This is Vassar: The newsletter for Vassar College Alumnae/i and Families

Darwin Days 2010 Celebrates Women in Science

The college will continue to honor the life and work of Charles Darwin in its second annual Darwin Days celebration, set to begin with a series of lectures and presentations on February 12, the naturalist’s 201st birthday. Darwin Days explores the relationship between science and the arts in connection with a prescient theme. Three solo dramatic performances inspired by the lives of 19th- and 20th-century scientists Mary Anning, Maria Mitchell, and Rachel Carson will highlight this year’s theme of women in science.

On February 12 at 7:00 p.m. in the Martel Theater, alumna Claudia Stevens ’69 will perform her original piece Blue Lias: or the Fish Lizard’s Whore, which draws from the life of 19th-century British paleontologist and fossil hunter Mary Anning. Though she received little recognition from the male-dominated science world in her lifetime, today Anning is credited with discovering the first ichthyosaurus fossil. Stevens, a musicologist, pianist, singer, playwright, actress, and composer, is currently a visiting scholar in music at the College of William and Mary. The interdepartmental program in Victorian studies will also host a tea on the same day, featuring some of Darwin’s favorite recipes from his wife’s cookbook.

Later this spring, Darwin Days will continue with performances of works based on the lives of author and zoologist Rachel Carson and Vassar professor Maria Mitchell. Distinguished actress and alumna Frances Sternhagen ’51, pictured, will perform the play Maria Mitchell: Self Portrait, written by Sternhagen’s classmate Barbara Gibbins Duffy ’51, on March 1. Mitchell was a notable astronomer and one of Vassar’s first professors. Duffy drew inspiration from the Mitchell archives at Vassar as well as the book Maria Mitchell: A Life in Journals and Letters, edited by the late Vassar professor of astronomy Henry Albers; the performance will honor his memory. On April 22, Earth Day, Kaiuani Lee will reprise her role as Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring was instrumental in launching the environmental movement. Darwin Days events are sponsored by the Darwin Days committee, whose members include faculty and students from several disciplines; the performances are co-sponsored by the drama department.

February 2010

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