RALEIGH — In the years after the Revolutionary War, the fledgling republic of America was viewed by many Europeans as a degenerate backwater, populated by subspecies weak and feeble. Find out how one of our founding fathers sought to correct and protect our reputation when the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences hosts a presentation by Lee Alan Dugatkin, author of “Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose,” on Thursday, November 7 at 7pm. Free.
Thomas Jefferson — author of the Declaration of Independence, U.S. president and ardent naturalist — spent years countering the French conception of American degeneracy. Chief among these naysayers was the French Count and world-renowned naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon, who wrote that the flora and fauna of America (humans included) were inferior to European specimens.
Jefferson’s “Notes on Virginia” systematically and scientifically dismantled Buffon’s case through a series of tables and equally compelling writing on the nature of his home state. But the book did little to counter the arrogance of the French and hardly satisfied Jefferson’s quest to demonstrate that his young nation was every bit the equal of a well-established Europe. Enter the giant moose.
The American moose, which Jefferson claimed was so enormous a European reindeer could walk under it, became the cornerstone of his defense. The legend of the moose makes for a fascinating tale about Jefferson’s passion to prove that American nature deserved prestige. In “Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose ,” Dugatkin — Professor and Distinguished University Scholar in the Department of Biology at the University of Louisville — vividly recreates the origin and evolution of the debates about natural history in America and, in so doing, returns the prize moose to its rightful place in American history.
Come early (6pm) for poster presentations by NC State University graduate students in the Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity program, plus light refreshments (cookies and hot cider).