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.

Videos from Darwin’s Legacy course at Standford

These 10 videos are of presentations from the Stanford Continuing Studies course, Darwin’s Legacy, in September 2008.

Lecture 1: September 22, 2008 introductory lecture by William Durham for the Stanford Continuing Studies course on Darwin’s Legacy (DAR 200). Professor Durham provides an overview of the course; Professor Robert Siegel touches upon “Darwin’s Own Evolution;” Professor Durham returns for a talk on “Darwin’s Data;” and the lecture concludes with a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Lynn Rothschild.

Lecture 2: September 29, 2008 lecture by Eugenie Scott for the Stanford Continuing Studies course on Darwin’s Legacy (DAR 200). Dr. Scott explores the evolution vs. creationism debate and provides an argument for evolution. The lecture is concluded with a panel discussion with Brent Sockness and Jeff Wine.

Lecture 3: October 6, 2008 lecture by Janet Browne for the Stanford Continuing Studies course on Darwin’s Legacy (DAR 200). Dr. Browne presents a biography on Charles Darwin and explores Darwin’s Origin of Species. The lecture is concluded with a panel discussion with Craig Heller and Robert Proctor.

Lecture 4: October 13, 2008 lecture by Daniel Dennett for the Stanford Continuing Studies course on Darwin’s Legacy (DAR 200). Dr. Dennett presents the philosophical importance of Darwin’s theory of evolution. The lecture is concluded with a panel discussion with Hank Greely and Chris Bobonich.

Lecture 5: October 20, 2008 lecture by Peter and Rosemary Grant for the Stanford Continuing Studies course on Darwin’s Legacy (DAR 200). The Grants discuss how and why species multiply. The lecture is concluded with a panel discussion with Carol Boggs and Rodolfo Dirzo.

Lecture 6: October 27, 2008 lecture by Niles Eldredge for the Stanford Continuing Studies course on Darwin’s Legacy (DAR 200). Dr. Eldredge discusses Darwin’s life and work. The lecture is concluded with a panel discussion with Ward Watt and Liz Hadly.

Lecture 7: November 3, 2008 lecture by Professor Melissa Brown for the Stanford Continuing Studies course on Darwin’s Legacy (DAR 200). Professor Brown speaks about the history and consequences of social Darwinism, and offers insight into new ways of thinking about social evolution.

Lecture 8: November 10, 2008 lecture by Paul Ewald for the Stanford Continuing Studies course on Darwin’s Legacy (DAR 200). Dr. Ewald speaks about how several pathogenic viruses have evolved over time to break down the cell’s barriers to several types of cancer. He suggests that further research will aid in the discovery of additional viruses linked to the causation of cancer. The lecture is concluded with a panel discussion with Gary Schoolnik and Stanley Falkow.

Lecture 9: November 17, 2008 lecture by Russell Fernald for the Stanford Continuing Studies course on Darwin’s Legacy (DAR 200). Dr. Fernald discusses how social behavior changes the brains of fish, animals, and humans to adapt to situations typically involving mating behaviors. The lecture is concluded with a panel discussion with Eric Knudsen and Charles Junkerman.

Lecture 10: December 1, 2008 lecture by George Levine for the Stanford Continuing Studies course on Darwin’s Legacy (DAR 200). Dr. Levine discusses through analysis of Darwin’s literary works, ways of seeing and being enchanted by the world as well as the poetic eloquence of Darwin’s prose. The lecture is concluded with a discussion between Dr. Levine and Rob Polhemus.

First Conference?

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

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

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

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

Michael D. Barton

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

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

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

Caricatures of Darwin and Newton to mark Cambridge’s 800th b’day

From SkyBlue.in:

Caricatures of Darwin and Newton to mark Cambridge’s 800th b’day

London, Jan 17 (ANI): Renowned British cartoonist Quentin Blake has caricatured two of Cambridge University’s most famous alumni for a show to mark the institution’s 800th birthday.
Sketches of scientists Charles Darwin and Sir Isaac Newton will form part of a light show which will illuminate the university’s Senate House on Saturday night.

January 17 marks the start of a year of celebrations at Cambridge, one of the oldest universities in the western world.

In one of Blake’s sketches Darwin, born 200 years ago this year, is depicted as a young man riding a beetle.

In the masterpieces, Newton, who studied at Trinity College in the 1660s, is shown refracting a beam through a prism: as a young scientist he lectured on the nature of light, reports the Telegraph.

Light artist Ross Ashton, who will be running three shows from Saturday to Monday, said he was “very excited” to be involved with it.

He said: “The ideas, concepts and inventions that have flowed from Cambridge have changed the world. I intend to give the viewer a glimpse of the depth and breadth of this incredible body of work and to show that this same innovative genius will continue to shape our world in the future.” (ANI)

BBC Darwin Season Launch in January

Back in October I was contacted by BBC Marketing for my mailing address. They added me to the list of invitees to the launch of the BBC Darwin Season in London on January 20, 2009. Today I received the neat little invitation in the mail. Of course, sadly, I am not able to go, but it was nice to be invited!

Did any of my fellow Darwin bloggers receive an invitation?

By the way, in the fall of 2009, I may get to go to London. Talking with my advisor today, we decided that my research on Tyndall will necessitate a research trip to the archive of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, which holds a large collection of Tyndall material. Although we have access to the letters, I will need to see Tyndall’s journals… What else could I possibly want to see in London or the outskirts of?

My First Publication: An article about Yellowstone National Park

The paper I wrote as part of my history internship in Yellowstone National Park in the summer of 2007 has been published in shorter form, with some of my own photographs, in Yellowstone Science:

Barton, Michael D. “Between Heaven and Hell’: Religious Language in Early Descriptions of Yellowstone National Park.” Yellowstone Science 16:3 (2008): 16-23.

Viewable as a PDF here. Thanks for the plug, Richard!

Source Request: articles on the history of the evolution/creation controversy

I am working on a project for one of my classes (Public History), and at the moment I am looking for articles dealing with the evolution/creation controversy (issue, debate, whatever you want to term it), specifically ones that look at it historically. I have gathered a lot so far, but it would be great if I could get some help from anyone who knows of good articles… Let me know, and if it isn’t one I have come across, all the better!

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

In 1827, Charles Darwin was accepted into Christ’s College at Cambridge, but did not start until winter term because he needed to catch up on some of his studies. A grandson of Erasmus Darwin of Lichfield, and of Josiah Wedgwood, he had entered the University of Edinburgh in 1825 to study medicine, intending to follow his father Robert’s career as a doctor. However, Darwin found himself unenthusiastic about his studies, including that of geology. Disappointing his family that he gave up on a medical career, he left Edinburgh without graduating in April 1827. His scholastic achievements at Cambridge were unremarkable, but after graduation, Darwin was recommended by his botany professor to be a naturalist to sail on HMS Beagle.

Great Scientists Speak Again: Charles Darwin

Embedding is disabled for these videos, so here are parts 1, 2, and 3 for “Great Scientists Speak Again: Charles Darwin” (1973). I recently purchased on eBay an interesting little book by biologist Richard Marshall Eakin, who you will see in the videos, of UC Berkeley, Impersonating Great Scientists. The eBay seller offered this information about the book:

Zoology 10, the ‘culture’ course for non-majors was also one of his favorite offerings, a course where he could mix science with favorite homespun philosophical thoughts. It was here that one day in 1970 he succumbed to the temptation to invite William Harvey, a famous scientist who had discovered the circulation of the blood in 1628, to be a guest lecturer. Eakin then disguised himself as that Elizabethan scholar and delivered a lecture, much of it in Harvey’s own words. Imagine the doubts, the anguish, the fear that must have haunted him before that first performance. Would he be laughed off the stage? One rude cynical student could have shattered the whole scene. Mercifully, the happening was a spectacular success and led to other ‘guest lectures’ in which he impersonated such eminent scientists as Gregory Mendel, William Beaumont, Charles Darwin, Louis Pasteur, and Hans Spemann. These performances were repeated again and again, not only in Zoology 10, but in guest appearances before appreciative audiences in many parts of the country, and were published in a marvelous little booklet entitled Great Scientists Speak Again (1975). It is little wonder that he was awarded the first Senior Citation for Distinguished Teaching (in 1963), the ASUC Award for Outstanding Teaching (1968), and finally, upon his retirement in 1977, the prestigious Berkeley Citation.

Eakin died in 1999 (New York Times: Richard Eakin Dies at 89; Did His Lectures in Costume). You can also watch this video and others of Eakin’s scientist portrayals on this Berkeley lecture website.

David Quammen Lecture in Bozeman on A.R. Wallace

If there are any Bozeman readers out there, David Quammen (natural history writer and Darwin biographer) will be lecturing on Alfred Russel Wallace (look forward to the December National Geographic) on November 5th:

David Quammen
“The Man Who Wasn’t Darwin: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Founding of Evolutionary Biology”
November 5, 2008, 7:00 pm
Hager Auditorium, Museum of the Rockies
Free, seating is limited (first come first serve)

If anything like the “Darwin and Religion” lecture about 2 years ago, seats will fill fast. I missed it because I wasn’t at the museum early enough to get a ticket. Fortunatley, I met David in the local Coop the very next day, and he offered to look over the Darwin paper I was working on at the time. As the current Stegner Chair of the History Department here, he works with graduate students through reading seminars. For October, we are reading Watson’s The Double Helix to explore memoirs and truth in history, and will meet at his house for conversation and dinner.

Oh no, terrible twos… and grad life.


Originally uploaded by darwinsbulldog

Patrick has got an attitude all his own. Here he is upset because he does not want to get into pajamas. Being on campus 6 days a week, I miss him. And I know he misses me, but sometimes he doesn’t act like it…

So far graduate school is good. Busy, but good. All classes have a tremendous amount of reading, but what is doing history without having to read alot? I enjoy my Early America class, particularly because of the professor. So far we’ve read Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900 (Studies in Environment and History) by Alfred Crosby and a book about the Indian conquest of Europe, Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America. Historical Methods is fine; the reading assigned by Campbell is very dry so far, but the books are not meant to entertain, but to teach us how different historians through time have constructed their histories (all our readings focus on French history, and I am looking forward to reading The Pasteurization of France by Bruno Latour in November). Our semester project is to prepare an annotated bibliography and prospectus (proposal) for a research paper, but we are not actually writing the paper (I am hoping to relate thi to Tyndall); maybe that will come in the spring in Historical Writing. My Public History class is different (taught by a philosopher of science) – we are learning about oral histories, museology, among other things. We have to pick a public policy issue, research it historically, relate it to that issue as it has happened regionally (in Montana or northern Rocky Mountain region), and attempt to provide a solution within a 10-15 page paper. I think I have decided to tackle the creation/evolution issue, and to relate it to the eruption in Darby, Montana in 2004. David Quammen, as the Stegner Chair at MSU, also does a reading seminar each semester with history graduate students. Three books, three meetings (with dinner at his home). The theme this semester is whether or not memoirs can be taking seriously by historians. First up is a memoir about McCarthyism, called Scoundrel Time, then James Watson’s The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA, and finally Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, about his time spent in Paris (can you guess which of the three I am looking forward to reading?). As for the Tyndall project, see here.

Okay, back to reading Fernand Braudel’s On History. Just thought I would give an update…

And so it begins…

Back to classes this week as I begin my life as a graduate student. My first class is not until tomorrow (historical methodologies), but today I will begin reading up on John Tyndall for the project (I won’t start transcribing letters for a couple of weeks). I sort of set up my desk in the history graduate student office this morning. It will be nice to have a place to work from for the Tyndall project, and where I can leave books and not have to cart them home everyday. My sister blog, Transcribing Tyndall, has been given the green light from my advisor and another historian of science working on the project. I figured it was best to ask about doing the blog along with the project. The only thing really important for me to remember is not to quote directly from Tyndall’s letters in any of my posts, because that information is intended for publication.

So, for anyone heading back to the routine, good luck and have a great semester!

After 9 years…

… I can finally say I have my undergraduate degree. I started commmunity college down in California in 1999, received an associate’s degree in math & science, then I attended San Diego State University (yes, this SDSU!) for three semesters (2001-2002), intending to major in biology. Working too hard as a restaurant manager for the California chain Pat & Oscar’s, as well as my grandfather passing away from pancreatic cancer, translated to a below than average performance in my biology courses. I was on academic probation for a period of time. I decided San Diego wasn’t the place for me to live nor SDSU the school. I applied to Montana State University intending to be in the paleontology program. I was accepted, and decided to live at home for a year to save money. During that time, I demoted myself to a server (read: tips) at Pat & Oscar’s (yes, one in my hometown too), and took a few geology courses at another local community college. I moved to Bozeman at the beginning of 2004, and worked for a year to get residency. Before I even started classes in January of 2005, I changed my major to history (of science). Finally, after three years at MSU (I finished in December), tomorrow I will celebrate receiving my Bachelor of Arts in History and minor in Museum Studies.

Jane Goodall Lecture at MSU

In my several years here at Montana State University, I have seen lectures by Salman Rushdie, Tim Flannery, Paul Russebegina, and Edward O. Wilson. Last Monday, I was fortunate to see primatologist and environmentalist Jane Goodall lecture at MSU (now I expect David Attenborough). She gave her talk, “A Reason for Hope,” in which she highlights events in her life and career in order to urge people today to take a step toward becoming advocates for the environment. Goodall was first introduced by nature writer (and Darwin biographer) David Quammen, who was instrumental in getting Goodall to come to MSU, and who shared his surprise at how active the 74-year-old Goodall remains in the field. Goodall then proceeded to greet the crowd of nearly 3,000 as chimpazees do, as can be heard at about 3:50 in this TED talk from 2002:

I enjoyed listening to her talk about, when only four years old or so, she was determined to find out where the hole on a hen is that an egg comes out, and remaining in a chicken coup while her parents worried over their disappeared daughter. Her lecture stressed her mother’s role in her life, from getting a young Jane animal books, spending the first months with her with the chimpanzee field study in 1960, to continuing to posthumously inspire her today. She recalled her feeling jealous about “that other Jane” that caught Tarzan’s fancy. And she mentioned this video, where a man jumped into a chimpanzee enclosure to save a drowning male chimp, risking his life as several angry chimps were charging nearby. She told how the man had described seeing the chimps eyes, and connecting as if the chimp were a fellow human being.
Despite her soft, scratchy voice, Jane had a very strong presence in front of the crowd. And she had a way of combining wonderful personal stories with current events and calls for action. Local articles discuss all of this (see here and here), so I won’t reiterate. All I know is that I am definitely interested in having my son sign up for Goodall’s Roots & Shoots program in about three years or so, if they have them where ever we are living then. The program strives to “foster respect and compassion for all living things, to promote understanding of all cultures and beliefs and to inspire each individual to take action to make the world a better place for people, animals and the environment.” I wish Patrick was old enough to have come to the lecture, but at just a little over 2 years old, he would not have been able to focus for two hours on someone 50 yards down the bleachers.

This picture is from the book signing after the lecture, as is the picture of the autographed book and ticket above.


Graduate School in Bozeman, Montana

A few things to mention: 1) I was accepted into Montana State University’s graduate program in history; 2) we can most likely remain in our family housing apartment (I hate moving all the books!); and 3) for the first year of my graduate studies, I will be involved with my advisor on a funded project to transcribe the letters of the 19th-century Irish physicist John Tyndall, focusing, I believe, on letters dealing with his mountaineering endeavo[u]rs. Whether or not I will use the information gathered through reading so many letters to develop my thesis or write something entirely different, I am not sure. But Tyndall did touch on some biological topics later in his career. The project is spearheaded by historian of science Bernard Lightman (author of Victorian Science in Context [1997] and Victorian Popularizers of Science [2007], and editor of the journal Isis). From his “works in progress” on his homepage:

A biography of John Tyndall using the extensive unpublished correspondence from the Royal Institution and elsewhere, funded by a three-year SSHRC grant. Currently I am working with a team of graduate students to transcribe the letters.

Today in Science History

Died this day:

Elizabeth Gertrude Knight Britton (Died 25 Feb 1934; born 9 Jan 1858). American botanist known for her lasting contributions to bryology, the study of mosses. She went on numerous botanical expeditions to the West Indies and in wilderness areas of the Adirondacks. A visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, near London, England, made a great impression on Britton and she determined that New York City should have its own botanical garden. She was the driving force in the establishment of the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. The original 250 acre garden was incorporated in 1891. Through publications, lectures, and correspondence, Britton also raised public interest in conservation issues and promoted legislation for the protection of endangered native plants.

Charles Edwin Bessey (Died 25 Feb 1915; born 21 May 1845). American botanist who created the first U.S. undergraduate botanical experimental laboratory at Iowa State University, where he held several positions (1870-84) and inaugurated the systematic study of plant morphology in the U.S. He devised a classification of angiosperm (flowering plant) taxa based on Candolle’s theory of differentiation to emphasize the evolutionary divergence of primitive forms. He moved to become Dean of Agriculture at the University of Nebraska (1884-1915). While in Nebraska, he started a tree planting experiment (1902) that initiated the Nebraska National Forest, the first man-made national forest in the world. He helped influence federal legislation to preserve the giant sequoia trees in California.

In today’s ‘Bozeman Daily Chronicle’…

… is an article about the student exhibits now up in the history hall of the Museum of the Rockies. These exhibits, as I have mentioned before, were done as part of the museum practices course at MSU for the museum studies minor. I have put up pictures on Flickr having to do with the class, and these having to do with my display specifically. Here’s a link to the online article, but as it won’t remain there forever, here it is:

First MSU student exhibits at Museum of Rockies
By GAIL SCHONTZLER Chronicle Staff Writer

Michael Barton bought a $3 hardback book [note: Darwin’s The Descent of Man, A.L. Burt, 1890] at the Bozeman Public Library’s used book sale [note: in 2005] and became curious about the handwritten name inside – WD Rankin.

Barton’s curiosity led him to dig up some nuggets of Montana history.

Today his discoveries are on display for all to see at the Museum of the Rockies. Barton’s is one of 14 exhibits created by Montana State University students, the first student-created exhibits to be mounted in the museum’s history wing.

“You learn by doing,” said Dave Swingle, adjunct instructor of the introduction to museum practices class that produced the exhibits. In the past, the class was all theory, requiring students to write term papers. For the fall semester class, however, Swingle won the museum’s permission to mount actual exhibits.

The class has inspired several students to aspire to be museum curators, which could be a good career option for history majors.

“More people go to museums than all the sporting events combined in this country,” Swingle said.

“It was real neat — creating things, not just writing papers,” said Leighton Quarles, 26, an MSU history grad.

Quarles’ exhibit centers on the twisted wreck of a machine gun from a kamikaze plane – a World War II trophy that sat for years in a Helena veteran’s garage. He documented the deadly 1945 attack on the USS Haggard that nearly sank the destroyer, and found several black-and-white photos to tell the story.

Other student exhibits have everything from photos of GIs who liberated Nazi death camps, to a Beach Boys vinyl album from a century of musical recording equipment, to century-old Winchester rifles.

Barton found inside Rankin’s book several artifacts from the life of Wellington Rankin, a prominent Helena lawyer who ran for the U.S. Senate six times and failed, largely because of his more famous sister. Jeannette Rankin was the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress and a pacifist who voted against U.S. entry into World War I and II.

Inside the book he found Wellington’s 1942 campaign card – “Win the War, Crush the Axis Military Powers Forever” – and a “Peace on Earth” Christmas card from Jeannette.

Julia Sable, 30, a master’s degree student in science and natural history filmmaking, created a video of the museum’s Tinsley farmhouse summer festival. She showed volunteers cooking with 1890s foods and technology, and visitors making apple cider.

“I feel I did well on my goals of making people feel like they’re there,” Sable said. “And I wanted it to be equally entertaining for kids and adults.”

Also entertaining is a large exhibit on Winchester rifles that shows how firearms evolved from single-shot muzzle-loaders to lever-action repeating rifles

Hollywood loved the Winchester because the small rifle made stars like John Wayne look bigger, Swingle said.

One student exhibit on the history of MSU dormitory life is in a unique location n at the MSU residence life office, inside a non-working grandfather clock. Whitney Chamberlin, 19, said it shows 1910 girls hanging out in their dorm room and guys having a tug of war.

“Some things really haven’t changed,” Chamberlin said

Gail Schontzler is at gails@dailychronicle.com.