A Favorite Sunday Ritual

When I began considering applying to graduate school, my mother told me I should read The New York Times to help build my vocabulary. So while studying for the graduate entrance exams, I started picking up the Sunday Times from a newsstand next to the burger joint I waitressed at. This quickly became a favorite weekly…

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 my favorite day of the year. Not because ski season has officially begun (though that is 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 our favorite human ancestor, Lucy, was discovered! Both moments,…

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. But every now and then,…

Neanderthals and Giant’s Bones

  A Strange Skeleton The bones revealed a human of “extraordinary form,” he concluded. It was January 1857, and Hermann Schaaffhausen had just viewed a fossilized skeleton that was unlike anything he had ever seen. The surviving bits of the skeleton–made up of a partial skull, along with some leg bones, ribs, and other bits…

Neanderthal DNA: A Historical Fossil Resurfaces

Who were the Neanderthals, and how were they related to humans? These are questions that have plagued paleoanthropologists since the first Neanderthal fossil was found over a century and a half ago. On July 11, 1997 a very important paper appeared in the journal Cell that shed light on this issue. It was titled “Neanderthal…

What Does a Historian of Science Actually Do?

If you follow me on twitter (@FossilHistory) you may have seen I’ve been doing some writing outside of my blog. Today I wanted to share a piece I recently wrote for  SAPIENS–but also I’d like to use this to briefly illuminate what it is I do as a historian of science, and why I think it’s the…