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51734.  Thu Feb 16, 2006 6:28 am Reply with quote

In 1825 Darwin’s father sent him to Edinburgh to study medicine. He didn't really take to it, and later described his memories of lectures: “Cold, breakfastless hours, listening to discourses on the properties of rhubarb.”
- Source: ‘Darwin for beginners’ by Jonathan Miller & Borin Van Loon (Icon, 1992).

Makes you wonder if that’s where the medical profession went wrong - an overemphasis on curing the diseases of rhubarb?

51784.  Thu Feb 16, 2006 8:05 am Reply with quote

This is my FT Mythcon column from some years ago, on Darwin’s deathbed conversion:

THE BACKGROUND: Many Christians - even those who, along with their churches, accept Darwin's theories of natural selection - take wry comfort from this widely believed story. All right, so it doesn't really undermine The Origin of species, but it does at least suggest that rationalism cannot take the place of faith in the life of even the most celebrated scientist.

THE "TRUTH": Darwin died in April 1882. Within weeks, stories about his final words were circulating orally amongst his opponents. In 1993, the Darwin biographer James Moore counted more than a hundred written examples of the deathbed conversion legend, and said that wherever he lectured on Darwin, the conversion question invariably came up. Moore also points out that Darwin was not the only subject of this myth: he lists numerous "famous freethinkers" who are all "rumoured to have seen the light before they died".
Moore identifies as the main author of the Darwin story an evangelist named Lady Hope who, in 1915, claimed to have been a friend of Darwin, and to have visited him during his last days, when she found him reading the Scriptures, for which he "expressed the greatest reverence".
The Hope tale, in its entirety, was categorically denied on many occasions by Darwin's intimates. Beyond Hope's own account, there seems to be no evidence for it at all. In his Autobiography, not published in full until 1958, Darwin famously wrote that "disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete," and that he had "never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct".

SOURCES: Colin McCall dealt with this matter fully and methodically in a review in the May 1995 issue of The Freethinker of James Moore's book The Darwin Legend.

DISCLAIMER: Truth evolves, and many believe it to be descended from slippery sea creatures. If you have any species of information to add to this story, send it to FT where we will do our best not to suppress it.

55731.  Mon Feb 27, 2006 10:29 am Reply with quote

All leaders are mutants:

“There is, apparently, a gene for shoaling which tells the fish to get in behind somebody. The one in front, it has been proved, is a fish with a defect and not very good at obeying orders. We can’t deduce from this that our societies are led by individuals who are not quite all there; although, on occasions, it may seem like that.”

Source: Morning Star, 18 April 2005, in a review of “Pinker’s List,” by Elaine Morgan (she of the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis).

60998.  Mon Mar 20, 2006 10:46 am Reply with quote

‘Origin of Species’ was a bestseller; the first printing sold out on the day of publication.

I didn’t quite realise this: “for pious Christians [pre-Darwin] it was an article of faith that [...] no species had been lost and none had been altered [since creation]. Extinction was just as inconceivable as change.” Does this mean that no extinct species were recognised at all in those days? Even those which became “visibly” extinct, during recorded history, through hunting or whatever?

Young Darwin was keen on hunting and gambling, but by far his greatest passion was shooting wildlife. As a theology student, he said that when the shooting season started, excitement made his hands shake so much he could hardly load his gun.

Darwin almost didn't get the job as ships’ naturalist on board the HMS Beagle, because the captain was a student of physiognomy, and believed that Darwin’s nose indicated laziness and hesitancy.

Incidentally - a possible trick question - this book points out that, contrary to popular and careless belief, Darwin never suggested that man was descended from monkeys; only that both man and the monkeys had a common primate ancestor.

S: all above from ‘Darwin for beginners’ by Jonathan Miller and Borin Van Loon (Icon, 1992).

61019.  Mon Mar 20, 2006 12:22 pm Reply with quote

Darwin first postulated the mechanism for atoll development. He thought it was a volcanic island (correctly) upon whose sides coral reefs had formed. When the peak had blown its wad and left the caldera to sink back into the ocean, these corals - that can only live in the surface 5m or so, needing the light - grew ever upwards on their skeletal past to keep in the sun. This leaves a nice ring-shaped coral reef.

Also, Darwin got a lot of his ideas about the way that environments and organisms adapt to each other - the runaway effect that causes such swift evolution - by studying... which animal? Not finches, but worms. Worm fanatic, he was.

61049.  Mon Mar 20, 2006 3:23 pm Reply with quote

And barnacles, of course. Had a bit of a crush on yer barnacle, when he got bored with wormy.

I read somewhere that before Darwin's work on earthworms, gardeners considered them to be a pest, and destroyed them the way modern gardeners do slugs. Anybody got any more on that?

61094.  Mon Mar 20, 2006 10:33 pm Reply with quote

Borin Van Loon

I wonder what they called him at school?

61120.  Tue Mar 21, 2006 5:37 am Reply with quote

Probably so spoilt for choice that they ended up just calling him "John."

62073.  Mon Mar 27, 2006 9:25 am Reply with quote

The aforementioned captain of the Beagle was Robert FitzRoy, who rose to the rank of admiral, and became in the 1850s the first superintendent of the Meteorological Department of the Board of Trade, forerunner of today’s Met Office. He is remembered for what is considered one of the most useful and accurate pieces of weather forecasting rhyming lore (most of which are, of course, anonymous). When reading a barometer, said FitzRoy, one should remember:

“Long foretold, long last; short notice, soon past.”

This is explained at a barometer website:

“It is of less importance what the barometer is reading but more important which direction it is going and by how much and for how long. Thus in the summer one would be ideally looking for a gradual rise in the air pressure over a week to a fortnight followed by a steady hand, not moving. This could be up to 30 or 31 inches. This would almost always indicate settled weather coming that will last for quite a while. Conversely, if you see, as occasionally we do, the barometer falling suddenly over a period of a few hours by an appreciable amount, we are almost always to find a violent storm, usually wind with rain, approaching, but it often will not last long. These quite often cause the most severe damage and thus, in the autumn and winter periods, a constant check on the barometer can be useful. In summary, as Admiral Fitzroy is famous for remarking, "long foretold, long last - short notice, soon past".”

Sunday Telegraph, 26 March 2006.

62124.  Mon Mar 27, 2006 12:56 pm Reply with quote

I'll just flag that as a possible link from 'doggerel'.


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