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text 2017-03-29 17:49
Reading progress update: I've read 392 out of 527 pages.
Charles Darwin: A New Life - John Bowlby

Darwin's follow-up to Origin of Species, about variation in form through domestic selective breeding, was twice as long as his more famous and ground-breaking work! Anyone who's read OoS must surely be daunted by the prospect of reading something twice as long on a much narrower topic.

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text 2017-03-28 05:21
Reading progress update: I've read 327 out of 527 pages.
Charles Darwin: A New Life - John Bowlby

Even though papers on the theory of natural selection by Wallace and Darwin were read at the same meeting of the Linnean Society in 1858, there is no doubt Darwin has precedence; Darwin's paper was an extract of a document he wrote in 1844 that had been seen by others. The earliest evidence that Wallace was even thinking about evolution is from 1854 and in his paper of 1857 natural selection is not mentioned. Darwin had, in fact, first hypothesised natural selection twenty years previous to the 1858 formal publication.

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text 2017-03-27 22:45
Reading progress update: I've read 283 out of 527 pages.
Charles Darwin: A New Life - John Bowlby

Further evidence that Darwin had social anxiety with people outside his immediate family.  We now have: powers of concentration and detailed observation, "special interests" and collecting, bullied at school and formal education in general a struggle despite great ability, prone to severe anxiety, social and otherwise (GAD), depression,  preference for quiet environment/privacy/working alone, preference for written communication, "zero or lecture" style communication (wrote a 2500 word letter to a newspaper!) and more...pretty much case closed - Darwin had some form of autism.

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review 2017-03-27 22:20
Hidden Figures
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race - Margot Lee Shetterly

I am so glad that I read this after seeing the movie. I loved the movie, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to the lifetime of achievement of the women featured in the movie plus there are more women mentioned in the book whose accomplishments aren't evident in the film. It's an amazing story and Shetterly relays it beautifully.

I loved every minute of reading this book and it needs to be in all school libraries. I get that schools don't have the time to devote to each historical topic, but having something like this (there is a Young Readers version available here) for them to read would be great. I wish I had spent more time in the non-fiction section back when I was in school but I'm trying to make up for it now. I love the stories of women throughout history, seeing that we've been contributing to the world in more than 2 ways, and promoting those stories when I see them. Fortunately, this one doesn't exactly need my help. It's been great to see all the notoriety this story has gotten, it's well deserved.

Shetterly goes a long way to giving the reader an understanding of not only the important nature of these women's work, but the sacrifices they made to do the work and the pressures they were under from several sources. The difference in the way they were treated at work and at home, by coworkers and by passersby on the sidewalk, is well delineated and it paints a good picture of what it must have meant to be there, to be breaking down barriers and to be given credit for their incredible intelligence. I appreciate that they all say they were just doing their jobs, which I'm sure is true, but there's always more to it than that. I've known people who "just" do their jobs and there's a difference between them and people who love the work. It's this difference that breaks down the barriers that these women took on, purposefully or not.

I appreciated Shetterly's inclusion of the timeline with the Civil Rights movement. I am familiar with the events from school and other reading, but it helped me out to have it overlaid on the timeline of the events at NACA and NASA, to understand the shifting sands the women found themselves on. She did a great job too of delineating the cultural and workplaces differences with being African American, a woman, or an African American and a woman. The African American men got to come in as engineers and the women had to fight for that too. White women were also given advantages over African American women, which caused the women featured here to deal with twice the problems the others had.

This is a book that everyone should read, but especially if you watched the movie, which really only covers half. The book carries the story of the three central women all the way to the moon landing, while the movie stops at John Glenn's orbit. Shetterly's writing style is impeccable and the story itself is astounding.

 

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text 2017-03-27 00:45
Reading progress update: I've read 254 out of 527 pages.
Charles Darwin: A New Life - John Bowlby

Hilarious contradictory couple of pages about how sociable Darwin was: He "withdrew from society" shortly after moving to the country from London. He "had many friends" but only one was local and the others were all scientists that he mainly corresponded with. "Had many visitors" - again mainly fellow scientists - but would only meet them for 1/2hr per day because doing so provoked stomach pains (probably caused by anxiety driven hyperventilation). This is the area where I was doubtful Darwin met the criteria for an autism diagnosis - I am nearly convinced he was autistic, now. More evidence of social difficulties will be decisive in my mind.

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