The Science, Technology and Business Division of the Library of Congress will celebrate the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth with a lecture by Sandra Herbert, one of the world’s leading authorities on Darwin. She will discuss her book “Charles Darwin, Geologist,” which explores how geology changed Darwin and how Darwin changed science.
Herbert will lecture at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 18
, in the Pickford Theater on the third floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. A book-signing will follow the lecture, and the science reference staff will display Darwin items from the Library’s collections. The event is free and open to the public; tickets or reservations are not needed.
In “Charles Darwin, Geologist,” Herbert provides a fresh perspective on the life and accomplishments of Darwin, who was born on Feb. 12, 1809 (the same day as Abraham Lincoln) and whose thoughts and theories about the natural world hold true today — 150 years after the publication of his “On the Origins of Species by Means of Natural Selection” (London, J. Murray, 1859).
While Darwin is best known for his voyage on the HMS Beagle, his study of finches on the Galápagos, and his theory of evolution, he had wider interests in the field of science, including geology. According to Herbert, “In the 19th century, geology attracted persons of imagination, like Darwin, because of its promise of knowledge of the distant past.” Herbert shows how Darwin’s study of geology and his developing ideas about geological systems profoundly shaped his creative insight and scientific methods as he worked toward an understanding of evolution and natural selection.
“Charles Darwin, Geologist,” written largely at the Library of Congress, won the Geological Society of America’s Mary C. Rabbitt Award, the American Historical Association's George L. Mosse Prize and the History of Science Society’s Levinson Prize for Historical Work in the Life Sciences as well as the Albion Book Prize given by the North American Conference on British Studies.
Herbert recently retired as director of the program “the Human Context of Science and Technology” and professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She is also editor of the “Red Notebook of Charles Darwin” (1979) and “Charles Darwin’s Notebooks, 1836-1844: Geology, Transmutation of Species, Metaphysical Enquiries” (1987).
As a Distinguished Visiting Scholar for 2006-2007 at Christ’s College in Cambridge, Herbert assisted the university with its plans to celebrate Darwin’s bicentennial. Herbert first saw the Charles Darwin Archives at Christ College when she was a graduate student at Brandeis University. The archives contain Darwin’s notebooks, papers and correspondence, and when she discovered the material she remembers thinking “It was like finding out Shakespeare had left unpublished plays behind.”
The Library of Congress maintains one of the largest and most diverse collections of scientific and technical information in the world. The Science, Technology and Business Division provides reference and bibliographic services and develops the general collections of the Library in all areas of science, technology, business and economics, with the exception of clinical medicine and technical agriculture, which are the subject specialties of the National Library of Medicine and the National Agricultural Library. For more information, visit www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/