HSLS will host Rewriting the Book of Nature: Charles Darwin and the Rise of Evolutionary Theory, a traveling exhibit from the National Library of Medicine, from August 26 through October 6, 2012.

The exhibit was developed to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin in 1809 and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859. It was produced by the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine and the Office of History, National Institutes of Health.

In connection with the exhibit, HSLS will host two lectures:

  • On September 12 at noon in Scaife Hall, Lecture Room 5, Robert Olby, Research Professor in the Department of History & Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh, will speak on “Charles Darwin’s Challenge to the Skeptics.” Dr. Olby will explore the manner in which Darwin prepared his case and crafted his text to meet the skeptics. This analysis will raise questions about the criteria demanded for the acceptance of evidence and prompt reflection on the present state of the subject.
  • Adam Davis, lecturer in the Department of History, Duquesne University, will speak on September 27 at 6 p.m. in Scaife Hall, Lecture Room 5. Mr. Davis’ teaching encompasses the history of science and the impact of scientific discoveries.

When On the Origin of Species appeared, Darwin was immediately seen as a proponent of a new science and a new way of thinking about the world. Radical in sweep, Darwin’s idea of naturally innovating and endlessly changing webs of life undercut all previous sciences. His theory was a threat to those who relied on a given and settled order for meaning and for power. Compounding its impact was its appearance at a time when liberal reforms in Western society and technological advances provided a social and economic motor for a changed world. Now, 150 years later, Darwin’s vision forms the foundation of the modern biological sciences.

Dr. Jonathon Erlen, HSLS History of Medicine librarian, observes, “More than 150 years after publication of On the Origin of Species, the National Library of Medicine exhibit provides an excellent opportunity to learn about how it came to be written and consider not only its immediate impact in Darwin’s day but also its reverberations into our own.”

*Adapted in part from Rewriting the Book of Nature: Charles Darwin and Evolutionary Theory [Internet]. Bethesda, MD: U.S. National Library of Medicine. 2009. [revised 1 May 2012; cited 16 July 2012].

~ Patricia Weiss