Darwin and the Art of Botany

James Costa, Bobbi Angell
Event date
Event time
University Museum of Natural History
Parks Road
Event type
Lectures and seminars
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Booking required

Charles Darwin is best known for his work on the evolution of animals, but in fact a large part of his contribution to the natural sciences is focused on plants. His observations are crucial to our modern understanding of so much about plant biology, from the amazing pollination process of orchids to plant carnivory to the way that vines climb.
Join authors James Costa and Bobbi Angell for an illustrated lecture based on their new book Darwin and the Art of Botany: Observations on the Curious World of Plants. A celebration of Darwin's often-overlooked botanical interests, the book spotlights 45 fascinating plants studied by Darwin, each illustrated with beautiful botanical art selected from the Library at the Oak Spring Garden Foundation. Participants will come away with a new appreciation of Darwin's creative botanical investigations, the plants he studied, and the ways he helped shape our understanding of the world around us.

Includes a chance to buy a signed copy of the book.

Entry to this event is free

About the speakers
Field naturalist, evolutionary biologist, and Darwin and Wallace scholar James (Jim) Costa is professor of biology and executive director of Western Carolina University's Highlands Biological Station in Highlands, North Carolina, where he teaches biogeography, Darwin’s Origin of Species, and a comparative temperate/tropical ecology field course with Wildsumaco Biological Station in Ecuador. Jim has authored several books on Darwin, Wallace, and the history of evolutionary thinking, including The Annotated Origin (Harvard, 2009), Wallace, Darwin, and the Origin of Species (Harvard, 2014), Darwin’s Backyard: How Small Experiments Led to a Big Theory (Norton, 2017), and the new Wallace biography Radical by Nature: The Revolutionary Life of Alfred Russel Wallace (Princeton, 2023). A long-time Research Associate in entomology at Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology, Jim has served as a Trustee of the Charles Darwin Trust, and has held fellowships at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study, the LuEsther T. Mertz Library of the NY Botanical Garden, and the DFG-Centre for Advanced Study at the University of Hamburg. His most recent honors and awards include the Alfred Russel Wallace Medal and the 2023 Stephen Jay Gould Prize of the Society for the Study of Evolution.

Botanical artist Bobbi Angell has focused on illustrating plants for scholarly texts, created expressly for recognition and identification of plant species. Working in close collaboration with scientists at the New York Botanical Garden and other scientific organizations, Bobbi has illustrated The Orchid Flora of the Greater Antilles, Intermountain Flora, Vines and Climbing Plants of Puerto Rico, and the Guide to the Vascular Plants of Central French Guiana, with several thousand species illustrated, many new to science. Her artwork has reached popular audiences through her beautiful illustrations for John Scheepers Kitchen Garden catalogs and The New York Times garden Q&A column, many of which are compiled in the books 1000 Gardening Questions and Answers, Our Life in Gardens, and To Eat. Bobbi also illustrated A Botanist’s Vocabulary, coauthored with Dr. Susan Pell. A member of the American Society of Botanical Artists and the New England Society of Botanical Artists, Bobbi exhibits her art in several galleries. Her designs are etched on copper plates and hand-printed in small editions. Each image reflects a personal involvement with the plant subject, whether observed in the wild or selected from the rich diversity of her garden. Orchids, fritillaries, tropical vines and native plants find their way onto her copper plates where they are each given a distinct personality.