Thoreau Lecture Series

Date(s) - 08/22/17 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Location: Indianapolis Public Library, Irvington Branch

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Thoreau:  WALDEN, SCIENCE AND BIRDS

“Science never saw a ghost, nor does it look for any, but it sees everywhere traces, as it is itself the agent, of a Universal Intelligence.” Journal, December, 1, 1853

On New Year’s Day, 1860, Henry David Thoreau, Frank Sanborn, Amos Bronson Alcott, father of Louisa May, and Charles Brace, the son-in-law of Asa Grey, Professor of Botany and Darwin correspondent and supporter, read The Origin of Species and discussed the ramifications thereof. Previously, in 1851, Thoreau had read Darwin’s Voyage of a Naturalist Around the World, otherwise known as The Voyage of the Beagle. Before his death in May of 1862 Thoreau was completing work on an extended essay, Faith in a Seed, later edited and published by Bradley P. Dean. In this work Thoreau was challenging the creation science of Louis Agassiz of Harvard. In my studies of this work as well as his essay, Wild Fruits and others, I argue that he was on a similar path with Darwin as they both attempted to solve the mystery of creation.  In addition, Thoreau’s meticulous phenology records are being used today by researchers including Richard B. Primack of Harvard to illustrate the advance of global warming.

In Walden we see elements of his scientific thinking, including his thoughts and observations of birds, many taking an autobiographical and metaphorical position.