Lynn Margulis: A Vindicated Heretic’s Unwavering Confidence, from Rejection to the Library of Congress.

Referred to as “Science’s Unruly Earth Mother”, a “vindicated heretic”and a “scientific rebel”, Lynn Margulis was an American evolutionary theorist, biologist, and science author. She was the primary modern proponent for symbiosis in evolution.

Throughout her career, Margulis’ work aroused intense objection (one grant application elicited the response, “Your research is crap, do not bother to apply again”,) and her formative paper, “On the Origin of Mitosing Cells,” appeared in 1967 – after being rejected by numerous journals.

Her papers are now permanently archived in the Library of Congress, and she is considered to be one of the 20th century’s most important inspirational leaders.

Jim MacAllister was a student and colleague of Lynn Margulis for the last decade of her life and converted her teaching materials and research video library to digital files. Jim is the editor of the Environmental Evolution newsletter and the founder of the field of evolution geography.

In this episode, Jim talks about his relationship with Lynn and her unwavering confidence in the face of rejection and ‘small-mindedness’ in the male-dominated scientific community. The discussion includes:

  • The fascinating ability that organisms have to reorganize themselves based on their environment
  • Evolution as a multi-mechanistic process (not a straight path!)
  • Why bacteria cannot be categorized as a species
  • Proposing the ‘new biological game in town’ to the next generation of students


Originally posted at Ray Noble’s Podcast The Thin End

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