Duquesne University

Darwin Biographer by Janet Browne

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Janet Browne

February 9, 2009, 7:30 p.m. Carnegie Music Hall
In Collaboration with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the Drue Heinz Lecture Series

Janet Browne’s interests range widely over the history of the life sciences and natural history. After a first degree in zoology she studied for a PhD in the history of science at Imperial College London, published as The Secular Ark: Studies in the History of Biogeography (1983). Ever since then she has specialised in reassessing Charles Darwin’s work, first as associate editor of the early volumes of The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, and more recently as author of a major biographical study that integrated Darwin’s science with his life and times. While it was framed as a biographical study, the intention was to explore the ways in which scientific knowledge was created, distributed and accepted, moving from private to public, as reflected in the two-volume structure of the work. The biography was received generously both in the UK and USA, and awarded several prizes, including the James Tait Black award for non-fiction in 2004, the WH.Heinemann Prize from the Royal Literary Society, and the Pfizer Prize from the History of Science Society.

Abstract: Janet Browne's lecture honors the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication ofThe Origin of Species. Browne's in-depth two-volume biography of Darwin, Voyaging (1995) and The Power of Place (2002), "deserves the adjectives of praise traditionally used by reviewers to describe masterpieces," says Stephen Jay Gould. Browne spent 17 years editing Darwin's correspondence and her work integrates Darwin’s science with his life and times. She is Aramont professor of the history of science at Harvard and at work on a visual and cultural history of the gorilla.
The Ascent of Darwin: Commemorating the Origin of Species - Abstract

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