Photo ©2009 by Andrew Comings [CC-BY-2.0]
While reading John M. Barry’s passage from The Great Influenza, where he writes about scientists and their research, in class, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a certain scientist who was famous for his research. That scientist was none other than the great biologist Charles Darwin. Throughout his passage, Barry uses an extended metaphor in which he compares scientific research to an explorer facing a frontier of unknowns. This is perfect as it applies to Darwin not just metaphorically, but literally as well. Charles Darwin was, for all intensive purposes, both a groundbreaking biologist and a groundbreaking frontier-man. He is the man credited for revealing some of the most important biological and psychological theories that exists today: natural selection, social Darwinism, and evolution. As a scientist and an adventurer, Darwin had true courage.
Barry refers to those who conduct their own research as having to overcome the daunting obstacle that is the unknown. Darwin mustered the resolve to conduct research on a topic that had never before been heard of, staking his whole career in the process. This is not what is so astounding, however. What really made him memorable is that he physically ventured to the remote and nearly deserted Galapagos Islands, the frontier of the British Empire. In doing so, Charles Darwin would knowingly and willingly put his life on the line to pave the way for biologists for generations to come.