Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The session that did not shake the world

We humans must be forgiven from time to time for missing important things. I do it. You do it. We all do it.

Thus did I laugh when I recently stumbled upon a remarkable entry into the annals of history by Thomas Bell, an English dentist with an interest in reptiles, who was also president of the Linnean Society of London in the year 1858. 

Why is that significant? Of that year's scientific lectures, presentations, etc. before the society, Dr. Bell wrote this: 
"...[the year had not] been marked by any of those striking discoveries which at once revolutionise [sic], so to speak, the department of science on which they bear, it is only at remote intervals that we can reasonably expect any sudden and brilliant innovation which shall produce a marked and permanent impression on the character of any brand of knowledge, or confer a lasting and important service on mankind."
Alas, 1858, described here by Dr. Bell, was the year that both Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace jointly presented a paper about their ideas about natural selection and biological evolution to the society. As time would tell, it was perhaps the most important and now famous session of the society since its founding in 1788.