Visiting Scholar to Discuss Life and Legacy of Evolutionist Charles Darwin

Since 2009 is, “The Year of Darwin,” the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of “On the Origin of Species,” Truman’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa will host Visiting Scholar Betty Smocovitis from the University of Florida Jan. 26-27.

Smocovitis, of both the zoology and history departments at Florida, will address several Truman classes in biology, anthropology, and the history of science. She will also meet informally with Truman students. The culmination of her visit will be a public lecture that promises to be a memorable review of the legacy of Charles Darwin in our times. It is titled “Singing his Praises: Darwin and His Theory in Song, and Musical Production.”
Betty Smocovitis

Smocovitis writes that this lecture is “designed to reflect on Darwin, his theory, and its expression in popular culture in general, and American culture in particular. It explores a number of substantive issues in the history of evolution pertaining to controversies over Darwin and the reception of his theory, but it does so in what I hope is a lighthearted and engaging manner (lots of music will be played and discussed). The lecture is designed to introduce a general audience to the life of Darwin, to introduce some new insights on his life and work and to provoke thought about the relationship between science and American popular culture.”

The public lecture will take place at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 27 in the Student Union Building Georgian Room, with a reception to follow. The event is co-sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Biology and the Phi Beta Kappa Delta chapter of Missouri, with a generous contribution from Truman’s former President Charles McClain.

Smocovitis is the recipient of six teaching awards during her 20 years at Florida. Her research focuses on the history, philosophy and sociology of the 20th century biological sciences, especially evolutionary biology, systematics, ecology and genetics, and the history of American botany. She is the author of “Unifying Biology: The Evolutionary Synthesis and Evolutionary Biology,” has two works in progress.

A fellow of the American Association of the Advancement of Science and recent chair of its history and philosophy of science section, Smocovitis is the recipient of a Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities as well as grants from the Botanical Society of America, the National Science Foundation, the American Philosophical Society and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She has been a visiting professor at the University of Athens, Cornell, Emory and Stanford, and a visiting research associate at the National Museum and Art Gallery, Papua New Guinea.

Every year, the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program makes 12 or more distinguished scholars available to visit 100 colleges and universities with chapters of Phi Beta Kappa. Founded in 1776, Phi Betta Kappa is the nation’s oldest academic honor society. It has chapters at 276 colleges and universities and more than 600,000 members.

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