Observing Evolution: Peppered Moths and the Discovery of Parallel Melanism

by eea | Tuesday, July 27, 2021 - 3:00 PM

I wanted to write the kind of book I'd enjoy reading. And, I intended to follow the time-honored advice to write about what I know. I am happy to report that I did both in Observing Evolution . My hope now is that a broad audience will enjoy my book, and will appreciate that evolution is an ongoing process, not just a history of life on this planet. It is observable in real time. Indeed, we are observing it now with the increase in transmission rates of coronavirus variants. A public understanding about how evolution works would better enable the world to deal with this pandemic. The case study I develop is the evolution of melanism in peppered moths, the premier example of industrial melanism. It demonstrates natural selection resulting from differential predation by insectivorous birds on moths having different degrees of pigmentation (darkness) in environments variously disturbed by atmospheric pollution. Nearly all of the early studies were done in England following the onset of the industrial revolution. It became the classic example, in biology classes worldwide, of evolution in action. As an essential component of science, all claims demand intense scrutiny. Industrial melanism was no...Read More

What Even Is Trauma?

by eea | Friday, July 23, 2021 - 3:00 PM

Trauma was the word of the year in 2018, according to the Oxford Dictionary. That was the same year I decided my tenure working as a communications specialist in the federal government needed to end. I felt I had achieved all I was going to, and that it was time to spend more time teaching a new generation of policy analysts to write public policy stories that matter. In February 2019, I took over the direction of the writing program (if we can call it that) at the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy. One of the many things I quickly found the students wanted help with was figuring out effective ways to talk about traumatic things, whether it's war, natural disaster, police brutality, or whatever else. They wanted help making sense of their stories so that they could hopefully better understand other people's stories, too. One question I've gotten several times since my latest book, Stories Are What Save Us: A Survivor's Guide to Writing about Trauma , is what even is trauma? It has to have something to do with post- traumatic stress, for sure. But what if you experience something—or...Read More

Victorian Periodicals Review announces 2020 VanArsdel Prize Winner

by may | Thursday, July 22, 2021 - 12:00 AM

Vintage Flower Illustration The VanArsdel Prize is awarded annually to the best graduate student essay investigating Victorian periodicals and newspapers. The prize was established in 1990 to honor Rosemary VanArsdel, a founding member of the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals , whose groundbreaking research continues to shape the field of nineteenth-century periodical studies. The winner of the VanArsdel Prize receives $500 and publication in Victorian Periodicals Review . The latest issue of Victorian Periodicals Review ( VPR ) includes the 2020 VanArsdel prize winning essay, “ Vegetal Bedfellows: Houseplant Superstitions and Environmental Thought in Nineteenth-Century Periodicals ” by University of Wisconsin-Madison PhD candidate Lindsay Wells. We asked the journal’s editor, Dr. Katherine Malone, to reflect on the award selection process, and this year’s winner, Lindsay Wells, to tell us more about her fascinating research. Why is the VanArsdel Prize important? Malone-headshot.jpg Katherine Malone: Rosemary VanArsdel was not only a founding member of RSVP but also a generous mentor to students and early-career scholars. The VanArsdel Prize continues her legacy by recognizing the best graduate student writing. It's also an important part of RSVP’s mission to support innovative research in nineteenth-century newspapers...Read More

Intersex People in the Past and Present: Contemporary Advocacy in Historical Context

by eea | Tuesday, July 20, 2021 - 3:00 PM

When I first published Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex in 2009, not many people had even heard of “intersex” (atypical development of genitals, chromosomes, hormones and gonads), though of course individuals have always been born with these traits. More than a decade later, much has changed. Intersex is now in the public eye, in large part due to the efforts of determined advocates who have been working since the 1990s to change the medical standard of care for intersex children. Johns Hopkins University Press requested a second edition of my book because of the growing public awareness of intersex issues, which have gradually—in historical time, rapidly—entered the mainstream. Through television, as in the MTV show, Faking It , in new YouTube channels and podcasts by intersex people, and in YA novels that feature intersex characters, more and more people are becoming aware of how people born with intersex have been wronged by the medical community. In fact, as I was completing the second edition of Bodies in Doubt , in July 2020, the renowned Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago issued an unprecedented apology: “We empathize...Read More

The Making of "The Making of a Tropical Disease" – The Sequel

by eea | Wednesday, July 14, 2021 - 3:00 PM

I was approached by my editor at the Johns Hopkins University Press about preparing a revised second edition of my book The Making of a Tropical Disease: A Short History of Malaria . The book was the first volume in the Johns Hopkins Biographies of Disease series edited by Charles Rosenberg. My editor told me that the Press was interested in publishing a second edition because the first edition had sold well and been widely adopted for course use. That was nice to hear. But it was not the vision of more royalty checks trickling in that piqued my interest in producing a second edition. It was the realization that the first edition was now badly out of date. It had, in fact, been out of date from the moment it was published. Any book on the history of a disease that continues to affect millions of people is going to have a short shelf life. Medical knowledge and the epidemiology of diseases can change rapidly. Imagine publishing a history of coronaviruses in the fall of 2019. But The Making of a Tropical Disease , which appeared in the fall of 2007,...Read More