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Legal scholar to discuss battle over teaching Darwinism in public schools

Edward Larson will give the Scholars’ Convocation Lecture at Grinnell College on April 25

GRINNELL, Iowa — Edward Larson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and legal scholar, will give the Scholars’ Convocation Lecture at Grinnell College on the morning of Thursday, April 25.


Larson’s lecture is part of Grinnell College’s Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program. New members of Phi Beta Kappa will be announced at the beginning of the convocation and the lecture will follow. In addition, a public coffee hour with Larson will take place on Thursday afternoon. Both events are free and open to the public.

Larson’s lecture is titled “Antievolutionism in Historical Perspective.” Based on Larson’s several books on this topic, beginning with “Trial and Error: The American Legal Controversy Over Creation and Evolution,” his lecture will explore the battle over teaching Darwinism in American public schools. 

Dividing the debate into three historical periods, Larson places the controversy in its social, cultural and religious context. With creationists such as U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in leadership positions in the Trump Administration, Congress and many state governments, this issue is as relevant today as ever – and increasingly contentious in the United States and around the world.


Lecture at 11 a.m. and coffee hour from 4–5 p.m. on Thursday, April 25.


Lecture in Room 101, Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, 1115 Eighth Ave., Grinnell. Coffee hour in the living room of Mears Cottage, 1213 Sixth Ave., Grinnell.


Edward Larson holds the Hugh and Hazel Darling Chair in Law and is University Professor of History at Pepperdine University. Originally from Ohio, he received a Ph.D. in the history of science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a law degree from Harvard Law School. Prior to becoming a professor, Larson practiced law in Seattle and also served as counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.

Larson has lectured on all seven continents and taught at Stanford Law School in California; the University of Melbourne in Australia, Leiden University in The Netherlands; and the University of Georgia in Athens, where he chaired the Department of History. He received the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in History for his book titled “Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion.” Larson has also received numerous other awards for writing and teaching. 

He is the author or co-author of 14 books and more than 100 published articles. His latest book, “On Earth and Science,” was published by Yale University Press in 2017. Larson’s 2015 book, “The Return of George Washington: Uniting the States, 1783-1789,” was a New York Times bestseller and resulted in Larson being invited to deliver the 2016 Supreme Court Historical Society lecture in Washington, D.C., and the annual Gaines Lecture at Mount Vernon, Virginia. His other books, which have been translated into more than 20 languages, include:

  • “An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science”
  • “A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800”
  • “America’s First Presidential Campaign“


Phi Beta Kappa recognizes and rewards excellence in the liberal arts and sciences through chapters at qualified colleges and universities. Beta Chapter of Iowa at Grinnell College was chartered in 1907, the 70th chapter in the nation and the second in Iowa. The organization contributes to the intellectual life of the college by recognizing exceptional student achievement through annual election of new student members, sponsorship of two awards and by hosting an annual Scholars’ Convocation presented by a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar or other distinguished guest.


Grinnell College welcomes the participation of people with disabilities. Information about parking and accessibility is available on the college’s website: Room 101 of the Rosenfield Center is equipped with an induction hearing loop system, which enables individuals with hearing aids set to T-Coil to hear the program. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations at 641-269-3235

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