Category Archives: history of science

Google Doodle: The fantastic Antikythera Mechanism

Today’s Google Doodle in most of the world portrays the Antikythera Mechanism, as today is the 115th anniversary of its discovery, at least according to Google.  Wikipedia, however, says it was recovered on August 4, 1901, so figure it out yourself. It wasn’t even studied until 1951, as other artifacts from the wreck were deemed more […]

Free article on the Scopes Trial

Scientific American recently made its January, 1959 issue available free to the public, but you have to go through a complex procedure of registering, ordering it for $ 0.00, and then downloading it when your order is accepted. Reader Barry has done the work for us and sent me a pdf of the issue. The […]

“Galton must fall” campaign at University College London: Should his name be erased because he advocated eugenics?

When I visited London, I’d spend a lot of time at University College London’s (UCL’s) Galton Laboratory, which housed genetics and evolutionary biology as well as my good friend and host Steve Jones. It was an ugly building near King’s Cross station, but it my scientific home away from home in England, and it was in […]

Darwin’s only selfie

Darwin scholar John van Whye put this on Facebook: it’s Darwin’s only known depiction of himself. John’s notes: Darwin sketched himself as this little stick man on the island of St Helena in July 1836 as the Beagle was sailing home. The sketch represents the strong winds blowing up the sea cliffs while the air on […]

Darwin’s kids drew all over the manuscript of “The Origin” and his other works

Before we begin, let’s all recall the title of Darwin’s greatest work, in full: it was called On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, and it was published on November 24, 1859. (Remember the kerfuffle when Richard Dawkins was excoriated for not […]

John van Wyhe debunks Darwin myths

Last night after my talk I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with John van Wyhe, a Darwin/Wallace scholar at the National University of Singapore, where I spoke last night. We continued our conversation this morning when he joined Melissa Chen and me at the Orangutan Breakfast at the Singapore Zoo. Here’s a bit […]

Scientific fame—Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin: the Wikipedia page hit data

JAC:  Last week my friend Andrew Berry, a lecturer at Harvard and expert on Darwin and, especially, Alfred Russel Wallace, was telling me about some interesting data he’d gleaned from Wikipedia about the two Fathers of Evolution. I suggested he write it up as a post for this site, and he kindly obliged: Scientific Fame […]

Matthew visits Newton’s house

Matthew emailed me that he was lecturing at Isaac Newton’s house today, and would send a picture of the apple tree that supposedly inspired the theory of gravity. I responded that I thought the story was apocryphal, and here was Matthew’s response (along with two photos): “Yes, the tree. And here’s the window the light […]

Happy birthday, Max Delbrück!

by Matthew Cobb As Jerry pointed out earlier, the scientist Max Delbrück was born 110 years ago today. Because many readers will never have heard of him, Jerry asked me to sketch his life. Here you are: Max Delbrück (1906-1981) was a key figure in the history of post-war genetics, pioneering the molecular investigation of […]

What if Wilkins and Franklin had been able to work together?

by Matthew Cobb Today I was interviewed by the French radio station, France-Culture (colloquially known as France-Cul), for a programme about Rosalind Franklin, the King’s College, London, researcher whose data were used by Watson and Crick as the basis of their double helix model of the structure of DNA. Much of the discussion, inevitably, revolved […]