Friday, 1 April 2016 — 12:00 noon — WAG 316
Lydia Pyne, UT
“Piltdown: A Name Without a Fossil”
Few scientific forgeries have captured imagination as completely as that of the Piltdown Man hoax. Discovered in 1912 in East Sussex, the Piltdown Man (Eoanthropus dawsoni, “Dawson’s dawn-man”) dictated, dominated, and drove discourse about the direction of human evolution research for more than forty years. When the Piltdown “fossil” was determined to be a hoax in 1953, there were immediate consequences for reinterpreting the fossil record of human ancestors, but the revelation has done little to diminish Piltdown’s place in the history of paleoanthropology.
However, the legacy of Eoanthropus casts a long shadow, affecting even today how new fossil discoveries are presented to the public. Understanding the public and scientific cachet that Piltdown claimed in the first half of the twentieth century (through newspapers, museum exhibits, and reconstructions) helps us make sense of how Piltdown is, perhaps, the most-studied and least-resolved discovery in twentieth-century paleoanthropology — a “fossil” that still commands historical curiosity amid its stories of mystery and intrigue.
Lydia Pyne is a writer and historian whose essays have appeared in The
Atlantic, Public Domain Review, and Nautilus. She holds BA and MA degrees in anthropology and history and a PhD in History and Philosophy of Science, and is currently a Research Affiliate of the UT Institute for Historical Studies. She is the co-author, with Stephen J. Pyne, of The Last Lost World: Ice Ages, Human Origins, and the Invention of the Pleistocene (Viking, 2013). Her book Bookshelf appeared earlier this year as part of Bloomsbury’s “Object Lessons” series, and her next book, Seven Skeletons: The Evolution of the World’s Most Famous Human Fossils, will be published by Viking in August.
Friday, 25 March 2016 — 12:00 noon — WAG 316
Jack Loveridge, UT
“Between Hunger and Growth: Agricultural Science and Humanitarian Intervention in North India, 1947–1964”
Built from the ground up by three thousand Sikh and Hindu refugees in the aftermath of the Partition of India in 1947, the town of Nilokheri in East Punjab emerged as an unlikely center of agricultural education and scientific exchange. With support from the Ford Foundation, Indian and American scientists and development planners worked through the 1950s to transform the refugee township into a model of agricultural innovation and community development. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru even cast Nilokheri as the first step on the “road to new India” that would bring the nation to self-sufficiency in food production. Over the course of a decade, experimental farms, workshops, and agricultural training centers rose around the village. The bustling town rapidly became an internationally-recognized center for deploying new farming technologies, training farmers, and sharing scientific knowledge. Yet for all its initial promise, allegations of bureaucratic mismanagement dogged the project, floodwaters disrupted the site in 1957, and Ford’s interest shifted by the early 1960s. The Nilokheri experiment, however, set the stage for the scientific and social interventions of India’s Green Revolution, contributing to an international development paradigm that persists today.
Jack Loveridge is a doctoral candidate in History at UT, writing a dissertation that examines how Indian scientists, physicians, and economists worked to combat malnutrition and poverty through the course of decolonization, well before the Green Revolution of the late 1960s and 1970s. This project also investigates the role of international organizations and philanthropies in shaping the food economy and landscape of post-partition India. His work has been supported by fellowships from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the Rockefeller Archive Center, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and the Institute of Historical Research in London.