Sunday, March 08, 2009

Happy Birthday Darwin

I've been meaning to blog for weeks now about Darwin's 200th birthday, which was February 12. There have been various cool things going on all over the world to celebrate. I watched David Attenborough's new video "Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life" on youtube yesterday. It was fantastic. I had a celebration in my Evolution class and gave a guest "lecture" on Darwin for another class.
I tried to attend several important lectures. Philadelphia is sponsoring the Year of Evolution and Donald Johansen, the paleonanthropologist who discovered Lucy, was due to speak in April. I, however, assumed that it was April 2009, but it was April 2008, so I missed that. I was hoping to take Annie to see Donald Prothero speak at Cornell one Sunday afternoon only to discover that he was speaking on Saturday when I couldn't attend. So it goes...
The major way that I did celebrate was to read Darwin: The life of a tormented evolutionist by Desmond and Moore. I did this for myself, to make myself a better citizen, and also for Annie's What's in a Name Challenge. I began this book on Janurary 1,but left it behind when I left for the Bahamas on 1/5/09, as it weighs upwards of 15 pounds and would have made the aircraft unable to gain sufficient altitude to get us to the Bahamas. Whilst in the Bahamas I read another book and began Quammen's short biography "The reluctant Mr. Darwin". I got halfway through Quammen's book on the flight home and then jumped right back into Desmond and Moore. It was a wonderful book. It made Darwin come to life with just the exact amount of nauseating detail about him and his life without being the slightest bit boring. It was approximately 700 pages in hardback, so it was not a short read (or a light read, as I alluded to earlier). But this book did exactly what I hoped it would. It gave me a much better understanding of who Darwin was and how the events of his life shaped his most wonderful theory. Quammen's book was simply too short and too lacking in specifics and details. But this book was perfect. Exciting tidbits I learned:
- Darwin was known as "Gas" to his childhood friends because of his love of chemistry
- Darwin was much closer to his Dad than many texts and stories mention
- Darwin had excessive flatulence, perhaps related to Chagas disease that he picked up in South America
- Darwin loved for his wife, Emma, to take care of him and "mother" him through his various and many illnesses, which were also probably related to Chagas disease.
If you want to know more about Charles Darwin, read this book. And get your own copy, because I'm keeping mine.


Debi said...

Hey, you forgot to mention that you had cupcakes at home with your family to celebrate as well. ;)

I'm sort of getting the feeling that you might have like this book a tad, huh?

Nymeth said...

Tidbit number 3 makes tidbit number much more amusing/interesting :P

I know, I know...I sound like I'm 8 :P

Carl V. said...

Speaking of Darwin, I recommend two things that have him in as a character:

1. The film, The Fall (beautiful and brilliant)

2. The book Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists. Link here:

It is a wacky, but fun, little book.