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Darwin Correspondence Project

Biodiversity and its histories

Hall of Biodiversity.jpg

Hall of Biodiversity, American Museum of Natural History
Hall of Biodiversity, American Museum of Natural History
Ryan Somma, Flickr

The Darwin Correspondence Project was co-sponsor of Biodiversity and its Histories, which brought together scholars and researchers in ecology, politics, geography, anthropology, cultural history, and history and philosophy of science, to explore how aesthetic, economic, and moral value came to be attached to the diversity of life on earth.  The conference included a session on 'Darwin and evolutionary theory' involving past and present members of the Project. 

We are grateful to the speakers for permission to make their talks available here.

Biodiversity and its Histories was held on 24-25 March 2017 at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), Cambridge.

Session 1: Experience and Representation  Chair: Paul White (University of Cambridge)

Anne Secord (University of Cambridge): Gilbert White’s interconnected world


Anna Svennson and Sabine Höhler (KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden): Infinite variety circumscribed: a dialogue between John Ray’s Wisdom of God and John Allen’s Biosphere 2


Georg Toepfer (Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Berlin): Unequivocal ethical concern in pluralistic guise


Session 2: Measurement and Management  Chair: Deborah Coen (Barnard College, Columbia University)

Staffan Müller-Wille (University of Exeter): Art and nature in the history of natural history


Alice Vadrot (University of Cambridge): Remote-sensing and in-situ observations for biodiversity conservation and science


Chris Sandbrook (University of Cambridge): 50 shades of green: the multiple meanings of biodiversity within the conservation movement


Session 3: Values of Diversity  Chair: Helen Anne Curry (University of Cambridge)

Emily Wakild (Boise State University): Biodiversity as justification: conservation in South America in the twentieth century (communicated via Skype)


Jasper Montana (University of Cambridge): Constitutional divisions in the democratisation of knowledge


David Sepkoski (MPI for the History of Science, Berlin): Extinction and the value of diversity


Session 4: Biogeography and Evolution  Chair: Jim Secord (University of Cambridge)

Paul White (University of Cambridge): Darwin’s divergence


Alistair Sponsel (Vanderbilt University): Darwin's use of biodiversity as an indicator of geographical change


Deborah Coen (Barnard College, Columbia University): Where the Alps meet the Steppe: interpreting botanical diversity in a multinational empire


Session 5: Biocultural Diversity  Chair: Sujit Sivasundaram (University of Cambridge)

Uradyn Bulag (University of Cambridge): Chinese models of multi-culturalism/multi-nationalism and their histories


Emily Wanderer (University of Pittsburgh): Vivir Mejor and the biodiverse nation


Helen Anne Curry (University of Cambridge): Garden variety diversity: heirloom seed saving in Britain and the United States​


Organised by Deborah Coen (Barnard College, Columbia University), Helen Anne Curry (University of Cambridge), and Paul White (University of Cambridge).

Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH) and the Darwin Correspondence Project.