Lecture to touch on the intersection of science and politics

As part of its Lambert Environmental Lecture Series, the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment at Connecticut College will bring to campus author Christoph Irmscher for a lecture based on his recent biography of a 19th century scientist and anti-Darwinist. Irmscher will deliver “Three Cheers for the Jellyfish: Writing the Life of Louis Agassiz” on Tuesday, Nov. 5, at 5:30 p.m. in Ernst Common Room of Blaustein Humanities Center.

The lecture will provide a historical perspective on Agassiz, a Swiss-born biologist and physician whose work in the field of natural history was very influential. He was among the first scientists to posit that Earth had experienced an ice age. Irmscher’s talk will reveal the very interesting story of the political and scientific debate that surrounded Darwin’s theory of evolution and Agassiz’s refusal to accept the notion of a common origin of species.

“A great deal of debate still surrounds the teaching of evolution and the general refusal to accept scientific evidence when it is inconvenient, such as in the case of global warming,” said Douglas Thompson, professor of geology and the Karla Heurich Harrison '28 Director of the Goodwin-Niering Center. “The story of Agassiz gives us a glimpse of past periods in time when science and politics mixed with less than ideal outcomes.”

The talk will also touch on the early years of science at Harvard University and in the U.S., an important time in the development of thinking that still has important ripple effects on the way science is approached by practitioners and accepted by the general public.

Irmscher is provost professor of English at Indiana University and the director of the Wells Scholars Program. In addition to his latest book “Louis Agassiz: Creator of American Science,” he has published several others, including "John James Audubon: Writings and Drawings," “The Poetics of Natural History,” and two volumes on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "Longfellow Redux" and “Public Poet, Private Man: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at 200.”

The event is co-sponsored by Williams College-Mystic Seaport and is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment at 860-439-5417 or goodwin-nieringcenter@conncoll.edu.

November 1, 2013