Literary events at the Whipple: Dr. Holmes, ‘Darwin’s Bards’

As part of our growing series of literature-and-science events at the Whipple Museum of the History of Science, last Thursday evening Dr. John Holmes from the University of Reading gave an excellent talk on his recently published book, ‘Darwin’s Bards: British and American Poetry in the Age of Evolution.

John Holmes - Darwin's Bards

Dr. Holmes speaking in the main Whipple Gallery.

John is a bard of bards– he does not claim to be a poet himself, but he reads the work of his subjects with all the zest and verve of a true Romantic. He is always an enthusiastic and illuminating speaker, and the guests who came to hear his talk were engaged, had questions, and genuinely enjoyed the evening.

A comment from my former supervisor, Dr. Doug Shedd, on John’s book:


In discussion with one of the guests.

“John Holmes’s coverage of the relationship between science and poetry in Darwin’s Bards: British and American Poetry in the Age of Evolution is remarkably complete. He has a scientist’s grasp of evolutionary theory and a thorough understanding of the controversies the theory has engendered. He also understands the difficulty many have had in finding meaning in an existence framed by Darwinism. Holmes’s investigation of how poetry addresses these problems is unique, and he is correct in thinking that, “poems can even change how we think about Darwinism itself.” Evolutionary science provides many of the details for understanding why the world is the way it is, but we need “Darwin’s Bards” to help us interpret these details, incorporate them into our collective consciousness, and fully understand what it means to live in a Darwinian world.” — Douglas Shedd, Thoresen Professor of Biology, Randolph College

Thanks to Melanie for being our photographer!

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