Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Georges Cuvier (Born 23 Aug 1769; died 13 May 1832). (Baron) French zoologist and statesman, who established the sciences of comparative anatomy and paleontology.

Philip Henry Gosse (Died 23 Aug 1888; born 6 Apr 1810). English popular science writer and naturalist who wrote books illustrating such topics as Jamaican wildlife and marine zoology. Stephen Jay Gould called Gosse the “David Attenborough of his day.” However, he did not accept the theory of evolution, and in his best-known book, Omphalos, he attempted to apply biblical literalism in a way still consistent with uniformitarianism. His premise in the book was criticized by both sides of the debate. He invented the institutional aquarium when on 21 May 1853, he opened the Aquatic Vivarium, the world’s first public aquarium in Regent’s Park, London

Alexander Wilson (Died 23 Aug 1813; born 6 Jul 1766). Scottish-born ornithologist and poet who left his homeland in 1794, aged 27, in search of a better life in America. Naturalist William Bartram sparked his interest in birds. By 1802, Wilson had resolved to author a book illustrating every North American bird. He travelled extensively to make paintings of the birds he observed. This pioneering work on North American birds grew to nine volumes of American Ornithology, published between 1808 and 1814, with illustrations of 268 species, of which 26 were new. As a founder of American ornithology he became one of the leading naturalists who also made the first census of breeding birds, corrected errors of taxonomy, and may have inspired Audubon’s later work when they met in 1810.

CONFERENCE: Evolution – the Experience

From the website:

Conference 8-13 February 2009
Melbourne Convention Centre Australia

Come Share in a Unique Experience

You are invited to come to Melbourne to share in a unique conference experience, celebrating the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth (February 12, 1809) and the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Origin of the Species

When Charles Darwin came to Australia on the voyage of HMS Beagle in 1836 he was an obscure English naturalist.

23 years later the publication of Darwin’s book, Origin of the Species, sparked an intellectual, social and spiritual revolution.
 It radically transformed our understanding of life on this planet – the origins of life, our relationship to other species and the way life can adapt or fail to do so in the face of environmental change.

Evolution – the Experience will explore the breadth and depth of Darwin’s ongoing impact in basic biology, agriculture, medicine, psychology, sociology, politics, history and religion.

Evolution – the Experience will be embedded in rich menu of public events, each in their own way touching the Darwinian theme – theatre, film, forums, debates and exhibitions involving theatre companies, orchestras, cinemas, museums, art galleries, libraries, botanic gardens, zoos, herbaria, schools, universities and the media. And on February 12, 2009 there will be a unique birthday celebration for Charles Darwin.

Register your interest in being part of this extraordinary experience so that we can keep you updated of all key information.

abstract Submission Now open

Mandeville’s Ship: Theistic Design and Philosophical History in Charles Darwin’s Vision of Natural Selection

Alter, Stephen G. “Mandeville’s Ship: Theistic Design and Philosophical History in Charles Darwin’s Vision of Natural Selection.” Journal of the History of Ideas 69 (July 2008): 441-465.

Abstract This essay examines the analogy of a savage observing a sailing ship found in the final chapter of Darwin’s Origin of Species, an image that summed up his critique of British natural theology’s “design” thesis. Its inspiration drawn from works by Mandeville and Hume, and Darwin’s experience on the Beagle voyage, the ship illustration shows how Darwin conceived of natural selection’s relationship to theistic design in terms of a historical consciousness developed by Scottish Enlightenment thinkers. That outlook involved a dual emphasis on the rationality of historical inquiry and the largely irrational character of the actual historical process. Symbolized by the history of ship construction, this perspective aided Darwin in formulating his response to British natural theology.

Also in this issue: “The Pointsman: Maxwell’s Demon, Victorian Free Will, and the Boundaries of Science”

Draft image for Darwin tattoo — Now I need some bodies

From Colin Purrington:

I’m about to order 2000 temporary tattoos in preparation for Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday. I’m going to give them to my students and science-lovin’ friends. I’m even going to send a bunch in with my kids to their elementary school, to distribute among their friends.

But to get the interest of people who might otherwise be uninterested in displaying fondness for science, I need some help. What I need are some brave souls to model the final product, and then send me a high-quality photograph I can use to promote Darwin recognition. Yea, science is inherently sexy, but sometimes it needs a little help. So I’m betting there is somebody out there that (1) wants to help promote Darwin and (2) looks really, really great in a bikini or has some really well-defined rectus abdominis muscles. I want it PG-13, though, folks — something that will inspire others. I’ll post image back here, anonymously if you so desire. I’ll send a Darwin mug, some Magnetodarwins, and some repositionable laptop stickers for the winning entry (yea, pretty lame…but that’s all I got). Stickers for all others, with thanks to all.

Here are some photos to get you thinking:

Give me your address if you’re interested, and I’ll get a couple in the mail to you as soon as they come in.

And if you’re so totally not hot, find a friend who is and draft them for the cause. You have a camera, right?? Or, if you are a proud parent of some evolution-lovin’ kids, I would REALLY like some kids sporting these tattoos.

More information on Darwin image at….

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Spencer Fullerton Baird (Died 19 Aug 1887; born 3 Feb 1823). American naturalist, vertebrate zoologist, and in his time the leading authority on North American birds and mammals. A pioneer in museum collecting and display, he was named the Smithsonian Institution’s second Secretary upon the death of the first Secretary, Joseph Henry. Whereas Henry had envisioned the Smithsonian primarily as a research institute, Baird saw Smithson’s gift as the means to develop a national museum. By 1878, Congress had formally given responsibility for the U.S. National Museum to the Smithsonian Institution. During the Baird years, the Smithsonian became a showcase for the nation’s history, resources, and treasures. By the end of his tenure, the National Museum housed more than 2.5 million specimens and artifacts.

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Bern Dibner (Born 18 Aug 1897; died 6 Jan 1988). Ukrainian-American engineer and science historian. Dibner worked as an engineer during the electrification of Cuba. Realizing the need for improved methods of connecting electrical conductors, in 1924, he founded the Burndy Engineering Company. A few years later, he became interested in the history of Renaissance science. Subsequently, he began collecting books and everything he could find that was related to the history of science. This became a second career as a scholar that would run parallel with his life as a businessman. He wrote many books and pamphlets, on topics from the transport of ancient obelisks, to authorative biographies of many scientific pioneers, including Volta, inventor of the electric battery, and Roentgen, discoverer of the X ray. [namesake for the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology]

William Henry Hudson (Died 18 Aug 1922; born 4 Aug 1841). English (born in Argentina of American parents) author, naturalist and ornithologist. His interest in nature started in his youth when he studied the local flora and fauna in Argentina, where he was born of American parents. After moving to England (1869) he published onithological works including Argentine Ornithology (1888-1899) and British Birds (1895). He followed these with popular books on the English countryside, including Hampshire Days (1903) and Afoot in England (1909). His work helped foster the back-to-nature movement of the 1920s to 1930s, and he was a founder member of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Paul Kammerer (Born 17 Aug 1880; died 23 Sep 1926). Austrian biologist, he claimed to have produced experimental evidence that acquired traits could be inherited. Almost all of Kammerer’s experiments involved forcing various amphibians to breed in environments that were radically different from their native habitat to demonstrate Lamarkian inheritance. (This is the idea that what one acquires during one’s lifetime is passed on to that person’s offspring. If you play guitar, your children will have nimble fingers. Each generation builds upon the past and continues to improve.) When later accused of faking exceptional results with the midwife toad, during a time of depression, he shot himself.

Bernard de Jussieu (Born 17 Aug 1699; died 6 Nov 1777). French botanist whose method of plant classification was based on anatomical characteristics of the plant embryo. Although he first studied medicine, in 1722 he became subdemonstrator of plants in the Jardin du Roi, Paris. In 1758, Louis XV made him superintendent of his royal garden at Trianon near Paris, which was to contain specimens of all plants cultivated in France. It was here that he devised his system to arrange and catalogued the plants of Trianon. He did not arrange the genera systematically in groups according to a single characteristic, but after consideration of all the characteristics, which, however, are not regarded as of equal value. His brothers, Antoine and Joseph, and nephew Antoine-Laurent, were also botanists.

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

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

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

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

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

Four honorees have been announced so far:

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

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

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

Links to this post:
Uncommon Ground
The Ant Room

The Darwin Legend

A new Darwin website: The Darwin Legend, by Hiram Caton, which “explores Charles Darwin’s legacy in the run up to the Darwin 200 bicentennial celebrations, Darwin 2009.” I haven’t had much time to look through it, though. I think Caton emailed me an article he did about the Darwin exhibit back when I first started this blog, but I can’t seem to find the email anymore.

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

John Torrey (Born 15 Aug 1796; died 10 Mar 1873). American botanist and chemist known for his extensive studies of North American flora. The first professional botanist in the New World, Torrey published extensively on the North American flora, advocated the “natural system” of classification that was replacing Linnaeus’ artifical system, and collaborated for many years with his student Asa Gray (who was to become an important botanist). Torrey never was able to make a living from botany and worked (among other things) as a freelance chemical analyst. Unidentified plants collected on government expeditions to the western states were sent to him for study, however, as a foremost authority of his time. A genus of evergreen trees, Torreya, is named for him.

Elias Fries (Born 15 Aug 1794; died 8 Feb 1878). Elias (Magnus) Fries was a Swedish botanist, one of the fathers of mycology, who developed the first system used to classify fungi, which had been an area of difficulty and confusion in the pre-Darwin era. His interest in the subject began as a school-boy. His three-volume work, Systema mycologicum (1821-32) remains an important source for nomenclature. The major taxonomic characteristics he applied were spore color and arrangement of the hymenophore (such as smooth surfaces, lamellae, folds, tubes, or toothlike). He also investigated algae and lichens, and published works to educate lay persons.

Sir Edwin Ray Lankester (Died 15 Aug 1929; born 15 May 1847). British zoologist whose interests embraced comparative anatomy, protozoology, parasitology, embryology and anthropology. He was one of the first to describe protozoan parasites found in the blood of vertebrates. Lankestrella (a parasite related to the causative agent of malaria) carries his name. His work contributed to an understanding of the disease. Based on his investigation into the comparative anatomy of the embryology of invertebrates, Lankester endorsed Darwin’s theory of evolution, In anthropology, his activities included the discovery of flint implements, evidence of early man, in Pliocene sediments, Suffolk. He was Director of the British Museum of Natural History (1898-1907).

William Buckland (Died 15 Aug 1856; born 12 Mar 1784). English pioneer geologist and minister, known for his effort to reconcile geological discoveries with the Bible and anti-evolutionary theories.

Evolution letters in my hometown newspaper…

This letter to the editor appeared in the August 14th The Californian (which is the newspaper from my hometown of Temecula, CA):

Some evidence against evolution

Much of Curtis Croulet’s abundant information about evolution has been proven to be bunk and made-up stories such as the one about a tooth that was supposed to be about a very old person and turned out to be the tooth of a pig.

Here are a few things that makes evolution unbelievable.
1) Horses and human primates sweat, but apes, monkeys, baboons, marmosets, chimpanzees, and other like primates do not.
2) Humans, parrots and parakeets can speak, but apes and other such primates can not.
3) Humans and pigs have skin that is very much alike, but apes and other such primates do not.
4) Humans are loved by dogs and porpoises, but apes and other such are not.
5) Rats are used by doctors, because their genes and organs are like humans, but apes and such are not.
6) Humans are made up of giants, so-called regular size, and midgets, and can propagate between sizes, but gorillas all the way down to marmosets can not.
7) The only other primate face that looks human is a baby baboon, but when it’s an adult, it looks more like a dog.
8) Galapagos is Spanish for turtle. Human and turtles can live over 100 years, but apes and such do not.

What really did Charles Darwin prove in the Galapagos Islands?I am an 84-year-old descendant from two famous creatures: Adam and Eve.

Sam Hendricks Jr.
Sun City

This letter was a response to:

A triumphant confirmation

There are so many creationist claims and misunderstandings that it’s impossible to adequately address them in 250 words.

First off, a scientific “theory” is much more than mere opinion or conjecture. As stated by Michael Shermer, “A theory is a well-supported and well-tested generalization that explains a set of observations.” A robust theory, like evolution, can even survive changes in the “facts” that it explains.

The creationists who compiled that standard list of quotes from scientists who say there are “no transitional fossils” forgot to tell you that the quoted scientists invariably said much more. The “much more” usually limits or even contradicts the surgically lifted quotes. Furthermore, the quotes are stale.

In science, 1980 is ancient history. Many more transitional fossils have been described since then, and many more will come.

As for the transition to the giraffe, Mr. Vargo, you make it too easy. Giraffes are artiodactyls, with features in common with other artiodactyls (antelope, deer, cattle). The common ancestor of the modern okapi and giraffe was or looked very much like Canthumeryx, and along the way to the giraffe came Paleotragus and Bohlinia. Also, you may have nodded through a couple of classes on the way to your biology degree, else you would have learned what a “theory” is, and you would have learned that organisms do not have “separate and unique DNA.” The similarity of DNA among organisms is a triumphant confirmation of evolution.

Curtis Croulet

Which, in turn, may have been a response to:

Let’s not let the facts get in the way

It becomes tedious to keep up with the lack of factual material that Mr. Curtis Croulet pours forth in repetitive, unthinking and dogmatic fashion in letter after letter. He goes from not knowing that the movie “Expelled” was in local theaters (June 22), yet “dissing” it, to believing that by denigrating the Bible, he will prove there are transitional fossils (July 20).

Mr. Edward Vargo (June 26) rightly asserts that there are no “transitional” fossils. If Curtis would explore evolutionists’ own literature, he would find more than 60 quotes where evolutionists themselves tell us that there are none. Even Darwin, who said, “the number of intermediate and transitional links, between all living and extinct species, must have been inconceivably great,” also found none. (1) Or as Newsweek noted (1980), “The more scientists have searched for the transitional forms between species, the more they have been frustrated. In the fossil record, missing links are the rule.” (2) If he doesn’t like those, he won’t like, “But no one has yet found any evidence of such transitional creatures,” by Niles Eldridge. (3) Or Colin Patterson, senior paleontologist at the British Museum of Natural History, to Sunderland, “I fully agree with your comments on the lack of direct illustration of evolutionary transitions in my book. If I knew of any, fossil or living, I would certainly have included them.”

Of course evolutionists will yell, “out of context,” etc. Nevertheless, they did say them, but that doesn’t matter to unthinking, unstudied dogma.

Irvin Forbing

There are other recent letters in the paper about evolution, but I am just sharing these three. In my home town. Argh.

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Richard Darwin Keynes (Born 14 Aug 1919). British physiologist who did pioneering work on the mechanisms underlying the conduction of the action potential along nerve fibres. Early in his career, he worked with the giant nerve fibers of squid, which would help discover how nerve impulses are transmitted in all animals. In later resarch, he determined how electric eels project electric fields outside their bodies. Keynes was the first to use radioactive sodium and potassium tracer atoms to follow the movements of these atoms when an impulse is transmitted along a nerve fibre. He has written extensively about the life and work of his great-grandfather, Charles Darwin, beginning with The Beagle Record (1979).

Paul Bartsch (Born 14 Aug 1871; died 24 Apr 1960). German-American zoologist who was an authority on molluscs, but had broad interests in natural history including plants and birds. He began his career as assistant curator of marine invertebrates at the US National Museum, Washington, DC., but then worked until retirement for the Smithsonian Institution (1896-1942). He represented that organisation on numerous zoological expeditions. In 1902, he initiated a systematic, scientific bird banding program (credited as the first in North America since John James Audubon) by banding 23 Black-crowned Night-herons at Washington, DC. During WW I, he invented a gas detector for the Chemical Warfare Service in 1918. Bartsch organized the first Boy Scout troop in Washington.

Ernest Thompson Seton (Born 14 Aug 1860; died 23 Oct 1946). Anglo-American naturalist, writer and illustrator who applied these skills in over forty books on wild life, woodcraft, Indian lore and animal-fiction stories. As a capable naturalist, in his field observations he made detailed studies of morphology, physiology, distribution, and behaviour. His fame as author began with Wild Animals I Have Known (1898) – still in print a century later. Over a period of twenty years he delivered over three thousand lectures. Believing in promoting the values of ethology and ecology, he was chairman of the committee that established the Boy Scouts in the U.S. (1910). Seton envisioned the North American Indian as a model for the movement, but Baden-Powell’s military structure was adopted as in Britain.

Frederic Ward Putnam (Died 14 Aug 1915; born 16 Apr 1839). American archeologist, naturalist and museum administrator who played a major role in the popularization of anthropology, its acceptance as a university study, and instigated more anthropological museums. After entering Harvard College as a student (1856), he was much influenced by Louis Agassiz. As Curator of the Peabody Museum (1875-1909), Putnam organized numerous pioneering expeditions in Southwest and Central American archeology. As director of the anthropological section of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago (1891-93), he mounted an impressive exhibit. It created wide-spread interest in anthropology, and subsequently became the nucleus of the great collections of the Field Museum in Chicago.

Richard Jefferies (Died 14 Aug 1887; born 6 Nov 1848). (John) Richard Jefferies, born near Swindon was a naturalist, novelist, and essayist. He began his literary career as a local reporter in Wiltshire, and from then on he wrote many works of natural history and country life, and essays in journals and magazines. Jefferies relied greatly on ‘field notebooks’, where he entered his meticulous observations on the life of the countryside. Wild Life in a Southern Country, in which the author, sitting on a Wiltshire down, observes in ever widening circles the fields, woods, animals, and human inhabitants below him, was published with success in 1879. He wrote his autobiography, Story of My Heart (1883). His vision was unappreciated in his own Victorian age but has been increasingly recognized and admired since his death.

Darwin Correspondence Project: 2008 Essay Prize Winner

From the Darwin Correspondence Project:

2008 essay prize winner

The Darwin Correspondence Project is delighted to announce that the winner of its first Templeton essay prize in Darwin and religion is Kathryn Tabb, for her essay Darwin on Orchis Bank. Ms Tabb is a graduate of the University of Chicago, and is enrolled in a PhD programme at the University of Pittsburg, where she will begin studies in the history and philosophy of biology this autumn. She has just completed an MPhil at the University of Cambridge.
Entries for the prize were received from six different countries, from high school, undergraduate and graduate students in a wide range of disciplines. The Project wishes to thank the John Templeton Foundation for funding the essay prize, and all the entrants for their submissions. Another round of prizes will be awarded in 2009, the details of which will be announced in September 2008.

The winning essay is now available for download: Darwin on Orchis Bank

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

William Daniel Conybeare (Died 12 Aug 57; born 7 June 1787). English clergyman, geologist and paleontologist, known for his classic work, with co-author, William Phillips, on the stratigraphy of the Carboniferous (280-345 million years ago) System in England and Wales, Outline of the Geology of England and Wales (1822), one of the most influential textbooks on stratigraphy of the period. He also described and reconstructed saurian fossils from the Lyme Regis area of England. He wrote the first monograph on the ichthyosaur, drawing it as a lizard with paddle-like limbs. In 1821 he described the skeleton of the plesiosaurus. As a friend and collaborator of William Buckland, Conybeare was an influential member of the Oxford School of Geology.