Presentation on theme: "Surprising truths about Charles Darwin David Pannell University of Western Australia."— Presentation transcript:
Surprising truths about Charles Darwin David Pannell University of Western Australia
Just a bloke with a good idea? n I was interested in evolution but not in Darwin n Eventually read Adrian Desmond and James Moore (1991) Darwin
LifelineLifeline n Born 1809 n Study (Edinburgh and Cambridge) 1825-1831 n Voyage of the Beagle 1831-36 n Retired to Down 1842 n The Origin of Species 1859 n Died 1882 Darwins home at Down, near London
Darwins achievements n Transformed biological science Both style and content Still the cornerstone of biology Now the cutting edge of psychology n Transformed attitudes of humanity to our place in the universe
Not just an evolutionist n Not even a biologist to start with n Collected beetles for fun n Studied geology more seriously n Considered himself a geologist throughout the Beagle voyage and for some time after n Famous for working out how coral atolls are formed
His books (not just on evolution) n Beagle voyage n Coral reefs n Volcanic islands n Geology of South America n Barnacles n Species n Man n Emotions n Climbing plants n Domestication n Cross and self fertilisation n Orchids n Worms n Autobiography
Contribution to style of science n Pre-Darwin, science was done in homage to God n Was primarily descriptive n Deduction and theorising was disparaged as speculation n Darwin used detailed observation to explore much larger questions - helped change scientific methods
Natural selection n Developed theory in complete isolation n In face of violent opposition n With no knowledge of genetics n With no knowledge of DNA n With no knowledge of plate tectonics n With no observations of natural selection actually occurring
Not first to propose evolution n French tradition Jean-Baptiste Lamark Etienne Geoffroy St Hilaire n Erasmus Darwin (Grandfather) n Robert Grant (Mentor) n Was expounded in a popular book (Vestiges) 15 years before Origin
Darwin was mis-credited n Died famous for evolution (which was not his idea) n Natural selection not widely accepted, even among his supporters n Darwin remained convinced n Only 40-50 years later did scientists appreciate his foresight.
The Beagle Only 90 foot long, but carrying 74 people.
Joining the Beagle Voyage n Not paid for 5 years on Beagle. n Actually, he had to pay! n Was lucky to get on replaced someone who was shot in a duel his father opposed him going n Mainly asked because of his class, to keep Captain Fitzroy company n It was the making of him
Galapogos, 1835 n Portrayed as a Eureka experience. n Actually, was hugely homesick n Did not recognise significance until back in England, 1837. Worked out theory much later. First inkling of natural selection in 1838. n Turtles & finches were key evidence On boat home, ate turtles, dumped shells Thought finches different species; didnt even label them properly
Darwin in Australia n Only visited three places in Australia Sydney, Jan 1836 Hobart, Feb 1836 Albany, Mar 1836 On the whole I do not like New South Wales. It is no doubt an admirable place to accumulate pounds and shillings; but heaven forbid that I should live where every man is sure be somewhere between a petty rogue and a bloodthirsty villain. (Darwin to Henslow)
Darwin in Albany n In Albany 6-14 March 1836 The settlement consists of 30-40 small white washed cottages, which are scattered on the side of a bank and along a white sea beach. n Explored Bald Head n Attended a corroboree. n Visited Strawberry Hill Farm
Darwin in Albany n Felt homesick. Departure delayed by strong winds. I do not remember, since leaving England, having passed a more dull and uninteresting time. (Voyage) n Failed to recognise the massive biodiversity. He who thinks with me will never wish to walk again in so uninviting a country. (Voyage)
Darwin in Albany n By FAR the most important and the most famous person ever to visit Albany. n One of very few places he did visit outside England and South America n Not a single indication of his ever having visited. No plaque, monument, street name, place name
The Big Idea: Natural Selection n He knew about fossils n Collected many for extinct animals n Knew about Llyells theory of evolution of geology n Read Malthus (an economist) on population and competition for resources. n His ideas developed steadily over 20 years Darwins sand walk at Down: a daily thoughtful stroll
Influence of economics n He read Malthus and Adam Smith n Saw specialisation benefits in factory Wedgewood (wifes family owned it) n Evolutionary biology makes use of models from economics, especially game theory. Example: The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins
Slow to publish: Why so long? n Anguish n Illness n Slow development of ideas n Collection of a wealth of evidence
AnguishAnguish n Social class Respectability Evolution subversive - against his class n Religous considerations especially worried about hurting wife Emma who grieved for his soul n Scientific prejudice against speculation n Like confessing a murder.
IllnessIllness n Problems throughout life violent shivering, vomiting, exhaustion, palpitations, hands trembling, head swimming, sleeplessness, headaches, flatulence, stomach problems, ringing of ears, fainting, copious pallid urine n In 1841 could work an hour or two a couple of days a week. n Chagas disease? Just nervous? Poisoning himself with medecine?
Slow to publish: Why so long? n Anguish n Illness n Slow development of ideas n Detailed analysis, collection of a wealth of evidence pigeons barnacles
BarnaclesBarnacles n Started out as a brief study. Took 8 years (from 1948). Huge 2 volume treatise overhauling entire sub-class. n Dominated his kids lives One of his kids asked a friend, Where does your dad do his barnacles? n Established him as a biological specialist, not just a geologist Royal Society Medal
CourageCourage n On Beagle voyage, rode hundreds of miles through bandit areas and war zones in South America n Stayed on the voyage for five years despite extreme sea sickness n Worked through his illnesses n Was willing to publish Origins despite the risks
WealthWealth n Father a wealthy doctor n Reduced his enthusiasm to get a job as a doctor or clergyman n Wealth bought time and resources n Made money from investments (land and railway stocks), not from books
Alfred Russel Wallace n Thought of natural selection independently n Wrote to Darwin n Darwin had been working on book n Published a letter jointly n Bit it was Darwin who put in the hard yards collecting and documenting evidence to support theory
ReligionReligion n Started out on path to clergy The Darwins had produced lawyers and military men, but Charles lacked the self- discipline. There was, however, a safety net to stop second sons becoming wastrels: the Church of England. An aimless son with a penchant for field sports would fit in nicely. (Desmond & Moore) n Signed 39 articles of faith n A naturalist parson?
n Religion did accommodate Darwin to some extent Many religious leaders not literalist Science served religion, so its findings were taken as revelations of Gods plan n Buried in Westminster Abbey The Times: The Abbey needed Darwin more than Darwin needed the Abbey. Religious conflict n Samuel Wilberforce vs T.H.Huxley Was it from your mothers side or your fathers side that you were descended from an ape? If the question is whether I would rather have a miserable ape for a grandfather or a man of means and influence who uses these gifts to introduce ridicule into a grave scientific discussion, I unhesitatingly affirm my preference for the ape! For once reality and his brain came into contact, and the result was fatal. Years later Wilberforce fell off his horse, landed on his head and was killed.