Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin

Posted by on February 12, 2009 in Worms | 2 comments

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On the event of Charles Darwin's 200th birthday, I am thinking about his fabulous book, The Formation of  Vegetable Mould, through the Action of Worms.  If you're going to read any book by Darwin, start with this one.   He did the most fascinating earthworm experiments and documented them in meticulous detail.  (And yes, I devoted a chapter and more to him in The Earth Moved.)

So in his honor, I have resurrected an earthworm quiz I wrote but never used when The Earth Moved came out.  Enjoy!

Match each quote with the person who said it.

1.    “I must own I had always looked on worms as amongst the most helpless  and unintelligent members of the creation; and am amazed to find that they have a domestic life and public duties!”

2.    “We even recorded the sounds of them eating.  And we’ve got worm tunnels you can crawl through to give you an idea of what it’s like—you know—what it’s like to be a worm.”

3.    “I’ve got so many new worms here, I could spend years identifying and classifying them.  I’m thinking about putting them all on a website.  People can get a worm named after them, or you could get one named for your husband for an anniversary present.  You know, like they do with the stars.  What do you think?”

4.    “Their sexual passion is strong enough to overcome for a time their dread of light.”

5.    “As few as 11 large earthworms can transfer a lethal dose of DDT to a robin.  And 11 worms form a small part of a day’s rations to a bird that eats 10 to 12 earthworms in as many minutes.”

6.    “I used to say that one ton of worms could eat one ton of garbage.  I was always thinking big like that.  Then I found out that Seattle had distributed four thousand worm bins.  I did some figuring and realized that worked out to ten tons of garbage going into worm bins.  That’s when I realized—it’s happening!  It just isn’t happening the way I originally thought it would.”

7.    “When stepped on, the worm curls up.  That is a clever thing to do.  Thus it reduces its chances of being stepped on again.  In the language of morality: humility.”

8.    “A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.”

9.    “I spent whole afternoons in the dirt, making my patch of ground flawless.  I even cleared the worms away, before I found out that all the tunnels they make give air, and probably other molecules I don’t know about yet, to the plants.”

10.    “People ask me, why bother cataloging earthworms?  Well, why catalog anything?  It’s how we learn about the world we live in.  Besides, some of these worms are going extinct. How do you know what you’re losing if you don’t know what you have?”

Who said it?

A.    Mary Appelhof, worm composting activist and author of Worms Eat My Garbage

B.    Joseph Hooker, 19th century British botanist

C.    Sam James, freelance earthworm taxonomist living in Fairfield, Iowa

D.    Charles Darwin, father of earthworm science and author of The Formation of Vegetable Mould, Through the Actions of Worms, With Observations on Their Habits.

E.    Friedrich Nietzsche, 19th century German philosopher

F.    Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, on the role of earthworms as vectors in DDT contamination

G.    William Shakespeare on the earthworm’s transformative power

H.    Jane Hamilton, The Book of Ruth

I.    John Matthews, founder of the Giant Worm, a tourist attraction devoted to the ten-foot long Australian earthworm.

J.    John Reynolds, Canadian earthworm taxonomist whose collection of 100,000 earthworms resides with the Canadian Museum of Nature

The key is after the jump.

KEY:  1.B, 2.I, 3.C, 4.D, 5.F, 6.A, 7.E, 8. G, 9.H,  10. J


2 Comments

  1. I’ve added Darwin’s book to my reading list for the new(ish) year; thanks! Been wasting too much time lately on fiction.

  2. Enjoyed reading Dawin’s Book and would recommend it to all !

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