Armand Marie Leroi

Armand Marie Leroi teaches evolutionary and developmental biology at Imperial College, London.

For the past three years, the London School of Economics has been holding a seminar series, or rather a salon, snappily titled Darwin@LSE. These seminars are always invigorating, and never more so than one evening this February when W.G. Runciman urged the necessity of refounding sociology along Darwinian lines. Weary of such pronouncements though they might be, even the most sceptical sociologists could not have failed to realise that here was a serious challenge to theoretical orthodoxy. For the speaker was no renegade entomologist, but the author of A Treatise of Social Theory, arguably the most deeply considered and formidable exposition of historical sociology in recent times and one, moreover, that rests on a Darwinian view of society. But as Runciman, the most courtly of men, argued his case with wit, clarity and the utmost intellectual candour, I found myself engaged with a nagging question: who is his tailor?

The Name of the Beast

Armand Marie Leroi, 11 December 1997

During the second half of the 18th century, the great enterprise of sorting out the biological world was at its most dynamic and magnificent. Empire-builders were sending home animals, indeed entire faunas, of a strangeness that defied traditional taxonomies. Scientifically-minded farmers were calculating pedigrees and codifying breeds in the quest for improved stock; physicians and surgeons were giving names to the apparently infinite congenital abnormalities that came under their not always very skilful care. For men with a taste for the kind of intellectual order that natural history can provide, these were times in which it must have been heaven to be alive.

Why Rhino-Mounted Bantu Never Sacked Rome

Armand Marie Leroi, 4 September 1997

The Martiniquan poet and ideologue of négritude, Aimé Césaire, celebrated the sons and daughters of Africa as

A Duck Folded in Half

Armand Marie Leroi, 19 June 1997

The evening of 22 August 1799 – the eve of his departure from Egypt – was surely one of the less happy that Napoleon Bonaparte had known. Unusually mindful of the mortality of empires, he is said to have declared to the mathematician Gaspard Monge, one of a collection of savants he had brought to Egypt, that he would far rather be a Newton than an Alexander. To which Monge replied that no one could attain again to the glory of Newton for there was only one world to discover. Not so, said Napoleon: there is still the ‘world of details’ and the laws that govern them – a sentiment curiously apposite to his expedition. For trailing him out of Egypt came not only the Rosetta Stone, but a young professor from the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris: Etienne Geoffroy St-Hilaire, a man whose mind was torrid with details and with the desire to find the laws governing them.’’

Megafauna: Aristotle and Science

Adrienne Mayor, 2 July 2015

Thinkers​ who pondered the mysteries of nature used to be known as ‘natural philosophers’. For centuries there wasn’t a separate term for those few individuals who practised...

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