niche Artwork Aimed at Scientific Disciplines (wiki); “But It’s Just a Blog!” (science blogging newbies get advice); Blogging on the Career Path (be upfront about your blogging activities when seeking employment); Keepers of the Bullshit Filter (tell people when they are wrong, publicly; use MediaBug to report errors in the media); Communicating Science: Have You Ever Wondered, “What the Hell’s the Point?” (Science Cheerleader Darlene Cavalier spreading some sciencey cheer); and Defending Science Online: Tactics and Conflicts in Science Communication (are online methods of correcting disinformation effective?).

Defending Science Online: Tactics and Conflicts in Science Communication

Looking on as Josh Rosenau discusses attacks on evolution education

Robert Krulwich, NPR science correspondent and co-host of Radio Lab was the keynote speaker, and he shared his experiences turning scientific topics into stories for the public (the key: use words/language not for scientists but for everyday people).

Robert Krulwich

Robert Krulwich (of NPR and Radio Lab) was the keynote speaker

All I can say is, he had the room’s attention. He also shared this video, which is astonishing:

Kevin Zelnio sings “Wayfaring Mollusk” during the open mic session:

And Christie Wilcox does her rendition off Meridith Brooks’ “Bitch,” “Extinction’s a Bitch” (lyrics/audio):

Christie singing about evolution

itʼs not easy to survive / but at least youʼre still alive / and thatʼs way more than a trilobite can say!

Some other pictures:

Restaurant at Marriott, fitting for Science Online

Restaurant at Marriott, fitting for Science Online

Science Online 2011 logo

Science Online 2011 logo

Brian Switek reads from Written in Stone

Brian Switek reads from his Written in Stone

Technology in the Wilderness session: Karen James

Technology in the Wilderness session: Karen James of The HMS Beagle Project

Miss Baker's biology class at Science Online 2011

Miss Baker's biology class

Parenting Science session: Eric Michael Johnson

Parenting Science session: Eric Michael Johnson

Science & Art session: David Orr, Glendon Mellow, and John Hawks

Science & Art session: David Orr, Glendon Mellow, and John Hawks

Lisa Gardiner enjoys a science cookie

Lisa Gardiner (http://www.lisagardiner.com/) enjoys a science cookie

Science books

Science books

Science Cheerleader

Science Cheerleader

Science education

Science education

Defending Science Online session: Josh Rosenau of NCSE

Defending Science Online session: Josh Rosenau of NCSE

Science Online attendees on way to airport

Science Online attendees on way to airport

Miss Baker at the airport

Miss Baker at the airport (a highlight of Science Online was Stacy coming up to me in the hotel and saying she uses my blog in her biology class!)

Sunset from plane in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina

Sunset from plane in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina

And what about the tour of the Duke Lemur Center? I’ll share those photos in another post… [EDIT: Photos here]

Science Online 2011

One week from now I’ll be in North Carolina for Science Online 2011. For the last couple of years I haven’t been able to go, so I am excited that now I can. I’ll be participating in a session about the history of science:

Making the history of science work for you

Michael Barton, Greg Gbur, Eric Michael Johnson, Randi Hutter Epstein & Holly Tucker (Presenter bios)

Most scientists know just enough history of science to share a story or two about the quirky characters and events that shaped their scientific field. However, history can do so much more for scientists to help them as bloggers, as researchers and even as citizens. In this session we will have a discussion of the ways in which using the history of science can help you connect to your readers, combat misinformation (such as quote-mining) on the web, and find common-ground between the sciences and humanities. (We’ll also share some of our favorite historical anecdotes along the way.)

I look forward to seeing some familiar faces, but first time to meet in real life…

Christmas on HMS Beagle

hms beagle off the galapagos by john chancellor

HMS Beagle off the Galapagos, by John Chancellor

Charles Darwin spent Christmas day of 1831 in Devonport awaiting favourable weather for the departure of HMS Beagle. Darwin wrote in his diary for the voyage:

Christmas day is one of great importance to the men: the whole of it has been given up to revelry, at present there is not a sober man in the ship: King is obliged to perform duty of sentry, the last one sentinel came staggering below declaring he would no longer stand sentinel on duty, whereupon he is now in irons getting sober as fast as he can. — Wherever they may be, they claim Christmas day for themselves, & this they exclusively give up to drunkedness — that sole & never failing pleasure to which a sailor always looks forward to. —

The very next day, he recorded:

My thoughts most unpleasantly occupied with the flogging of several men for offences brought on by the indulgence granted them on Christmas day. —

For 1832, in Tierra del Fuego:

This being Christmas day, all duty is suspended, the seamen look forward to it as a great gala day; & from this reason we remained at anchor. —

1833, Port Desire:

Christmas After dining in the Gun-room, the officers & almost every man in the ship went on shore. — The Captain distributed prizes to the best runners, leapers, wrestlers. — These Olympic games were very amusing; it was quite delightful to see with what school-boy eagerness the seamen enjoyed them: old men with long beards & young men without any were playing like so many children. — certainly a much better way of passing Christmas day than the usual one, of every seaman getting as drunk as he possibly can. —

1834, Chonos. Arch: & Tres Montes:

Our Christmas day was not such a merry one as we had last year at Port Desire. — Between 30 & 40 miles of coast was surveyed & in the afternoon we found an excellent harbor. — Directly after anchoring we saw a man waving a shirt. A boat was sent & brought two men off. — They turned out to be N. American seamen, who from bad treatment had run away from their vessel when 70 miles from the land.

1835, New Zealand:

Christmas day. — In a few more days the fourth year of our absence from England will be completed. Our first Christmas day was spent at Plymouth; the second at St Martins Cove near Cape Horn; the third at Port Desire in Patagonia; the fourth at anchor in the peninsula of Cape Tres Montes; this fifth here, & the next I trust in Providence again in England. —

We attended Divine Service at P in the Chapel of Pahia; part of the Service was read in English & part in the New Zealand language.

For Christmas of 1836, Darwin had already returned to England. I’ll note that of all these recordings about Christmas while on the voyage, only the last one (“the fourth year of our abscence”) was included in the published Journal and remarks. 1832-1836, later retitled Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle round the world, or, as it is generally known day, The Voyage of the Beagle. Perhaps references to the men aboard the Beagle getting drunk were kept out on purpose. In fact, any reference to drunkedness concerned the people, indigenous or otherwise, of areas Darwin traveled to. Would it be ungentleman-like of Darwin to share with his readers that British men got drunk and stupid?

That said (or asked), check out this phylogenetic Christmas tree Darwin sketched the year following his return to England:

Actually, credit goes to Allison Banks (Update 12/21/12: this no longer appears on her website).

Happy Holidays!

Link 182 (actually, about 40)

Now that I’m back from Texas (sister-in-law’s wedding)…

… let’s see what I’ve missed. Here are some links:

National Fossil Day is tomorrow, October 13th. Check here for events.

For the next edition of The Giant’s Shoulders, get your entries in by October 15th!

Homologous Legs: This Week in Intelligent Design – 12/10/10

Point of Inquiry (podcast): PZ Myers, Jennifer Michael Hecht, and Chris Mooney – New Atheism or Accommodation?

USA Today/Jerry Coyne: Science and religion aren’t friends

Bad Astronomy: Creationists still can’t seem to evolve

Speaking of creationists, Comfort clowns passed out copies of the faux-Origin inn Texas at a Dawkins lecture. They posted some photos online, take a look at this one. The book now has “As seen on CNN” on the cover:

Evangelism at the Richard Dawkins event (The Wortham Center)

Dawkins was on Bill Maher

The Sensuous Curmudgeon: Discovery Institute Targets African Americans & Discovery Institute Demands Accurate Quotes

Sandwalk: The Casey Luskin Lesson Plan on Teaching the Controversy

Please be patient, I am evolving as fast as I can!: Damed by their own words

Carnival of Evolution #28 – Featuring Sandwalk

Playing Chess with Pigeons: The Rush to ignorance tour continues

Laelaps: When Pseudo-Crocs Walked Tall

So Simple a Beginning: 150 years of Darwin, from UCI Libraries

From the Hands of Quacks: Mind & Body: The Philosopher’s Body as a Subject

The beauty of Darwin

Did you know that Noah himself went out to catch birds? From a church in Texas on my trip:

NYT/Natalie Angier: Moonlighting as a Conjurer of Chemicals

Ether Wave Propaganda: Is There a Conflict of Interest between STS and History of Science?

AHA: Richard Dawkins and Neil deGrasse Tyson at Howard University

History of Science Centre’s blog: The Forgotten

Whewell’s Ghost/Evolving Thoughts: The historical way to do science

Whewell’s Ghost (@beckyfh): Yes, histories of science are worth reading! & David Willetts and the history of science

@beckyfh: Chronometer from HMS Beagle (91st object in British Museum’s History of the World in 100 Objects) info/podcast

PACHSmörgåsbord: Popular History of Science for the American G.I.

The Species Seekers: This is the Great Age of Discovery

Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Great minds gloomy about humans’ future

American Scientist: The 95% Solution (about informal science education). Also, from Physics Today: The evolution of the science museum

Why Evolution Is True: The Hall of Human Origins at the National Museum of Natural History (more about the funder of this exhibit and religion and other thoughts here, here, here, and here. PZ chimes in here and here.)

Periodic Tabloid: Making Connections: “The Big Picture” and the History of Science

Charlie’s Playhouse: Does Steven Pinker have kids? He should. & New podcast with Kate at Parenting Within Reason!

Quodlibeta: Doubting Darwin’s Doubt

Times Archive Blog (from 2009): Did Charles Darwin stick pins into babies?

Portland Humanist Film Festival is this weekend



Here’s a reminder to any readers in Portland or nearby, that this coming weekend is the first annual Portland Humanist Film Festival, organized by the Portland leg of Center for InquiryFreethinkers of PSU, and Humanists of Greater Portland:

The Portland Humanist Film Fest was developed to offer a free, dynamic cultural event to the rapidly growing Humanist movement in the Pacific Northwest. Our mission is to provide, through the medium of film, an expansive window into many of the aspects of existence, morality, history, science and philosophy that help reflect the Humanist outlook. By selecting a mix of films which cover many topics and represent many genres we hope to not only make the event engaging for those who already consider themselves Humanists, but reach further to those who are curious about Humanism as well.

So we invite you to laugh, think, be challenged and entertained as we present to you a carefully selected treasure of richly diverse and informative cinematic creations.

All films, including two showings of the Darwin biopic Creation on Sunday evening, are free!

I will not be able to see any of the films since I will be in Houston for my sister-in-law’s wedding. Happy viewing!

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:

Photos from Ecuador/Galapagos Islands, via Piers Hale

Piers Hale, an historian of science at the University of Oklahoma, taught over the summer a month-long Study Abroad course in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands: HSCI 4970/5970 Charles Darwin and Galapagos: Solving the “mystery of mysteries. Undergraduate students took both a zoology course in evolutionary ecology and a course on the history of evolutionary thought. Plus, exploring the places and following in the footsteps… not a bad way to get some credits! Piers hopes this can become a regularly offered course.

He has been posting pictures on his Facebook page, so I share here some Darwin-specific shots with his permission.

Here’s a shot from the University of San Francisco in Quito, Ecuador, of Darwin and Wallace (George will like this one):

Darwin bust:

Darwin bust:

Darwin statue:

Charles Darwin:

The bay where the Beagle dropped anchor 15 September 1835:

The bay where the Beagle dropped anchor 15 September 1835:

Avenue 12th February, San Cristobal:

An iguana for Darwin:

That Darwin bust again, nice sunset:

Convention center named after Darwin:

On the grounds of the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island:

I’m jealous…

Some more Yosemite photos

More photos can be had here.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite National Park

Poor ladybug

Yosemite National Park

Patrick at our campground

Yosemite National Park

Patrick, Bridalveil Falls

Yosemite National Park

Patrick & I at Glacier Point overlooking the valley and Half Dome

Yosemite National Park

Patrick at Bridalveil Falls

Yosemite National Park

Happy Isles Nature Center

Yosemite National Park

Patrick w/ John Muir

Yosemite National Park

Catherine & Patrick at the giant sequoia grove

Yosemite National Park

On the boardwalk... having some fun

Yosemite National Park

Happy Isles Nature Center

Yosemite National Park

What kind of lizard?

Yosemite National Park

Upper Yosemite Falls

Patrick & I

At our campground

Yosemite National Park

Glacier Point

Yosemite National Park

American Robin

Yosemite National Park

Half Dome clouded over

Yosemite National Park

Catherine

Yosemite National Park

Patrick receiving his junior ranger badge

Yosemite National Park

Petting a mule near our campground