I’m having a spaz attack.
You all know how I feel about Charles Darwin. I love the man. I think he’s brilliant. In a time in which creationism was the primary explanation for the making of the world, he challenged popular opinion and took God out of the equation (for the most part). Anyway, I really admire Darwin. Though he may not have practiced the scientific method (no experimentation was done), his observations were comprehensive, logical, and innovative (ignore the fact that Wallace, a contemporary of Darwin, had very similar ideas– Darwin is the one who ultimately got published).
Today in my History of Science class, Dumbledore finished his discussion on the Chemical Revolution earlier than expected, so in a stroke of impulse, he decided to move on ahead and begin the Darwinian Revolution. Immediately, I perked up. I’m the one who coined the term “chemisery,” after all. I really don’t enjoy chemistry much. But I do love Darwin.
The first sentence of the Darwinian Revolution section of our course reader, written by Dumbledore, says the following: “Charles Darwin, who I must confess to you from the start is one of my heroes, if not my greatest hero, was the second son…” Darwin is Dumbledore’s hero too! I can tell already this is going to be good.
In the beginning, Dumbledore told us background material. He told us that Erasmus Darwin, Charles’s grandfather, was so fat that he actually had a semicircle cut out of the kitchen table so he could fit when he sat down. A clever sir, that one.
He also told us a bit about Charles Darwin’s academic life. Did you know he first studied to become a doctor and then studied theology? He graduated from Cambridge with a Bachelor of the Arts degree, without honors. His father told him, “You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat-catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family.” That one sentence gave me a world of hope. Do you know how many of the most influential scientists have been failures in academia? Einstein, Newton, Sternberg, Socrates, Edison… and now Darwin. I’m not saying I’m a failure in academia, but it’s really reassuring to hear this news.
Anyway, that’s not where the nerdgasm comes from. I’m getting there. Dumbledore was telling us more about Darwin before his voyage on the HMS Beagle. Ok I’m actually going to digress for a moment:
I KNOW THERE IS A DECENT NUMBER OF YOU WHO WILL SMILE WHEN I SAY THAT WHEN I WAS WRITING “VOYAGE ON THE HMS BEAGLE” IN THE PREVIOUS PARAGRAPH, I ACTUALLY ALMOST WROTE “VOYAGE ON THE MIMI.” Remember, Millburn? Remember? Yeah I know you do.
Anyway, I’ll continue with my story. So we were learning about Darwin before he became famous. He’d gone to medical school in Edinburgh, a top-notch medical school at the time, and studied under Alexander Monro (tertius). Alexander Monro (tertius) was the son of Alexander Monro (secundus), the son of Alexander Monro (primus). Alexander Monro (primus) was a great anatomy professor who actually founded Edinburgh Medical School and passed down not only his position as professor to his son and then grandson, but also his lecture notes. These notes have since been put into a book that ended up… guess where. DUNEDIN. This man’s lecture notes are in the University of Otago’s Central Library Special Collection room. I almost yawped in delight.
Dumbledore lost steam early in his lecture today. It doesn’t happen often, but I’m glad it happened today. I was just so excited to read these lecture notes! It’s one of those things that, even though it is not Darwin’s work, and even though it is not even related to what Darwin ended up doing, this guy was Darwin’s teacher. And we have his lecture notes. And they’re from the 1740s, for God’s sake! Anyway, it’s not even that it’s related to Darwin, it’s mostly that it is so freaking cool that we have these notes available. I’m going to get to read one of the great primary sources of history. These notes were in the hands of some of the greatest men of the day. Someday when I’m in med school, I might learn about these notes. I don’t really know what I’ll learn about, actually, but it’s a possibility. And when (if) the professor mentions the book, the students in the class will imagine something of the like, but I’ll know that I read– I held in my hands— the original version. And that is just too cool.
Unfortunately, the special collections room closes at 5, and I got there around 5:25. I’ll be back tomorrow.