Spirifer hawkinsii

Compare and contrast:

Brachiopod fossils illustration

An illustration of a pair of Spirifer hawkinsii brachiopod fossils collected by Charles Darwin in the Falkland Islands during the Beagle voyage on 22nd March, 1833.

Stense holding brachiopods

A pair of Spirifer hawkinsii brachiopod fossils being held by Stense at the Natural History Museum in London last week.

Full story on the Friends of Charles Darwin website.

(Thanks, Stense!)

Comparing anatomy


To explain:

  • Alice Roberts is Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham. She is a physical anthropologist, author, and popular TV science presenter, and was once nominated for the Prime Ministership of Italy;
  • comparative anatomy is the study of similarities and differences in the anatomy of different organisms;
  • my use of the phrase ‘on the nature of limbs’ is a reference to a book of that name by Richard Owen (Amazon uk | .com);
  • Richard Owen was a brilliant Victorian anatomist. An adversary of Charles Darwin, he invented the word dinosaur, and was responsible for the creation of what later became the Natural History Museum in London. Owen believed that the anatomies of all vertebrates shared the same basic blueprint, which he referred to as the archetype;
  • Charles Darwin was a total dude, who realised that Owen's so-called archetype in fact represented the common ancestor of all vertebrates;
  • Ernst Haeckel was a brilliant German biologist, who developed his own (mostly wrong) version of Darwinism;
  • Edward B. Lewis was an twentieth-century American geneticist, who co-received the 1995 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his pioneering work on fruit flies;
  • Horizon is a long-running, BBC popular science television programme.

Or, to put it another way:

  • Alice Roberts sent me a tweet mentioning Charles Darwin!

My work here is almost complete.

Grut, F.

Just over five years ago, I finally filled my first ever Moleskine™ notebook. As I admitted at the time, ever since I was a little kid and read Bobby Brewster, Detective, I’ve been a compulsive notebook collector. Seriously, I can't resist: I've got dozens of them.

Before the year is out—or on 31st December precisely, if I write smaller and time it correctly—I shall finish my sixth Moleskine™. Which means it takes me about a year to fill one.

None of which is at all relevant.

The reason I am suddenly banging on about notebooks is that the Alfred Russel Wallace Correspondence Project has just published scans of two of Wallace's address books as PDF documents, and they are things of great beauty: Book 1, Book 2. (Alfred Russel Wallace, in case you are trying to remember, is the chap who came up with the idea of evolution by means of Natural Selection independently of Darwin.)

Fairly interesting stuff, if you happen to run a website about Charles Darwin, I suppose, but what on Earth has this got to do with Gruts? Well, check out page 3 of the first PDF document:

Address book entry

Wallace address book entry.

Rather pleasingly, F.Grut and C.Darwin appear on opposite pages in Mr Wallace's address book. Yet another tenuous link between Charles Darwin and a Grut!

Outraged of Hebden Bridge


Sexy, not sexist.

Last night, I dreamt that I caught the end of a piece on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour, in which some feminist was spouting bollocks about Charles Darwin. As opposed to spouting bollocks about men in general, I mean. I decided to write a letter to put them straight. But then I woke up.

Letters to Radio 4… Even in my dreams, I am hopelessly middle-class.

Out of print

The entire print-run of the first edition of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species sold out on its very first day. If you are lucky enough to own an original, it's worth an awful lot of money.

But imagine how much more valuable your original copy of On the Origin of Species would be if the print-run had been not of 1,250 books, but of just two? Priceless is the word you're looking for. Utterly priceless!

Which got me thinking. There's money to be made here, if one can lay one's hands on the entire print-run of a future classic book on the day that it first comes out.

But how? How does one purchase an entire print-run?

And then it dawned on me! You disintermediate and publish the book yourself:

The Little Book of Stense

Happy birthday, Stense! Look after your present: it's one of only two copies in existence.

(We'll both be able to retire on this, mark my words.)

How to spot a fault

On the off-chance that you are on the lookout for a geological fault-line in your garden, here is the sort of thing you should be looking for:

The Howgill Fells

The Howgill Fells yesterday.

Here, the Howgill Fells have been squashed up against the younger, limestone rocks of the Yorkshire Dales, sliding over the top of them, thereby creating the Dent Fault.

If you do happen to notice one of these in your garden, please let me know.

The Dent Fault was discovered by local lad, Adam Sedgwick, who went on to teach Charles Darwin geology at Cambridge University. He was a great geologist, but could never bring himself to accept his famous pupil's theory of evolution by means of Natural Selection.