Welcome to Richard Milner’s

DARWIN’S UNIVERSE

Home of Darwinian Scholarship, Music, Art, and Entertainment



The Wallace Centenary Project

Richard Milner has announced his plans for a large Alfred Russel Wallace Centenary Project for 2013, the hundredth anniversary of the great naturalist’s death. The Project will provide funds for scientific and historical research on Wallacean topics, international conferences, publications, and more. For further information, see Call for Ideas for Wallace Centenary Project.

An all-day AR Wallace Centenary Conference was held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City on November 12, 2013. The daytime lectures, held in the 300-seat Kaufman Theater, featured morning and afternoon sessions of outstanding speakers on Wallace-related themes, In the evening the action shifted to the 900-seat Lefrak Imax Theater, where the dean of television naturalists Sir David Attenborough presented his celebrated lecture, “Alfred Russel Wallace and the Birds of Paradise,” to a full house. The wildly enthusiastic audience gave Sir David a standing ovation. Following the presentation, Attenborough and his co-author Errol Fuller signed copies of their book Drawn from Paradise at a reception in the Northwest Coast Peoples Hall.

The programs were cosponsored by the Wallace Centenary Celebration Project, the Department of Ornithology of the American Museum, and the John F. Templeton Foundation. Milner is currently in discussions with UCLA about a Los Angeles version of the Conference.

For more information, see the updated Alfred Russel Wallace page.


Announcing Richard Milner’s Newest Book:

CHARLES R. KNIGHT: THE ARTIST WHO SAW THROUGH TIME


Listen to Richard interviewed by Sarah Lilley
of WNYC’s Studio 360, June 8, 2012:
“The Man Who Invented the Dinosaurs”


Audio Player 6


Read Review in the February Issue of Science, “Grand Master of Reconstruction” ()
This richly illustrated celebration of Knight’s life and work—including a definitive and dramatic new biography based on his private papers—gathers together both famous and never-before-seen works, from his days of sketching animals in the newly opened Bronx Zoo to the decades spent creating murals of prehistoric species for the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Field Museum in Chicago. Knight’s oeuvre includes not only long-vanished creatures but also a veritable catalog of modern birds and beasts sketched from life. His scientifically accurate restorations, bringing dry fossil bones to life, inspired and influenced generations of scientists, artists, and filmmakers.

“A visual feast.. this beautiful book [embodies] the magnificent legacy of Knight’s passion for seeking truth about nature through art.” —Michael Novacek, Provost of Science and Curator of Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History

View entire book jacket ()
Currently you can order the book on Amazon.com for $26.40, or pick it up at full price of $40.00
at your local store and help support the continued existence of real bookshops.

Richard’s book on Charles R. Knight is the cover story on the April issues of both Prehistoric Times and
Natural History magazines. Click book cover images below for free previews of the full articles ().


See Richard Milner on Evolution, Ape-Men, and the Real Lost World


Photos: Marian Brickner, St. Louis (click to enlarge)
Enjoy this clip from Richard’s top science shows:

Evolution, Ape-Men, and the Real Lost World



Left: snapshots from
Charles Darwin Live
and in Concert


Bill Nye interviews Richard Milner

Recent News

Voice of America News Features Richard Milner

Author Pays Tribute to Darwin in Encyclopedic Book, Musical Stage Show

Listen to international broadcast with Mike O’Sullivan, November 2009 (click arrow to begin):

Audio Player 1

MILNER’S DARWIN
IN THE NEWS

Science:

“Grand Master of Reconstruction” ()

The New York Times:

“Darwin the Comedian, Now That’s Entertainment!”

“Darwin in Song,” New York Times music video

See Richard on NPR on Darwin Day, 2008

“Write a Darwin Song, Win a Prize” plus the New York Times music video, “Darwin’s Nightmare,”

Natural History Magazine:

Online interview on Milner’s article, “Seeing Corals with the Eye of Reason,”







Hi, I’m Richard Milner—a historian of science who loves to share my lifelong research (and original discoveries) about Darwin’s life and thought with you. Trained as an anthropologist, specializing in primate behavior and human evolution, I worked for years as Senior Editor at Natural History magazine at the American Museum of Natural History.

There I edited Stephen Jay Gould’s famous column, “This View of Life”—the basis of his popular books—an odd twist of fate, because Gould and I had been childhood friends who were interested in evolution and Darwin even as 12-year-olds. Since then, I’ve written


Steven J. Gould & Richard Milner, age 12
(Click image to enlarge.)
many articles and books about Darwin, evolution, history of science, and natural history. You may see a list of my published writings and my CV here ().

But there’s also a twist to my Darwinian research and scholarhip. Gould used to introduce me to audiences by saying, “Richard doesn’t just search the history of science for biographical and intellectual insights—he’s the only Darwin historian who’s always looking for song cues.”

That’s because, back in the 1960s, when I was a graduate student at the University of California (UCLA and Berkeley), I began writing songs about Darwin and evolution and performed monologues with a jazz bassist at San Francisco coffee houses.

I’m still writing songs about Darwin and evolution, and for the past decade have performed my one-man musical Charles Darwin: Live & In Concert all over the world, including such venues as the Edinburgh Science Festival, London Natural History Museum, Dresden Museum, American Museum of Natural History, Canberra Skeptics Society (Australia) and most recently—the fulfillment of a lifelong dream—on a cruise ship in the Galapagos Islands. (After the performance, the audience gathered on deck, where they were treated to a unique spectacle—sea lions leaping out of the water to catch flying fish in mid-air!)


Richard’s Darwin Live music video produced by the New York Times

Eight of my Darwin songs, with music by Jacques Semmelman, were performed last spring by a 100-voice choir in Cambridge, Massachusetts, known as the North Cambridge Family Opera Company. You can click on the video clip above to view New York Times coverage of my show on Darwin Day last year.

In the full show, a multi-media production, several hundred digital slides and eleven songs are interspersed with dramatizations of the history of science. Much of the dialogue is based on the letters of Darwin, Thomas Henry Huxley, Alfred Russel Wallace, plus there is my own take on the Scopes Monkey Trial, the essays of Stephen Jay Gould, and a few comic fantasies. Among fans of the show have been the illusionist Penn Gillette, the late Stephen Jay Gould and actor Tony Randall, filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles, the historian Frederick Burkhardt, the legendary Broadway lyricist Sheldon (Fiddler on the Roof) Harnick, and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.

Theater critic Rex Reed wrote that “Milner’s songs are clever and witty; he could tackle musically any subject.” Tony Randall called them “absolutely wonderful,” and famed Broadway lyricist Marshall (Once Upon a Mattress) Barer wrote: “Milner’s lines are incredible. Written with seemingly effortless expertise, Richard Milner’s lyrics leave us unaware (until we’ve finished laughing) that we have made a quantum leap in the reconciliation of art and science. The songs are fresh yet inevitable, modest and audacious, stylishly eclectic, touching and hilarious.” Master lyricist Sheldon (Fiddler on the Roof) Harnick said in the Wall Street Journal, “His lyrics are expert especially because they’re so scientifically rich.” Click image on right to see some of the lyrics.


To hear brief excerpts of some of the songs, you can play
four selections by clicking the arrows on the control bars:
“Why Didn’t I Think of That?”

Audio Player 2


“When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish”

Audio Player 3

“I’m the Guy Who Found Natural Selection”

Audio Player 4


“Darwin’s Nightmare”

Audio Player 5


The CD album, Charles Darwin: Live & In Concert, includes all the Darwin and evolution songs: 23 tracks, 12 songs, and runs minutes. Click image on the right to view album cover enlarged. The CD is only $20 including postage; e-mail Richard to order your CD today.

Darwin’s Universe: Evolution from A to Z (University of California Press, 2009) is the evolved descendant of my Encyclopedia of Evolution: Humanity’s Search for its Origins, which has gone through two editions (1990 and 1993). The new book contains a hundred new essays, and a treasure trove of rare pictures and illustrations from the history of natural science. Darwin’s Universe is not only about Darwin’s Life and thought (and those of his friends and fellow evolutionists) but is also the story of how evolution leaped out of science to influence drama, literature, exploration, cinema, law, and popular culture. See DarwinsUniverse.org.

As part of Darwin’s Bicentennial, I also co-edited the 200th Anniversary Special Darwin-Wallace Issue of the Linnean Society of London. You can read my article in that Journal, “Charles Darwin: Ghostbuster, Muse, and Magistrate.” (Click journal cover image on the left.) You can read the entire issue online at the site of The Linnean Society of London. Also, see my cover story on Darwin and coral reefs in the current issue of Natural History magazine.

Part of the Linnean story involves my discovery of an amazing court trial in 1876—the first time a psychic had ever been charged by a scientist with concocting fraudulent “scientific experiments.” I found, to my astonishment, that the two greatest naturalists of the nineteenth century took opposing sides when the supernatural went on trial. Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer of the theory of natural selection was the star witness for the defense, while Charles Darwin secretly contributed funds to the prosecution. (See “Charles Darwin & Associates, Ghostbusters” (). You can hear me speak about “Darwin as Ghostbuster, Muse, and Magistrate” with Steve Mirsky on Scientific American’s current podcast.

I’ll end by returning to my newest book, which is featured at the top: Charles R. Knight: The Artist Who Saw Through Time, published by Abrams. Leading wildlife and sci-fi artists and filmmakers have written that they consider this “the book that Charles R. Knight fans have been waiting and hoping for.” Paleoartist Bill Stout calls it “magnificent . . . amazing . . . dazzling.” Paleontologist Don Prothero raves, “truly remarkable . . . gloriously illustrated.”

Knight’s paintings of dinosaurs, mammoths, early humans, and living animals rank among the greatest treasures of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Field Museum in Chicago, (see Field Museum Photo Archives—Charles Knight Paintings) and other institutions. See also the World of Charles R. Knight.

The book also contains a new biography of Knight, which I constructed after months of examining archival boxes full of his letters and papers, most of which have never before been researched. His life turned out to be more interesting and compelling than I ever imagined, and his dramatic life story is told in this book for the first time. It is a remarkable naturalist-artist’s life, full of his love of animals, fascination with the remote past, the joy of creation, and the despair of gradually losing his sight. Also, Knight fans have sent us photos of his wonderful artworks from far and near that have never before been published.

I was deeply delighted that Rhoda Knight Kalt chose me to assemble this treasury of her grandfather’s artistic legacy, which includes his wonderful wildlife renderings as well as the classic prehistoric scenes. Knight’s surviving private letters and papers, many of which we have published for the first time, are also fascinating.

Thanks for visiting Darwinlive.com. I hope you will like my writings, songs, and performances. It’s my deepest pleasure and my joy to use history, science, and scholarship to create music, theater, and art. Darwin’s lessons went beyond science. He spent a life making his play his work and his work his play. As Darwin sings in my show, while gathering specimens aboard HMS Beagle, “I do what I love and I love what I do.”


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Richard Milner’s “Darwin” is a Natural Selection?


  
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BOOKINGS AND MEDIA
To book the Darwin Show or Lectures, contact:
     Jeannine Frank
     Frank Entertainment & Speakers
     310-476-6735
     310-666-9066 (cell)
     jeannine@frankentertainment.com
For press and media inquiries, contact:
     Judy Twersky
     Public Relations
     718-263-6633
     917-597-5384 (cell)
     JudTwersky@aol.com