Harvard Science Book Talk: Edward D. Melillo, in conversation with Charles C. Mann, "The Butterfly Effect: Insects and the Making of the Modern World"


Friday, September 18, 2020, 7:00pm

Where: Online, REGISTER
Organization/Sponsor: Harvard Division of Science, Harvard Science Library, and Harvard Book Store
Speaker(s) Edward D. Melillo, professor of history and environmental studies at Amherst College
Cost: free
Contact Info: science_lectures@fas.harvard.edu

Insects might make us shudder in disgust, but they are also responsible for many of the things we take for granted in our daily lives. When we bite into a shiny apple, listen to the resonant notes of a violin, get dressed, receive a dental implant, or get a manicure, we are the beneficiaries of a vast army of insects. Try as we might to replicate their raw material (silk, shellac, and cochineal, for instance), our artificial substitutes have proven subpar at best, and at worst toxic, ensuring our interdependence with the insect world for the foreseeable future.

In his new Book, The Butterfly Effect: Insects and the Making of the Modern World, Edward Melillo weaves a vibrant world history that illustrates the inextricable and fascinating bonds between humans and insects. Across time, we have not only coexisted with these creatures but have relied on them for, among other things, the key discoveries of modern medical science and the future of the world's food supply. Without insects, entire sectors of global industry would grind to a halt and essential features of modern life would disappear.

Prof. Melillo will be joined in conversation by Charles C. Mann, journalist and author of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus and 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created.

For more information and videos of Harvard Science Book Talks, see https://science.fas.harvard.edu/book-talks.