Each year we mark Charles Darwin’s birthday with a special Café Scientifique event on Darwin Day. This year we have another special treat for you, with a talk by Professor Lee Alan Dugatkin of Louisville University. Prof. Dugatkin will share a fascinating tale from the intersection of natural history with the early history of the United States of America, specifically with one of the founding fathers of the nation.
Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose is a tale of both natural history and American history. What started out in the Revolutionary War era as an international dispute over natural history quickly took on important political overtones. The story revolves around three fascinating individuals. One of these characters — Thomas Jefferson — is known to every schoolchild. The other two characters—1) the French Count and world-renowned naturalist, George-Louis Leclerc Buffon, who claimed that all life in America was “degenerate,” weak and feeble, and 2) a very large, dead moose—are less well known, but equally important to the story. Their interactions lay at the heart of an amazing tale in which Jefferson obsessed over a very large, very dead moose that he believed could help quash early French arrogance toward a fledgling republic in America, and demonstrate that a young America was every bit the equal of a well-established Europe. Despite Jefferson’s passionate refutation, the theory of degeneracy far outlived Buffon and Jefferson; indeed, it seemed to have had a life of its own. It continued to have scientific, economic and political implications for 100 years, and also began to works its way into the literature of the day, with folks like Benjamin Franklin, Henry David Thoreau, Washington Irving, Immanuel Kant, John Keats and Lord Byron entering the fray. Eventually the degeneracy argument died; but it did not die an easy death.
You can read more about this story in the book Prof. Dugatkin published on the subject in 2009. And join us for his presentation next month!
When: 12 February 2014, 7:00-8:30 PM; Dinner will be served from 6:00PM.
Where: Peeve’s Public House
, 1243 Fulton Mall, Fresno, CA 93721
Contact: 559-278-2460 (cafe inquiries) / 559-573-5735 (Pub’s number)
Here’s the full poster for this event – please feel free to download, print, and share with your friends and family: