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Raising the Whale: defining zoology at Cambridge

last modified Apr 29, 2016 11:23 AM

On Thursday 28 April 2016 Professor Jim Secord delivered a lecture to alumni, present staff and students of the Department.  The lecture is part of a series of events scheduled to celebrate 150 year anniversary of the establishment of the Chair and Department of Zoology in Cambridge.

Prof Secord was introduced by Head of Department Professor Michael Akam (Based on text by Professor Hugh Torrens)

It is a great pleasure to welcome Jim Secord, Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science here at Cambridge, and Fellow of Christ’s College.

Jim was born in Madison, Wisconsin and studied English Literature and Geology at Pomona College, California.

After graduating, he was awarded a Thomas J. Watson fellowship for study and travel abroad; his decision to explore geology and Romanticism in England led to his interest in the History of Science. He studied for his doctorate at Princeton University, on the Murchison/Sedgwick battle over the Cambrian to Silurian division of the geological column

Further work on this topic as a junior research fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge, led to the publication in 1986 of his first major book, Controversy in Victorian geology.

Jim’s research spans the history of biology and geology from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries.  His other books include “Victorian sensation; the extraordinary publication, reception, and secret authorship of “Vestiges of the natural history of creation” (Chicago, 2000), which describes the public debate about evolution in the mid-nineteenth century, and won the Pfizer Prize of the History of Science Society; and most recently “Visions of Science: books and readers at the dawn of the Victorian age” (OUP, 2014).

He has also edited works by Mary Somerville, Charles Lyell, and Robert Chambers, as well as a selection of Darwin’s evolutionary writings.

He taught at Imperial College before moving to Cambridge in 1992.  He has been the Director of the Darwin Correspondence Project since 2006, and was until recently Head of the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science.  Last year he was awarded the Founder’s Medal of the Society for the History of Natural History.

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