Museum of Natural History and Planetarium, Roger Williams Park

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 1000 Elmwood Ave Providence RI 02907  See map

Join us for spirited discourse in this new, timely Natural History book discussion group.  Together, we will explore four important works which have had significant impact on contemporary thought within the sciences. Assistant Curator and Librarian Mark Sweberg will lead us in an examination of these informing and always interesting classics of non-fiction literature.  Pre-registration for entire four book series is required; please sign up asap as space is limited, and a minimum number of participants is required. Ages 18 and up.

Books to be discussed:

The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (April 7, 2012)

Perhaps the most readable and accessible of the great works of scientific imagination, The Origin of Species sold out on the day it was published in 1859.  Theologians quickly labeled Charles Darwin the most dangerous man in England.  Based largely on Darwin's experience as a naturalist while on a five-year voyage aboard H.M.S. Beagle, The Origin of Species set forth a theory of evolution and natural selection that challenged contemporary beliefs about divine providence and the immutability of species.  A landmark contribution to philosophical and scientific thought, Darwin's book came to have far-reaching importance beyond the field of biology, encompassing such fields as psychology, sociology, law, theology, literature, and other branches of intellectual endeavor.

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (May 12, 2012)

Few books have had as much impact on early twenty-first life as Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.  Though an environmental consciousness can be discerned in American culture as far back as the nineteenth century, environmentalism as it is known today has only been around for fifty years, and Carson's book is one of its primary sources. Her tirade against humankind's attempt to use technology to dominate nature wrenched environmentalism from its relatively narrow, conservationist groove and helped transition it into a sweeping social movement that has since impacted almost every area of everyday life.

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond (June 16, 2012)

Winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction, Guns, Germs, and Steel was also a national best-seller.  At a time when other popular nonfiction topics centered on personal relationships and diets, Jared Diamond caught the attention of the reading public with a fascinating account of more than 13,000 years of human evolution and societal development. Diamond recounts how he became intriqued when his New Guinean friend Yali asked, "Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?"  The cargo that Yali refers to is technology--tools as simple as axes; accessories such as umbrellas; and more complicated inventions such as computers.  Diamond searched for an answer by examing millions of years of history, mapping out the migrations of early humans. Diamond concludes that it is ultimately geography, not biology or race as some other studies have tried to prove, that produced the cultural disparities his friend Yali had pointed out.

The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking (July 28, 2012)

Stephen Hawking is that rare combination of scientist and celebrity whose writings take the obscure and arcane workings of the universe and make them available to general readers. Born exactly three undred years after the death of Galileo, Hawking would eventually hold the Lucasian Professorship of Mathematics at Cambridge, the same post once held by Sir Isaac Newton.  In 1988, Stephen Hawking published A Brief History of Time.  It was among the most successful popular books about science ever written. The Universe in a Nutshell is its sequel.  Always charming, frequently funny, and at times bewildering, author Stephen Hawking's The Universe in a Nutshell describes a universe that sounds like a carnival fun house: nothing is really as it seems.


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