Larson, Edward J. 1953- (Edward John Larson)
Larson, Edward J. 1953- (Edward John Larson)
Born September 21, 1953, in Mansfield, OH; married Lucy Kaiser (a pediatrician), July 29, 1990; children: Sarah, Luke. Education: Attended University of Michigan, 1973; Williams College, B.A., 1974; University of Wisconsin, Madison, M.A., 1976, Ph.D., 1984; Harvard University, J.D., 1979. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, hiking, birdwatching, botany, bicycling, home restoration.
Davis, Wright & Tremaine (law firm), Seattle, WA, attorney, 1979-82; U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, associate counsel, 1982-86; University of Georgia, Athens, 1987—, became Russell Professor of History and Talmadge Chair in Law; Pepperdine University, Darling Chair in Law and University Professor of History, 2006—. Lecturer; guest on news and information television programs.
History of Science Society.
Pulitzer Prize, 1998, for Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion; George Sarton Award Lecture, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2000; honorary doctorate in humane letters from Ohio State University, 2004.
Sex, Race, and Science: Eugenics in the Deep South, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1995.
(With Darrel W. Amundsen) A Different Death: Euthanasia and the Christian Tradition, InterVarsity Press (Downers Grove, IL), 1998.
(General editor) Gary B. Ferngren, History of Science and Religion in the Western Tradition: An Encyclopedia, edited by Darrel W. Amundsen and Anne-Marie E. Nakhla, Garland (New York, NY), 2000.
(With Edward Caudill) The Scopes Trial: A Photographic History, University of Tennessee Press (Knoxville, TN), 2000.
Evolution's Workshop: God and Science on the Galapagos Islands, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory, Modern Library (New York, NY), 2004.
(Editor, with Jack Marshall) Clarence Darrow, The Essential Words and Writing of Clarence Darrow, Modern Library (New York, NY), 2007.
The Creation-Evolution Debate: Historical Perspectives, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 2007.
A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America's First Presidential Campaign, Free Press (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals, including Atlantic Monthly, Nature, Scientific American, Wilson Quarterly, Michigan Law Review, Time, Science, Virginia Quarterly Review, American History, Isis, Virginia Law Review, Wall Street Journal, and the British Journal for the History of Science.
Books adapted for audio include Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory (unabridged; eight CDs), read by John McDonough, Recorded Books, 2004.
Edward J. Larson's particular interest is the history of conflicts between religion and law as they have occurred in the twentieth century. Best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning study Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion, Larson has also written on physician-assisted suicide, eugenics, and creation science. As A. Scott Henderson noted in Skeptical Inquirer: "Anyone interested in the tension created by the interaction of religion, science and public policy should read [Larson]."
Summer for the Gods draws upon new archival material to present a balanced portrait of the celebrated Scopes trial, in which a Dayton, Tennessee, teacher was prosecuted for teaching evolution in his classroom in violation of state law. Celebrated lawyers Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan served the defense and prosecution respectively, and the proceedings were covered by the notorious social critic H.L. Mencken. Larson's book goes beyond the popular representations of the trial to analyze exactly how it did shape perceptions of science and religion in the decades to follow.
In a Times Literary Supplement review of Summer for the Gods, Patrick Allitt noted that Larson "artfully separates myths from realities to tell a more complicated and convincing story. He also summarizes the continuing efforts of Tennessee and other southern states to keep creationism on the curriculum and evolution off it." According to Massimo Pigliucci in BioScience, the work is "much more than a lively, informative piece of historical reconstruction and criticism: It is as relevant to present controversies as it would have been in the 1920s." Summer for the Gods, the critic continued, "is indeed remarkably balanced. The author's objectivity, although commendable, is also appropriate because the purpose of the book is not to resolve a scientific dispute (that was settled long ago) but to present a historical explication of the case in its proper social context. This he is able to achieve in a scholarly, extremely well-documented, engrossing narrative that is accessible to a general audience." Henderson described the book as being "the most authoritative study to date," adding: "Larson's prose is lively and fast paced." Summer for the Gods won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for history.
Larson is coauthor, with Darrell W. Amundsen, of A Different Death: Euthanasia and the Christian Tradition. The book offers arguments from history and Judeo-Christian tradition in opposition of physician-assisted suicide and certain radical forms of euthanasia, while taking a favorable view of a patient's decision not to prolong suffering by using hopeless, cure-oriented medical intervention. In a Christian Century review, Richard M. Gula wrote of Larson and Amundsen: "By tracing attitudes toward euthanasia and suicide from antiquity to the present, the authors offer the historical perspective that has been missing in the debate."
With Evolution's Workshop: God and Science on the Galapagos Islands, Larson studies the importance of these islands, located off the coast of Ecuador, including how they moved Charles Darwin to pursue his theory of evolution by natural selection after visiting them in 1835. As Larson notes, the Galapagos were discovered by a Spanish bishop in 1535 and were home to pirates during the 1700s. Since Darwin stepped on their shores from the Beagle, they have become the destination of many scientists who have gathered specimens for collections worldwide. Author Herman Melville visited six years after Darwin, but left unimpressed. During the 1800s, universities, particularly Stanford University, brought back samples, most of them dead, and the United States army created an airstrip there during World War II. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) stepped in to save the wildlife after the war, and the islands continue to attract scientists on both sides of the evolution debate, as well as tourists. A Publishers Weekly contributor concluded a review by writing: "Larson's first-rate history not only will entertain and engage lay readers but also is required reading for those seriously interested in Darwin, evolution or these remarkable islands."
Larson traces the history and notables of evolutionary theory over two hundred years in Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory, including Darwin's eighteenth-century predecessors geologist Charles Lyell and naturalist Georges Cuvier, in addition to others who incorporated God into their theories. Larson also includes chapters on the Scopes trial and the eugenics movement. In reviewing the volume in History: A Review of New Books, Howard A. Barnes described it as "remarkable…. Professionals and others who are intensely interested in the theory of evolution should read this book. It will be the definitive survey for years to come."
Larson is editor, with Michael P. Winship, of The Constitutional Convention: A Narrative History, from the Notes of James Madison. When the Articles of Confederation proved to be insufficient to rule the republic, Madison brought together in Philadelphia the delegates who drafted the U.S. Constitution. This collection of Madison's writings reveals what was at stake and all of the issues that had to be considered.
Library Journal reviewer Donna L. Davey wrote that A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America's First Presidential Campaign "is a well-researched page-turner." Here Larson provides an account of the election that resulted in a tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, both Republicans, as they vied to replaced John Adams, who was running for reelection, and of the thirty-six ballots that were required before Jefferson was elected. Included are quotes from the press and profiles of other players, including Charles C. Pinckney and Alexander Hamilton. "This is a well-written and thoroughly enjoyable examination," wrote Jay Freeman in Booklist.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
BioScience, May, 1998, Massimo Pigliucci, review of Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion, p. 406.
Booklist, April 15, 2001, Gilbert Taylor, review of Evolution's Workshop: God and Science on the Galapagos Islands, p. 1518; October 15, 2005, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Constitutional Convention: A Narrative History, from the Notes of James Madison, p. 9; July 1, 2007, Jay Freeman, review of A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America's First Presidential Campaign, p. 24.
Business Week, May 14, 2001, review of Evolution's Workshop, p. 28.
Christian Century, May 5, 1999, Richard M. Gula, review of A Different Death: Euthanasia and the Christian Tradition, p. 501.
Entertainment Weekly, October 5, 2007, Jeff Labrecque, review of A Magnificent Catastrophe, p. 75.
History: Review of New Books, fall, 2004, Howard A. Barnes, review of Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory, p. 39.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2004, review of Evolution, p. 312; June 15, 2007, review of A Magnificent Catastrophe.
Kliatt, March, 2007, Nola Theiss, review of Summer for the Gods, p. 39.
Library Journal, June 1, 2000, Harry Charles, review of The Scopes Trial: A Photographic History, p. 152; June 1, 2001, Joyce L. Ogburn, review of Evolution's Workshop, p. 206; May 15, 2004, H. James Birx, review of Evolution, p. 112; November 1, 2005, Steven Puro, review of The Constitutional Convention, p. 97; July 1, 2007, Donna L. Davey, review of A Magnificent Catastrophe, p. 103.
Publishers Weekly, April 23, 2001, review of Evolution's Workshop, p. 64; March 22, 2004, review of Evolution, p. 72; September 19, 2005, review of The Constitutional Convention, p. 53.
Science News, June 12, 2004, review of Evolution, p. 383.
Skeptical Inquirer, July-August, 1998, A. Scott Henderson, review of Summer for the Gods, p. 50.
Times Literary Supplement, June 18, 1999, Patrick Allitt, review of Summer for the Gods, p. 37.
Washington Monthly, September, 2001, Gregg Easterbrook, review of Evolution's Workshop, p. 48.
University of Georgia School of Law Web site,http://www.law.uga.edu/ (March 3, 2008), biography.
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