Following Father Verhoeven to Flores

The story of an unexpected hobbit discovery on the Indonesian island of Flores is fairly well known (–and if you don’t know it, check out this piece by Ewen Callaway, or my post on the discovery). A team of interdisciplinary scientists led by archaeologist Mike Morwood was looking for clues about human migration to Australia in…

On Friendships & Missing Links: Bringing Characters to Life

There’s a moment, I’ve realized, for each scientist I study, when they transform from an abstract, historical figure into a human being. This character-to-human transition happens quickly, and the shift is striking—as if they’ve transcended the two dimensional world left behind in their written letters and suddenly sprung to life. In this moment, without warning, I feel empathy…

Dinosaurs, Gorillas, & More: Re-remembering Richard Owen

Sir Richard Owen is often remembered for his massive row with Charles Darwin and Darwin’s followers over the theory of evolution through natural selection. Scientists like Thomas Huxley painted Owen as a backward creationist who didn’t conduct good science. But Owen was much more complex than that. Though he didn’t fully agree with Darwin’s version…

A Toast to Darwin’s Origin & Lucy’s Discovery

November 24th is arguably my favorite day of the year. Not because it’s Thanksgiving this year, or because ski season has officially begun (though both of those are great), but because a couple of pretty incredible events occurred on this day in history. On November 24th, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published AND…

Time Traveling in London

As a historian, I frequently feel like a time traveler. Though my readings focus on science, that science is inevitably infused with details of scientists’ lives: their cultural views, their places of work, and more. My readings fill my mind with images of horse-drawn carriages, Victorian tea parties, and hand-written letters. It’s pretty fun. But every…