A Perfect Farewell

As you probably know, right now I live in Butte, one hour west of Bozeman, where Montana State University is. Yesterday was my last time on campus.

Montana State University

Montana State University

Six and a half years I spent in Bozeman, my first real move away from home (Temecula, CA). It is in Bozeman that I got my bachelors degree and now masters, met my wife (here), and welcomed a little human being into this world, my son Patrick. So, for me, it was a little sad to get on Highway 90 and head back to Butte from Bozeman yesterday afternoon.

That drive takes you through another city, Belgrade, and right as you pass the exit, there’s a church next to the offramp and they have a sign visible to drivers that always displays some catchy phrase, quote, proverb, what have you. As I was approaching Belgrade, I thought to myself, ya know, in six years, for all the times I’ve driven by here, that sign has never had anything to say about evolution or science. This time, when the sign came into view, I couldn’t believe it (no pun intended):

Church sign in Belgrade, MT

Church sign in Belgrade, MT

I couldn’t ask for a more entertaining way to say goodbye to Bozeman.


To do list

1. Complete final draft of professional paper (not a thesis, but a shorter paper intended for publication). Turning in on Friday! See picture below:


2. Complete shorter paper for philosophy of science course – hopefully tonight; if not, tomorrow.

3. Complete set of Tyndall letters & additions to project wiki – by Saturday night.

4. Give new address to university for diploma to be mailed to me.

5. Pack remaining crap in house – Saturday & Sunday.

6. Load U-Haul – Monday & Tuesday.

7. Check out of rental house & get carpets cleaned – Tuesday.

8. Hit the road for Portland – Tuesday afternoon.

9. Arrive in Portland, start new adventure – Wednesday night.

10. Realize I am no longer a student – now! What am I going to do?!?!?

JOB: Education & Outreach Officer (Darwin Correspondence Unit)

From the University of Cambridge:

Education & Outreach Officer (Darwin Correspondence Unit)

University Library
Vacancy Reference No: VE06515  Salary: £27,319-£35,646
Limit of tenure applies*

The Darwin Correspondence Project (http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/) is a small externally-funded team of researchers and editors, based in Cambridge University Library, which is making available complete transcripts of all known letters written by or to the naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-82). The post of Education and Outreach Officer is a new, temporary post funded as part of a sub-project on ‘Darwin and Gender’ supported by a grant from The Bonita Trust, and is the equivalent of a two-year full-time post.

Working with the Project editors, and with a web development team at the University’s Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies, the postholder will be responsible for researching, creating, and delivering educational resources – chiefly web based – using Darwin’s correspondence, and for publicising their existence and maximising their use in schools and by the general public.

Applicants should be educated to degree level in a relevant field, have working knowledge of current educational practice, including the use of technology, knowledge of nineteenth-century history and history of science, and of issues in gender studies. They must possess excellent written and verbal communication skills, research and IT skills, and have the ability to work both on their own and as part of a team.

Informal enquiries are welcomed by Dr Alison Pearn, Assistant Director, Darwin Correspondence Project, on 01223 339770, e-mail: ab55@cam.ac.uk

This post is available with immediate effect. Further details can be downloaded from www.lib.cam.ac.uk/Vacancies or are available from the Librarian’s Personal Assistant, Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DR. Tel: (01223) 333045. E-mail: cr267@cam.ac.uk

Applications should include a CV, contact details for three professional referees, and a completed form PD18 downloadable from http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/offices/hr/forms/pd18/) and should be sent to Dr Alison Pearn, Assistant Director, Darwin Correspondence Project, University Library, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DR (darwin@lib.cam.ac.uk).

* Limit of tenure: 2 years from date of appointment

Closing date: 29 April 2010.

2009 in review

Happy New Year to all. This last year was a big year for my family and I. Here is my 2009 in review:

In January, I started my second semester as a history graduate student at MSU, classes were History of Science and Historical Writing, while I continued to transcribe letters for the John Tyndall Correspondence Project. Before the semester, we took a quick trip to Portland.

In February, I put together a display for MSU’s Renne Library about evolution and creationism, and was featured on a BBC radio program about Darwin Day (see here and here).

In March, I traveled to the University of North Carolina, Wilmington for Darwin’s Legacy, a student conference. I presented my undergraduate paper “’I Have Hardly the Means’: Charles Darwin, Transoceanic Dispersal, and the Geography of Science.” It won best paper for my session. My son also turned three years old.

In April, E.O. Wilson visited MSU, and I was fortunate to participate in some student events with him.

In May, Patrick and I got in a little birding (here, here, and here), something I am not an expert in but just learning a little here and there.

In June, I worked on an independent study, reading texts in the history of American science, while spending a lot of time with my son outside (here and here, for example) and visiting the zoo in Billings, MT for the first time.

In July, my wife started her new job as Digital Collections Librarian at the public library in Butte, Montana. I also took my first trip out of the United States – to Cambridge, England for the conference “Darwin in the Field” (presenting again on Darwin and his seed experiments). Cambridge afforded me the opportunity to visit significant places in Darwin’s life as well as many exhibits, and to meet fellow Darwin bloggers Richard and Karen. Pictures from this trip here, and my blog posts collected here.

In August, I drove the Beartooth Highway for the first time, and spent lots of time with Patrick exploring Butte.

In September, we all moved to Butte. I started my third semester (this time commuting four days a week) in the MA history program at MSU, classes were World History and some credits for working on my professional paper (not a thesis). Instead of being a graduate research assistant (Tyndall letters), this semester I took a crack at being a teaching assistant, for a course on religion, politics, and conflict in Jerusalem over several thousand years. Interesting experience, and I am happy to have gained more knowledge about the topic.

In October, I took another trip to England, this time a full week in London for research in two archives, the Royal Institution and Kew Gardens. Again, full of Darwin and sciencey goodness, most especially Darwin’s home Down House. Pictures here.

In November, I headed down to Phoenix for my first History of Science Society Annual Meeting. I gave a talk about history of science blogging and met all sorts of historians, historians-in-the-making, and history of science bloggers. About my talk here, and some pictures here.

In December, I finished off my semester and got some much-needed direction for the professional paper I will write next semester in order to graduate in May!

Throughout the entire year, it was fun to witness my son’s curiosity blossom.

No trips to see family this year, but in May we will take a two-week road trip to see both sides of the family in California. And in March Catherine has a library conference in Portland and Patrick and I will tag along for some exploring.

2009 was a big year for me, not only my first trips out of the country but my first conference presentations as well. And my wife starting a new job, Patrick being three (terrible twos? ya right!). Who knows what 2010 will bring!

The top posts on my blog this year were, with no surprise, those that offered information about various Darwin programs on television or other documentaries:

DOCUMENTARY: The Voyage That Shook the W 2,787 More stats
We need more imagery of the young Darwin 2,173 More stats
“What’s New” at Darwin Online 1,302 More stats
Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life [tra 1,008 More stats
Attenborough’s “Charles Darwin and the T 912 More stats
“What Darwin Never Knew” on PBS’s NOVA, 893 More stats
About Michael D. Barton 825 More stats
EXHIBIT: Endless Forms: Charles Darwin, 814 More stats
How to Get the BBC’s ‘The Voyage of Char 790 More stats
VIDEO: Charles Darwin and the Tree of Li 641 More stats
VIDEO: Charles Darwin and the Tree of Li 631 More stats
Explosion Rocks Downtown Bozeman 596 More stats
BBC: Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life 557 More stats
Website for the film ‘Creation’ 488 More stats
BBC’s ‘Darwin’s Dangerous Idea’ (3 episo 466 More stats
Darwin’s Darkest Hour on PBS 439 More stats
BBC’s “What Darwin Didn’t Know” (in 12 p 430 More stats
Google Charles Darwin Logo 2009 409 More stats
New Darwin Film from National Geographic 401 More stats
Darwin Portrait by Carl Buell 398

There is nothing wrong with putting our religion in the public schools

The degree-milled Ph.D. dissertation (1991) of notable creationist and jailbird Kent Hovind has been scanned and made available (find it here). I like this bit:

Many say “We can’t mix religion and the public schools.” In the first place, that is a faulty argument. The public schools desperately need some religion. They were started by religious institutions. There is nothing wrong with putting our religion in the public schools.

Really, Kent? Who is our? Does that include any non-Christian religions? Doubt it.

I had the opportunity to see Hovind speak at local churches twice while I was in southern California. At one talk (I dare not call it a lecture!) I asked him what his opinion is concerning other religions. His answer: “The were all created by Satan to distract people from Jesus Christ.” Just like Satan created evolution. I do own a cute little raptor claw replica from his merchandise table, about the only good thing I got out of it.

Satan did it

Satan did it

“MSU historian heads international project on 19th century scientist”

From Montana State University News Service (14 October 2009):

MSU historian heads international project on 19th century scientist

BOZEMAN — John Tyndall, one of the most influential scientists of the 19th century, would’ve been better known if his wife hadn’t accidentally poisoned him and demanded control of his letters and journals, says Michael Reidy, a Montana State University historian.

The National Science Foundation is ready to pull Tyndall out of the shadows, however, and Reidy is overseeing the effort.

The NSF recently awarded Reidy $580,000 for a three-year project to finish transcribing 8,000 Tyndall letters, publish them and hold an international conference. The project will involve graduate students and scholars from 12 universities in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Among those institutions are Harvard University and Cambridge University. Co-principal investigator is Bernard Lightman, professor of humanities at York University in Toronto. He has been studying Tyndall since the mid-1970s and invited Reidy to propose the project to the NSF.

“I couldn’t have picked a better colleague to work with,” Lightman said. “He knew how to articulate the point that we were trying to set up something new, an international collaborative correspondence project.

“For me, this is a project I can really sink my teeth into,” Lightman added. “Tyndall is relatively neglected next to Huxley and the other evolutionary naturalists, yet there is so much fabulous archival material to draw from to get a better picture of who he was.”

Reidy said, “It’s really cool. It reflects very nicely on our department, on our graduate program. It puts us at the center of all these other very well-known programs around the world.”

Tyndall was a contemporary of naturalist Charles Darwin, biologist Thomas Huxley and chemist/physicist Michael Faraday — all renowned British scientists of the 1800s, Reidy said. The letters they sent each other touched on topics still debated today, such as the professionalization of science, government funding of science and the relationship between science and religion.

Tyndall, one of the original agnostics, defended Darwin against his harshest critics and published numerous essays and books on the role of science in the Victorian culture, Reidy continued. Tyndall published significant works in electro-magnetism, thermodynamics, sound, glaciers, global warming and spontaneous generation. He invented the Tyndallization process for sterilizing food. He was the first person to describe why the sky is blue and the first person to describe the natural greenhouse effect. One of the first and greatest mountaineers, he set up research stations in the mountains and studied the movement of glaciers.

“Said simply, Tyndall stood at the intersection of some of the most important developments in science and society, and his correspondence touches on all of them,” Reidy wrote in a project summary.

Tyndall died at age 73 after his wife, Louisa Charlotte, accidentally switched the dosages of medications he took for insomnia and gastrointestinal problems, Reidy said. She was so upset that she demanded control of his letters so she could publish them. She never published any of them, however. The task was too daunting, and she refused to turn it over to anyone else.

“He became rather unknown because of that,” Reidy said.

Lightman said approximately 6,000 of Tyndall’s letters ended up in the Royal Institution of Britain, where Tyndall spent most of his career. The other 2,000 were archived in some 25 other locations around the world.

Graduate students will transcribe the letters by looking at digitalized versions of them, Lightman said. He added that the Royal Institution found a firm to put its Tyndall letters on microfilm. The letters were then digitalized. Letters at the other archives were photocopied and digitalized. When letters didn’t reproduce well, a student went to the Royal Institution to check the originals.

Reidy said Tyndall’s handwriting was “horrible.” Fortunately, in some cases, Tyndall dictated his letters to his wife who had better handwriting. Tyndall’s letters range from one sentence long to 25 pages.

The grad students will turn their transcriptions into Word documents that end up online, Reidy said. The researchers will publish a one-volume calendar of Tyndall’s correspondence and expect to publish 10 volumes in print and online. Sometime in 2012, they will hold an international Tyndall conference at MSU.

Publishing Tyndall’s letters is the main goal of the project, but it also creates a new model of graduate student training and research by placing grad students at the center of the project, Reidy said. At MSU alone, the NSF grant will involve two or three graduate students a year for three years and one postdoctoral researcher. Besides transcribing letters, the grad students will incorporate their findings into master’s theses.

The end result should be an international community of Tyndall scholars, Reidy said.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu

At the Darwin’s Legacy conference in North Carolina

I arrived in Wilmington, North Carolina for the Darwin’s Legacy student conference at UNCW on Wednesday evening after a full day on 3 planes. Thursday evening was the conference welcome reception, at the Center for Marine Science (where we were treated to a tour of the facility by its director). Sessions with disciplines ranging through the hard sciences, social sciences, and humanites are today and tomorrow. I presented my paper a couple of hours ago, and had to move back my slot in the schedule because my glasses malfunctioned. Yes, my left lens popped out and the tiny, tiny screw got lost in the crannies of carpet. A conference volunteer drove me quickly to a vision center nearby and they graciously replaced my screw, and I came back and jumped in between presenters. Unfortunately, another presentation in my session I really wanted to see (a paper exploring why intelligent design proponents explore the Darwin-Hitler link), but the presenter was absent from the room when it was her turn. Oh well.

It feels good to be done with my presentation, because now I can relax and enjoy the rest of the conference. Double –blogger Anne-Marie stopped by while she is checking out the campus as a master’s school prospect. She will be attending the conference banquet this evening. It is nice to finally meet another science blogger face to face.