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Today in the Historical Sciences

A series of occasionally-posted messages called “Today in the Historical Sciences” was a feature of the Darwin-L discussion group from its inception. These short biographical and historical sketches were composed by the list owner from information in standard academic references such as the Dictionary of Scientific Biography, the Dictionary of National Biography, and the Biographical Dictionary of the Phonetic Sciences. They were intended to serve as starting points for Darwin-L discussion and as introductions to some of the leading figures in the various branches of the historical sciences. While entries relating to natural history predominate, the full scope of palaetiology is represented from evolutionary biology and phylogenetics to historical linguistics, textual transmission, archeology, geology, cosmology, and related academic fields.

The scholarly anniversaries listed on these pages provide many opportunities to advance the cause of the historical sciences. Anniversaries of the births or deaths of major figures often merit meetings, conferences, and books, of course, but the anniversaries of less well-known figures can be commemorated with a book exhibit in a campus or local library, a special lecture in a course, a departmental party, a popular magazine or newspaper article, a reference in a research paper, or a radio profile. Anniversaries of figures who are major in themselves but have minor associations with the historical sciences provide an opportunity to remind people that Newton, for example, was a chronologist as well as a mathematician, and that Descartes wrote on the origin of the Solar System as well as on the foundations of knowledge. Each one is an opportunity to spark a student’s or a colleague’s interest in palaetiology.


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