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Adrienne Mayor and History of Paleo
As part of a Darwin year celebration the local Los Alamos environmental
group (the Pajarito Environmental Education Center) asked me to talk about
paleo and evolution up to Darwin. I used my notes from Historical and Paleo
classes I taught for decades and lots of other sources to do this. However,
it also gave me a chance to reread Adrienne Mayor's two books, The First
Fossil Hunters and Fossil Legends of the First Americans, and I have to say
I was reminded just how tremendous they are and a real service to those of
us interested in the history of our science. I would highly recommend all
paleo types to obtain and read them. The second is especially useful and a
great lesson on lots of relevant things, including the dangers of letting
your personal biases about people creep (or barge) into your publications.
It also screams the need for detailed work on similar histories, especially
with native peoples, from Australia and Pacifica, very northern Europe and
Russia, China, most of South America, and Africa.
Anyway, get those puppies and enjoy. (I'm looking forward to reading her
latest book on another topic, Ancient Biological and Chemical weapons, and
its follow up this summer).
I have always been distressed by the fact that many geology programs have no
classes that introduce students to the real history of their science and,
frankly, I think you can not be a complete scientist without understanding
how we got to where we are today. I am going to start assembling powerpoints
and notes for a full class on the history of geology and paleo even though I
don't really have such a class currently planned - mostly as a self
education exercise. I would be happy to have lots of company in doing this
and can see making them available to anyone who would want to use them or
just see them somehow, as Jerry Harris has done with his dinosaur class
notes (and they are tremendous).