Lincoln and Darwin, born hours apart, February 12, 1809


Is it an unprecedented coincidence?  205 years ago today, just minutes apart according to unconfirmed accounts, Abraham Lincoln was born in a rude log cabin on Nolin Creek, in Kentucky, and Charles Darwin was born into a wealthy family at the family home  in Shrewsbury, England.

Gutzon Borglums 1908 bust of Abraham Lincoln in the Crypt of the U.S. Capitol - AOC photo

Gutzon Borglum’s 1908 bust of Abraham Lincoln in the Crypt of the U.S. Capitol – Architect of the Capitol photo

Lincoln would become one of our most endeared presidents, though endearment would come after his assassination.  Lincoln’s bust rides the crest of Mt. Rushmore (next to two slaveholders), with George Washington, the Father of His Country, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, and Theodore Roosevelt, the man who made the modern presidency, and the only man ever to have won both a Congressional Medal of Honor and a Nobel Prize, the only president to have won the Medal of Honor.  In his effort to keep the Union together, Lincoln freed the slaves of the states in rebellion during the civil war, becoming an icon to freedom and human rights for all history.  Upon his death the entire nation mourned; his funeral procession from Washington, D.C., to his tomb in Springfield, Illinois, stopped twelve times along the way for full funeral services.  Lying in state in the Illinois House of Representatives, beneath a two-times lifesize portrait of George Washington, a banner proclaimed, “Washington the Father, Lincoln the Savior.”

Charles Darwin statue, Natural History Museum, London - NHM photo

Charles Darwin statue, Natural History Museum, London – NHM photo

Darwin would become one of the greatest scientists of all time.  He would be credited with discovering the theory of evolution by natural and sexual selection.  His meticulous footnoting and careful observations formed the data for ground-breaking papers in geology (the creation of coral atolls), zoology (barnacles, and the expression of emotions in animals and man), botany (climbing vines and insectivorous plants), ecology (worms and leaf mould), and travel (the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle).  At his death he was honored with a state funeral, attended by the great scientists and statesmen of London in his day.  Hymns were specially written for the occasion.  Darwin is interred in Westminster Abbey near Sir Isaac Newton, England’s other great scientist, who knocked God out of the heavens.

Lincoln would be known as the man who saved the Union of the United States and set the standard for civil and human rights, vindicating the religious beliefs of many and challenging the beliefs of many more.  Darwin’s theory would become one of the greatest ideas of western civilization, changing forever all the sciences, and especially agriculture, animal husbandry, and the rest of biology, while also provoking crises in religious sects.

Lincoln, the politician known for freeing the slaves, also was the first U.S. president to formally consult with scientists, calling on the National Science Foundation (whose creation he oversaw) to advise his administration.  Darwin, the scientist, advocated that his family put the weight of its fortune behind the effort to abolish slavery in the British Empire.  Each held an interest in the other’s disciplines.

Both men were catapulted to fame in 1858. Lincoln’s notoriety came from a series of debates on the nation’s dealing with slavery, in his losing campaign against Stephen A. Douglas to represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate.  On the fame of that campaign, he won the nomination to the presidency of the fledgling Republican Party in 1860.  Darwin was spurred to publicly reveal his ideas about the power of natural and sexual selection as the force behind evolution, in a paper co-authored by Alfred Russel Wallace, presented to the Linnean Society in London on July 1, 1858.   On the strength of that paper, barely noticed at the time, Darwin published his most famous work, On the Origin of Species, in November 1859.

The two men might have got along well, but they never met.

What unusual coincidences.

Go celebrate human rights, good science, and the stories about these men.

A school kid could do much worse than to study the history of these two great men.  In fact, we study them far too little, it seems to me.

Resources:

Charles Darwin:

Abraham Lincoln:

More:

Anybody know what hour of the day either of these men was born?

This is mostly an encore post.

Yes, you may fly your flag today for Lincoln’s birthday; the official holiday, Washington’s Birthday, is next Monday, February 17th — and yes, it’s usually called “President’s Day” by merchants and calendar makers.

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11 Responses to Lincoln and Darwin, born hours apart, February 12, 1809

  1. James Kessler says:

    And any south Carolina claim of victimhood over that fort and their supposed right to secede is rather proved ludicrous in their request to the us federal government, after they seceded, that the usps continue mail delivery in south Carolina.

    Which is rather like a child throwing a temper tantrum and running away from home but he/she still wants to get their allowance.

    But then south Carolina, in the words of James Petigru, is ‘too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.’

    The south claiming they were victims and the north were the aggressors is like Japan claiming they were victims and the united states were aggressors after pearl harbor.

    No, there was no noble cause in the south, just treason in defense of slavery.

    Like

  2. JamesK says:

    Sorry, BF, I don’t consider right wing conspiracy nonsense to be history.

    As for this: Further, the North started the war by occupying Southern territory – I suppose to you an armed force on your land is “not starting a war”.

    Oh so..Cuba has the right to open fire on us over Gitmo? Because I somehow suspect that if they did so you and every other person on your side of the political fence would be demanding that we burn Cuba to the ground.

    Sorry, federal forts belong to the federal government. The south seceded…they committed treason and they opened fire..they started the war.

    its time that your side and the south stop 1: glorifying the south and 2: stop refighting the civil war. It’s been over 150 years, you guys lost..get the **** over it.

    And its especially easy to glorify the south when one blithely ignores its warts. Considering you just gave Joe hell for trying to weasel a way around of having to admit that slavery in the bible was an moral depravity it’s a bit curious that you’re seemingly turning a blind eye about that with the south. Oh they were the victims? Oh please, they were no more victims then I am the King of Norway.

    And its especially hilarious coming from anyone who calls themselves a Republican.

    and its easy to glorify the AOC when one blithely ignores the simply fact that it wasn’t working. But it’s oh so easy to be a libertarian because libertarians blithely discard the parts of reality that prove that libertarianism is like communism..it may work on paper..but it doesn’t work in reality.

    Like

  3. Black Flag® says:

    James, you better get your history straight.

    The “Founders” did not jettison anything. The Philidephia conference illegally overthrew the United States of America, behind closed doors – when the delegates were sent to modify the Articles, they had no power to rewrite a new Constitution.

    Further, the North started the war by occupying Southern territory – I suppose to you an armed force on your land is “not starting a war”.

    “Tryanny of the States?” – the whole concept was to allow individual States, which were directly responsible to their own citizens, to govern themselves. If you didn’t like it, you moved to another county. Now, you have to move to another continent.

    And no matter the education, you still can’t grasp that Corporations are created BY government – you appeal to the very cause of the concern – you are very strange.

    No, Lincoln merely wanted to ship them back and keep America white. He had no problem with slaves – he even sponsored a bill to send them back if caught in the North.

    Your love of this violent mass murderer is telling.

    Like

  4. James Kessler says:

    Bf, you might want to bother to remember that the founding fathers jettisoned the articles of confederation.

    And last time I checked…the south started the war..the deaths you allude to are on their heads.

    And the ‘tyranny of a strong central government’ claim is hilarious since your side would restore the tyranny of the states while giving birth to the tyranny of the corporations and the rich and powerful.

    Your side would have a lot more credibility if, while worrying about the power of the central government, they would also have the honesty to worry about the tyranny that I listed.

    But alas..that much honesty is in short supply. It would also have more credibility if it didn’t so gleefully expand the power of the central government to suit its own agenda.

    As it stands now those who whine about ‘state’s rights’ are really only serving the agenda of people who think along the same lines of crooks who want fewer cops.

    Was Lincoln perfect? No. but at least he wasn’t a traitor fighting to keep blacks as slaves which is all the south was.

    As for Lincoln initial beliefs about shipping the Africans back to africa..yeah you see real leaders with actual morality and intelligence change their positions when necessary. Only cult leaders stick to their beliefs no matter how much reality proves them wrong.

    That which does not bend when necessary…breaks.

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  5. Ed Darrell says:

    That Wilberforce connection puzzles me still. You’d think Samuel would have given a little more deference to Darwin on that point alone.

    Great points, Porlock.

    By the way, have you seen this photo of Teddy Roosevelt at Lincoln’s funeral?

    http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2010/02/22/does-this-photograph-show-teddy-roosevelt-at-lincolns-funeral-procession/

    Like

  6. Porlock Junior says:

    Great posting.

    The by-the-way about the only person to win a Congressional Medal of Honor and a Nobel Prize definitely makes one of the best trivia questions I’ve ever seen. Naturally, in asking it one would pair the question with the easy one about the Nobel Prize and the Oscar.

    Darwin’s opposition to slavery ran in the family, from both grandfathers: Erasmus Darwin and Josiah Wedgwod. Mr and Mrs Darwin’s grandfather Wedgwood made a famous anti-slavery medallion way back in 1787.
    Wedgwood anti-slavery medallion from 1787

    http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/pe_mla/a/anti-slavery_medallion,_by_jos.aspx

    He sent some to Benjamin Franklin, and they became popular in America. Well, you know, some parts of America.

    Another, less edifying connection: the other famous British fighter against slavery was William Wilberforce. His son was Samuel “Soapy Sam” Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, who took on T. H. Huxley in that classic exchange about their simian grandfathers.

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  7. Black Flag® says:

    Lincoln also introduced the first federal conscription law, the first federal income tax, and the mass shooting of army deserters as an enforcement mechanism of conscription. Agricultural subsidies, railroad subsidies, land subsidies to mining and forestry corporations under the “Homestead Act” were all referred to by a North Carolina Newspaper in 1865 as “Lincoln’s New Deal.”

    He never wavered from his plan to ship all blacks back to Africa – “Emancipation by deportation”

    “There is a natural disgust in the minds of nearly all white people to the idea of an indiscriminate amalgamation of the white and black races,” he said (Collected Works, Vol. II, p. 405), and, “What I would most desire would be the separation of the white and black races” (Collected Works, Vol. II, p. 521). “I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races . . . . I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people,” Lincoln declared during one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates (Collected Works, Vol. III, pp. 145-146).

    Yeah, that’s America’s most endeared President….

    Like

  8. Black Flag® says:

    Yeah, Lincoln….

    Jefferson worked to remove slavery from the State of Virginia, and obviously did not treat his slaves like slaves at all. You complain.

    Lincoln murdered more Americans than any enemy of the United States, released this mass killing power and subsequent slaughter upon the western aboriginals yet you champion him.

    Lincoln, instead of enslaving merely blacks, enslaved all Americans under the call for overt, commanding central government,

    Americans ‘endear’ Lincoln, a very terrible and telling statement.

    Like

  9. Ed Darrell says:

    Gutzon Borglum. Hmmm.

    A. A Mormon kid, from Idaho and Utah. I don’t think he made any of the Utah history books I studied from. When Utahns talk about famous people who came from Utah, they rarely mention Borglum.

    I wonder whether the historical materials in the visitor center at Mount Rushmore NM mention the Utah connection?

    B. The bust in the Rotunda of the Capitol is identical to the cast bronze bust at Lincoln’s tomb. Are there other castings in famous places?

    Like

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