This episode of the Maine Humanities Council’s ‘Humanities on Demand’ podcast series is a recording from the first annual Dorothy Schwartz Forum on Art, Science, and the Humanities. It was held on November 15th, 2014, and focused on the topic “Why Darwin Matters.”
Christoph Irmscher is a biographer of Louis Agassiz, a contemporary opponent of Charles Darwin. Agassiz, an extremely influential scientist in the mid-nineteenth century, has since developed a reputation due to his ideas on race and his refusal to accept the theory of evolution.
“Louis Agassiz is a difficult subject,” Irmscher says. “Being European myself I’ve always been drawn to immigrants, to people who came to the United States, and so did Louis Agassiz. He was probably the most famous scientist in North America for a very long period of time, and he ended his life pretty much speaking to himself. Louis Agassiz in a sense is the villain in the story of evolution.”
Christoph Irmscher is Provost Professor of English at Indiana University Bloomington and George F. Getz Jr. Professor in the Wells Scholars Program, which he also directs. Among his books are The Poetics of Natural History, Public Poet, Private Man: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at 200, and Louis Agassiz: Creator of American Science. He is the editor of Library of America edition of John James Audubon’s Writings and Drawings. His new project is a biography of the writer, editor, and political activist Max Eastman.