What Difference Does a Damaged Skull Make, Anyhow?

Readers of this blog are familiar with my fascination of the fossils of human ancestors. I’ve written about fossils’ beauty, their strange stories, and the ways they make us question our ideas. Despite these points, critics often ask: do the discoveries of these bits of bone actually make any difference? In other words, why is paleoanthropology important;…

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…