April 18, 2010

I deliberately chose the following commemorations with a certain scientist friend of mine in mind...Because today is her birthday!

1857-- Clarence Darrow born (Ohio, U.S.)

Darrow was the lawyer who defended John Scopes in the famous “Monkey Trial” over the teaching of evolution in public high schools. A Tennessee law called the Butler Act was passed in 1925. This statute made it unlawful to teach any ideas about the origin of humanity other than the Biblical account.

Immediately some people began to plan to intentionally break the law to make sure that there would be a trial in which the law could be declared unconstitutional (as it clearly broke the First Amendment of the Constitution). A biology teacher named John Scopes was just doing his job when he taught evolution from the textbook that the state had mandated that he use, but he agreed to be a part of this test case, even though it would mean that he would be arrested. (He was never actually taken into custody, and the bail was paid by the owner of a newspaper.)

Clarence Darrow defended Scopes on several grounds. He lost the case but was able to win lots of points with large sections of the public, who listened to the trial on the radio and read reports about the trial in newspapers. When the case was appealed, the “guilty” verdict was set aside.

  • For older students, there is lots of information on the trial on this website.
  • Another website discusses the play and later movie inspired by the trial, Inherit the Wind. (The play and movie are not accurate portrayals of the trial, and were never intended to be. They are fiction that was inspired by the actual trial.)
  • If you want to know more about human evolution (part of what seemed to be on trial during the Scopes trial), check out these videos.

1872 – Bernard O. Dodge born (U.S.)

Dodge was a botanist who pioneered research on heredity in fungi. He was the first to study sexual reproduction of common bread mold, Neurospora.

1924 – S
imon and Schuster publish the first crossword puzzle book.

Apparently, it was an odd-looking book with a pencil attached to it. For more information on the history of crosswords and crossword activities, check out this December posting.

1955 – Albert Einstein dies (New Jersey, U.S.)

Einstein was the German-born physicist who came up with some of the most important theories of the 20th Century, including the theory of relativity. For more on Einstein, check out this March posting.

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