August 17, 2010

A good gig

I have always been a big Darwin fan. I've been both fascinated by his big ideas and his personal life and habits. He had a lot of things going for him, starting with luck. As Cervantes said, "To be lucky in the beginning is everything."

How many people in life get the chance for a perfect job right out of school? The budding natural historian (as people interested in life science were then called) was a reluctant clergyman-to-be on completing his studies. He was saved from a life as a minor character in a Jane Austen novel by an offer to travel around the world as a scientist on H.M.S. Beagle on a five year voyage.

It was the mother of good gigs.

He then had the tenacity and persistence to work methodically through his specimens, observations and ideas for years to come as he developed his theory of natural selection. He could go micro as well as macro, not only pondering the evolution of all life but getting down to the nitty gritty studying humble creatures like barnacles and earthworms.

He was also a devoted family man, truly in love with his wife Emma and a doting father to his children. The kids even got into the act. There are delightful anecdotes about his children playing musical instruments to the earthworms to see whether they responded to such stimuli (they didn't as far as anyone could tell).

More on this to come.

ONE, TWO, MANY HERBERT HOOVERS. Job losses at the state and local level are threatening the economic recovery.

FALSE CHOICES. Dealing with the joblessness crisis will require overcoming deficit mania--at least until the economy improves..

WHACKADOODLE NATION. Here's a look at the top 10 conspiracy theories on the far right.

OFF THE HOOK. Here's what happens when a group of scientists go unplugged in the wilderness to study the effect of technology on the brain.


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