CONTEXT

February 12, 2014

Type A

Happy birthday to Abraham Lincoln, still second only to GW in presidential popularity. It may be the only thing we can all agree on.

And the same to Charles Darwin, busy being born on the very same day in Shropshire, England. Darwin was born in circumstances very different from Lincoln’s log cabin – his family was wealthy and his financier father made it wealthier.

Darwin around the time he sailed on The Beagle.

Darwin around the time he sailed on The Beagle.

Interesting how both profited from their beginnings – Lincoln’s understanding of the vicissitudes of life served him well as a politician, while Darwin, like all educated English gentlemen, was free to pursue every interest, both intellectually and geographically, all his life. (It’s a small sample, but one is tempted to conclude that all politicians should be poor and all scientists should be independently wealthy, probably by law.)

The Darwin money came from one of the great entrepreneurs of early industrial England, Josiah Wedgwood. Darwin’s mother brought the money and the ensuing family closeness led to him marrying his cousin Emma. The Darwin-Wedgwood dynasty is fascinating – read all about it here.

Darwin had a long and productive life, but one story epitomizes for me the workings of his tireless brain. He suffered from heart palpitations while working feverishly on Origin of the Species and his doctor ordered rest and a change of scene. So Charles went to his Uncle Josiah’s for some R and R in September of 1837. Walking with his uncle in the garden one day, Josiah ‘pointed out an area of ground where cinders had disappeared under loam and suggested that this might have been the work of earthworms…’ As they talked, Charles began to theorize about the importance of the role of earthworms in soil formation. By November he had a paper ready to deliver to the Royal Geological Society.

Some vacation.

* * *

In honor of a real American icon, here’s a bit of Shirley Temple before she became an ambassador (with the incomparable Buddy Ebsen):

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4 Comments »

  1. that’s very interesting!! 🙂

    Comment by ninachat — February 12, 2014 @ 6:30 pm | Reply

  2. When I originally commented I clicked the
    “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four e-mails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove people from that
    service? Appreciate it!

    Comment by abraham lincoln assassination — February 17, 2014 @ 4:13 pm | Reply

    • i am not allowed any control over your status, kassie – i think your only option is to un-follow, which is an option on the left of the black bar at the top of the page. if that doesn’t work, let me know…jc

      Comment by jchatoff — February 17, 2014 @ 9:55 pm | Reply

  3. Loved the connection you made between the two guys. AND, the tah dah! about earthworms was so fantastic. I think I’ll make a movie.

    Comment by Carol — February 20, 2014 @ 7:23 pm | Reply


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