First and foremost this is a blog about science education.
Mark Twain sent a Connecticut Engineer from 1889 back to King Arthur’s court to demonstrate how knowledge of (then) modern technology could catapult a man a from middle class life into a awesome power.
Arthur C. Clark later paraphrased Twain’s entire novel in the phrase,
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
The goal of this blog – perhaps of my life – is to demystify science.
Not to dispel the beauty of a rainbow or to make your iPhone feel mundane. Not to de-emphasize the awesome power of genomics in personalizing medicine or trivialize DNA evidence in crime scene investigation.
I merely want to open the gates to Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and help show you more than the delicious candy bar that comes out, but how understanding science actually makes these achievements more exciting, not less.
Consider this to be your Golden Ticket.
This is an ‘About’ page, so the other thing I should introduce is myself. I’m a 40ish year old father of one – husband of one too. I have a PhD in immunology from UPenn and I love to teach biology. I’m currently doing that at the University of Kansas where I, along with a co-conspirator, run the biotech program.
I was born in Delaware and grew up less than an hour from Philly. I spent most of my life in about a 100 mile radius of Philly until three years ago when my family and I picked up and relocated to Kansas City. Initially, to a small town called Paola, but more recently to a closer suburb, Prairie Village.
I love movies of all sorts, but I admit that it’s really the low-brow stuff that makes me happiest – especially things that I first saw growing up in the 80s. I like to read, but probably take in more literature through audiobooks than sitting down on the couch – I have a bit too much mania in me for the couch thing.
Mostly, it’s science that excites me. I love seeing how the world works. Biology, Physics, Astronomy, even Math get me all revved up. I wish I could study everything! But let’s be honest, the problem is that I have a head like a sieve. No matter how much I pour in, it all comes trickling out, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.
The other great love I have is caffeine. I simply love a good coffee. And I love it even more if it’s an Americano. And probably even more if it were just an expresso (but that’s getting too rich for making a habit of). I blanche to think how much I probably spend on the stuff.
But, What is DownHouse?
The home of Charles Darwin in Kent was called the Down House in reference to the town of Downe near which it lies. Today, Darwin’s Down House is an official English Heritage site open to tourists interested in learning more about the habits and personal life of the man who may well have changed the way we look at the world and out place in it more than any other single person in history.
Voyage of the Beagle
Darwin’s remarkable epiphanies occurred during and after a five year voyage aboard the HMS Beagle, where he was naturalist and companion to the Ship’s Captain, Robert FitzRoy. They embarked from England on 27 December 1831and circumnavigated the globe before returning home on 2 October 1836.
In 1839 he married his cousin Emma Wedgewood and together had 10 children, 7 surviving to adulthood. He never again left the British Isles and rarely traveled far from Down House, but spent the rest of his life examining his finds and writing up his interpretations of their meaning.
“In June of 1858 Darwin received a correspondence from Alfred Russel Wallace who had been collecting specimens in Indonesia and arrived at very similar conclusions as Darwin. So, after years of methodical investigation and careful writing, Darwin rushed to complete his work and publicly introduced his theory of evolution in a letter read at a meeting of the Linnaean Society.
In November of the next year, he published his opus, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.
Death and Legacy
After a lifetime of devout research, Charles Darwin died at home in Down House on April 19, 1882, and was buried at Westminster Abbey alongside monarchs including Edward the Confessor and Mary, Queen of Scots; poets the likes of Tennyson and Chaucer; and other scientists such as Isaac Newton and Ernest Rutherford
DownHouse Software (DHS) was named to honor this great scientist and to attempt, in my own way, to further not just the ideas of Evolution by Natural Selection, but to promote science education in any way possible.
DHS originated as a publisher of iPhone and iPad apps based on scientific principles, but grew to include more written work including iBook publications and this blog. Sadly, DHS has fallen into disuse and most, if not all, the original materials created for it are now gone. Perhaps one day it will return from the ashes, but today, it’s just a memory.