There’s an excellent profile of my mom, evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis, in this month’s “On Wisconsin” Magazine. It’s heartening to see Lynn Margulis profiled in her alma mater’s magazine.
My mom received a Master of Science at the University of Wisconsin in 1960. She then went on to earn a Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley.
My mother’s work predates the current fascination with the human microbiome. Years before anyone was talking about it, Lynn Margulis understood that we aren’t human, but walking ecosystems, with many times the number of bacterial cells than human cells in our bodies.
The article is called “Evolution Revolution” and written by Eric Goldscheider.
Here are the first two paragraphs:
Lynn Margulis MS’60 is one of those rare scientists whose research fundamentally altered the way we view the world — in this case, the way we view evolution. With blunt language, she batters humanity out of its self-image as the pinnacle of life.
“Man is the consummate egotist,” Margulis has written. “It may come as a blow to our collective ego, but we are not masters of life perched on the top rung of an evolutionary ladder.” Instead, she likes to say that “beneath our superficial differences, we are all of us walking communities of bacteria.”
Walking communities of bacteria. People now realize that we have beneficial bacteria living on us and in us. But most people, even scientists, did not understand how seminal bacteria was to human life before my mother’s tireless work as a champion of the microbial world.
You can read the entire article on-line here.
I was impressed by the writing in this profile. I thought Goldscheider did a really good job both telling the story of my mom’s life (which is fascinating in itself) and making her scientific theories accessible to readers not necessarily interested in science.
I also liked his use of detail.
He mentioned, for instance, that her small back yard abuts Emily Dickinson’s property.
Though I don’t consider her yard particularly small, the use of a specific adjective to describe it shows that Goldscheider has actually been there and seen it. I also liked the colorful quotes he chose to include. My mom is very, uh, colorful.
In addition to quoting Lynn Margulis, he quotes several times from her various books—which also shows that Goldscheider is a writer who has done his homework, reading up on Lynn Margulis’s theories as well as asking her about them.
The article is not a picture perfect postcard, and from the writer’s tone, it seems that my mother’s bluntness may have been a bit intimidating to him.
Goldscheider may also have taken her word too much for granted. He quotes her saying that her ex-husbands got the money and she got the children, which simply isn’t true. After my parents divorced, I lived most of the time with my father… But all in all I think he did a good job.
Published: November 28, 2009
Last update: February 2, 2020