Tag Archives: Ned Friedman

Director’s Series at the Arnold Arboretum

Tulip Tree (Lirodendron tulipfera) American native tulip tree on the front lawn of the Hunnewell Building at the Arnold Arboretum

A Darwinian Look at Darwin’s Evolutionist Ancestors

Last night I had the pleasure of hearing Ned Friedman, the new Director at the Arnold Arboretum, speak about the early history of evolutuonary thought. Well-spoken, passionate, and comprehensive in his presentaion, Friedman answers the question “Is Darwin truly deserving of his place in history?” Although approximately fifty naturalists, horticulturalists, arborists, theologians, philosophers, poets, and medical practitoners had advanced evolutionary concepts for the diversification of life, it was Darwin who wrote about and developed the concept most exhaustively and comprehensively (most notably, On the Origins of Species, 1859) and conclusively, and it was Darwin who convinced the rest of the scientific world. Interestingly, we learn that Charles Darwin’s grandfather, the physician and naturalist Erasmus Darwin (a great friend of our forefather Benjamin Franklin– are you listening tea party creationists?) most certainly planted the seed and devolped the foundation for his grandson’s theories on evolution, through his own writing Zoonomia (or the Laws of Organic Life, 1794).

Erasmus Darwin writes “Would it be too bold to imagine, that in the great length of time, since the earth began to exist, perhaps millions of ages before the commencement of the history of mankind, would it be too bold to imagine, that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament, which THE GREAT FIRST CAUSE endued with animality, with the power of acquiring new parts, attended with new propensities, directed by irritations, sensations, volitions, and associations; and thus possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own inherent activity, and of delivering down those improvements by generation to its posterity, world without end!”

It is not easy leaving my cozy home on a frigid New England evenning. I usually have to depart a full two to two and half hours prior to any event in the city when it is scheduled anywhere near rush hour. This makes for a very long evening, however, I find all the progams that the Arnold Arboretum has to offer entirely worth my while and last night’s presentaion was no exception. I am very much looking forward to the upcoming lecture topic Restoring Hawaii’s Marvels of Evolution, presented by Robert Robichaux, scheduled for Monday, February 7 at 6:30.

All programs in the Directors Lecture series are free but you must register ahead of time online or call 617.384.5277.

Tulip tree (Lirodendron tulipfera). Lirodendron is a genus of only two species of trees in the Magnoliaceae; both are known under the common name tulip tree. Lirodendron tulipfera is native to eastern North America, while Lirodendron chinese is native to China and Vietnam.

New Director’s Series at the Arnold Arboretum

Magnolia 'Betty' Arnold ArboretumMagnolia ‘Betty’

In this new lecture series, nationally recognized experts will examine an array of contemporary topics related to Earth’s biodiversity and evolutionary history, the environment, conservation biology, and key social issues associated with current science. Opportunities to informally chat with the speaker will follow each lecture.

Lectures are free, but registration is required. All lectures held in the Hunnewell Building, Arnold Arboretum.

Register online or call 617.384.5277

A note about the photo above: I love taking photos at the Arnold Arboretum. Not only does every turn along the sweeping paths lead to a beautiful vista, with gorgeous and beautifully cared-for examples of individual plant specimens, but also because the garden is organized by plant family. As as example, surrounding the Hunnewell Building is a stunning collection of members of the Magnoliaceae, or Magnolia Family, both cultivars and species from around the globe. This allows you to more easily compare and comprehend some of the similarities and differences between, for instance, native sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginina), tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), and hybrid ‘Magnolia ‘Elizabeth.’ When photographing at the Arnold I also take a photo of the identifying tag attached to the tree or shrub, which allows me to continue photographing without having to stop and write down the information. Later I can easily look up the plant to find out all I can.


A Darwinian Look at Darwin’s Evolutionist Ancestors
Ned Friedman, Director, Arnold Arboretum
NEW DATE ADDED: Monday, January 31, 6:30–8:30pm

For over a century before the publication of On the Origin of Species, naturalists, theologians, atheists, horticulturalists, medical practitioners, poets, and philosophers had advanced evolutionary concepts for the diversification of life through descent with modification. The early history of evolutionary thought will be examined through the lens of Charles Darwin’s highly personal views of his evolutionist ancestors. We will examine the question of what set Darwin apart from the dozens of advocates of evolution who preceded him. Is Darwin truly deserving of his place in history? Come find out!

Register online or call 617.384.5277

Restoring Hawaii’s Marvels of Evolution

Robert Robichaux, University of Arizona
Monday, February 7, 6:30–8:30pm

Evolving in splendid isolation over millions of years, Hawaii’s native plants exhibit patterns of diversity that are unrivaled elsewhere on Earth. Especially striking are the many examples of adaptive radiation, in which original immigrants to the islands evolved into dazzling arrays of plants exhibiting great variation in form and habitat preference. Yet Hawaii’s native plants face an uncertain future. Many native plants, such as the exquisitely beautiful silverswords and lobeliads, now teeter on the edge of extinction. Join botanist Robert Robichaux of the University of Arizona and the Hawaiian Silversword Foundation as he discusses recent efforts to restore Hawaii’s marvels of plant evolution.

Register online or call 617.384.5277