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The Paleontological Society of Washington

7:00 pm, Wednesday, October 19

National Museum of Natural History, Constitution Ave. entrance

Evolution Comes to the Castle

Sandra Herbert

Professor Emerita of History at the University of Maryland Baltimore County

In 1859 Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species. In America, after consulting with the botanist Asa Gray at Harvard University, Joseph Henry, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, came down on the side of the new theory. Henry’s support was consequential for American science since the most famous natural historian in the country at the time was Louis Agassiz, a fierce opponent of evolutionism. Complicating the situation for Henry at the Smithsonian was the fact that Agassiz was a member of the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents. This is a story focused on science in its relations to institutional politics and to the larger culture. Even the president, Abraham Lincoln, and the abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, played parts as the evolution debate was taken up in 1860s Civil War America.

Please note that Dr. Herbert will have copies of her books Charles Darwin, Geologist, and Charles Darwin and the Question of Evolution available for purchase.

Non-Smithsonian visitors will be escorted from the Constitution Ave. entrance of the NMNH to the Cooper Reading Room at 6:50 and 6:55 p.m. Society members will host the speaker for dinner at the Elephant & Castle (1201 Pennsylvania Ave.) prior to the meeting. Members may meet at the restaurant or inside the Constitution Ave. entrance of the NMNH at 5:00 and walk to the restaurant as a group.

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