Mannen van beteekenis in onze dagen ; — d. 6, 1876?, Portrait of Charles Darwin
This well-attended event at the National Museum of Natural History on September 12, 2009, featured ten speakers, with an introduction by Cristián Samper who reminded the audience that next year is the 100th anniversary of the Museum, which owns the largest natural history collection in the world. Janet Browne focused on the role of anniversaries in reviewing, reassessing, boosting, or "rebooting" theories in biology. Jonathan Coddington observed how "tree thinking" in evolutionary biology was "invented" by Darwin, prospered in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, then was forgotten for some time and is now back in favor. Jim Lake examined the role of cooperation in the evolution of prokaryotes, especially how two groups of prokaryotes, actinobacteria and clostridia, led to double-membrane prokaryotes (which include cyanobacteria, the photosynthetic organisms that made oxygen a significant component of earth's atmosphere). Gene Hunt noted that the fossil record helps understand the transformation of species as well as the history of life more broadly, and discussed gradualism, punctuated equilibrium, and stasis as models for the evolution of biological features. Peter Crane discussed the origin and early evolution of angiosperms. Douglas Erwin examined the Cambrian explosion, noting that "diversity begets diversity through a process of ecosystem engineering." Vladimir Nabokov, his serious interest in blue butterflies, and the evolutionary significance of butterfly wing color were the subject of Naomi Pierce's talk. P.E. Ahlberg tackled the question as to whether fish fins and the limbs of terrestrial animals are not merely analogous but also homologous structures. Hans Sues discussed the fossil record for the origin of mammals. Finally, Richard Potts gave an overview of what we have learned about evolution since Darwin, stressing the importance of adaptability.
The speakers cited several important books, all of which are part of the Libraries' collections. If you'd like to take a(nother) look at some of these classics in natural history, you can find them in the Libraries catalog:
This was also the opening day for the much-awaited exhibition, Since Darwin: The Evolution of Evolution.
A few images from the symposium and exhibition are available here.