The latest Royal Society podcast is of considerable interest to Darwin groupies: a lecture by John Clark entitled Taming Nature: John Lubbock and Nineteenth-Century Entomology [mp3].
Lubbock was Darwin's neighbour in Downe, a Member of Parliament, banker, archaeologist and entomologist with his finger in several other scientific pies. While Darwin was playing music to and shouting at earthworms in his study at Down House, Lubbock was doing exactly the same with ants less than a mile away. Of particular interest to me, however, was Lubbock's work with dogs.
As I recounted after the event on my other website, when Peter McGrath and I were in London visiting the Darwin exhibition with Peter's Beagle Project sidekick, the geneticist Karen James, last November, I criticised the geneticist community in general for its startling lack of ambition when it comes to genetically engineering a talking dog.
Imagine my delight, therefore, to hear on the abovementioned podcast how John Lubbock expended considerable energy and ingenuity trying to communicate with dogs—in particular, by teaching them to read!
If only the geneticist community had half the ambition of Darwin's nextdoor neighbour, we would surely be talking with Towser by now.