About Biology and Natural History

Pasteur in the Laboratory
I began identifying myself as a biologist more than 50 years ago--sometime in the Spring of 1962. 

A year earlier as a college Freshman I had entered on a path to become a physicist or engineer. Full of patriotic energy, I would help America beat the Soviets in the Space Race (not to mention the nuclear arms race). Alas, formulas, equations, stress parameters, vectors, isotope decay rates, and velocity estimations had no romance and no appeal for me. Learning was supposed to be an adventure and, to my undisciplined mind, learning without adventure offered no incentives and few rewards. 

As my as not-yet quite launched career was about to take a turnabout, the allure of biology became almost irresistible. Biology was rigorous and scientific (both of which appealed to me) for sure, but it also offered limitless opportunities to venture into the intriguing undiscovered realms of barely known and hauntingly appealing realms. And, of course, America needed all kinds of science to be the light and hope of the world.

This blog was to be about biology, but in the past half-century the more spectacular advances in biology have left me in the dust. Many things previously unknown in the field have been brought to light, and molecular biology (not yet christened in 1962) has become a great boon to mankind and still promises to provide unimagined benefits in the future. I routinely scan scientific articles with titles like The evolution of DNA repair mechanisms in triploid mosquitofish. Interesting I think, realizing that I understand those studies or their significance no more than most of my countrymen who are not biologists. And I am all but certain that I never will understand them.

So, I have added "natural history" to the title that was originally to have been the simple "biology." Natural history is the part of biology with which I most identify, and if natural history also includes taking the influence of rocks, soils, winds, fires, tides, and nature's other contributions into account, that's fine too. As a biologist, natural historian, and ecologist, I must take all into account if I am to help us--we who walk upon the Earth--to decipher and more fully appreciate the wondrous mysteries all around us.

I'm looking forward to having fun with this part of the blog, and I hope you will enjoy it also.