JAS-Bio 2021

Upcoming Meetings

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Past Meetings

  • April 9, 2021

    Daniel Halverson, University of Toronto, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. daniel.halverson@mail.utoronto.ca.
    “Always Reprehensible and Dangerous to the Fair Fame of Biological Science”: Biologists in the United States reject Ernst Haeckel’s Evolutionary Monism, 1874-1924
    The German naturalist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) was the leading popularizer of Darwinism in the world during his lifetime. Haeckel argued that Darwinism necessarily entailed a pantheistic religion which he called Monism, which was also atheistic, materialistic, and explicitly anti-Christian. It has been plausibly argued that Haeckel is the source of the modern association between Darwinism and atheism. I examine the popular science writing of eight American biologists, c. 1850-1930, for their views about Haeckel and his Monism. I find that support was scattered, tepid, or submerged, opposition routine and strident. American biologists maintained that Haeckel had transgressed scientific norms by dogmatizing and speculating, where science must be based on scrupulous regard for facts. As the American entomologist Vernon Kellogg wrote in 1907, “biologists generally are agreed that Haeckel’s daring speculations and reckless progress in advance of positions grounded on observed fact have been, in a way, always reprehensible and dangerous to the fair fame of biological science.” If Haeckel is the source of the modern association between Darwinism and atheism, the more likely route of transmission is via German émigré biologists and the Christian clergy.

  • April 9, 2021

    Henry-James Meiring, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, The University of Queensland, h.meiring@uqconnect.edu.au
    Mimicking a Darwinian: The Curious Case of William Boyd Dawkins
    This paper examines the curious relationship between Charles Darwin and the paleontologist William Boyd Dawkins (1837-1929). Dawkins was a beneficiary of Darwin’s patronage and styled himself as a Darwinian to Darwin and the public, yet viciously attacked Darwin and his theory in anonymous reviews. This has confused historians who have misunderstood the exact nature of Dawkins’s attitude towards evolution and his relationship to Darwin. The present study explains both the reasons for Dawkins’s contradictory statements and his relationship with Darwin. I introduce Batesian mimicry as a conceptual framework to make sense of Dawkins’s actions, suggesting that Dawkins mimicked a Darwinian persona in order to secure advancement in the world of Victorian science. Dawkins’s pro-Darwinian stance, therefore, was a façade, an act of mimicry. I argue that Dawkins exploited Darwin for his patronage – which took the form of advice, support from Darwin’s well-placed friends, and monetary assistance – while safely expressing his dissent from Darwinian orthodoxy in the form of anonymous reviews. This is, therefore, a case study in how scientific authority and power could be gained and maintained in Victorian science by professing allegiance to Darwin and Darwinism.

  • April 9, 2021

    Liv Grjebine, Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow, History of Science, Harvard University. livgrjebine@fas.harvard.edu

    The Debate on Darwinism in the French popular press, 1859-1900
    My research aims at elucidating the communications between society and the scientific world in the dissemination of a scientific theory. A common, yet unspoken assumption concerning the circulation of a scientific theory is that consensus is achieved first among scientists, and then defuses to the broader society. I argue that the evidence in France points to a different dynamic - that extra-scientific public activity was crucial to the diffusion of Darwinian theory.  While the Darwinian debate was mostly thwarted in elite French scientific institutions, there was a growing debate in the popular press. It’s hard to imagine today that Darwinism triggered a critical reception outside of educated circles, such as factory workers and led to columns in local newspapers devoted to the culture of wine in the south of France. Individuals who had only a remote relationship with science were interested in Darwinism because it corresponded to their concerns and offered them a new worldview. I will discuss the role of competing factions of the press in this debate. Because of their sustained confrontation, Darwinism was propelled to the forefront, where his theory was disseminated.

  • April 9, 2021

    Opening Session

    Susan Lindee: Welcome to the 55th meeting of the Joint Atlantic Seminar in the History of Biology.
    Joanna Radin: Memories of the Future of the History of Biology


Group Conveners

  • Richard Shrake


59 Members