We invite systematic consideration of the metaphors of cycles and circulation as a long-term theme in the history of the life and environmental sciences and medicine. Ubiquitous in ancient religious and philosophical traditions, especially in representing the seasons and the motions of celestial bodies, circles once symbolized perfection. Over the centuries cyclic images in western medicine, natural philosophy, natural history and eventually biology gained independence from cosmology and theology and came to depend less on strictly circular forms. As potent ‘canonical (...) icons’, cycles also interacted with representations of linear and irreversible change, including arrows, arcs, scales, series and trees, as in theories of the Earth and of evolution. In modern times life cycles and reproductive cycles have often been held to characterize life, in some cases especially female life, while human efforts selectively to foster and disrupt these cycles have harnessed their productivity in medicine and agriculture. But strong cyclic metaphors have continued to link physiology and climatology, medicine and economics, and biology and manufacturing, notably through the relations between land, food and population. From the grand nineteenth-century transformations of matter to systems ecology, the circulation of molecules through organic and inorganic compartments has posed the problem of maintaining identity in the face of flux and highlights the seductive ability of cyclic schemes to imply closure where no original state was in fact restored. More concerted attention to cycles and circulation will enrich analyses of the power of metaphors to naturalize understandings of life and their shaping by practical interests and political imaginations. (shrink)
Much has happened in the Darwin field since the _Correspondence_ began publishing in 1985. This overview of historiography suggests that the richness of the letters generates fresh scholarly questions and that Darwin, paradoxically, is becoming progressively deconstructed as a key figure in the history of science.
ArgumentSeveral recent works in sociology examine the manufacture of public identities through the notion of celebrity. This paper explores the imagery of Charles Darwin as a nineteenth-century scientific celebrity by comparing the public character deliberately manufactured by Darwin and his friends with images constructed by the public as represented here by caricatures in humorous magazines of the era. It is argued that Darwin’s outward persona drew on a subtle tension between public and private. The boundaries between public and private were (...) blurred by the ritual of Darwin “showing” himself in the flesh, either at home to visitors or, more rarely, on public occasions. The reputation for privacy and illness that he built up added materially to this public face. By contrast, caricatures tended to depict him as an ape. These apish representations played a significant role in associating Darwin, rather than any other thinker, with the notion of evolution, and in creating an alternative public persona over which he had no direct control. (shrink)