Stephen Hawking's book, A Brief History in Time begins with a short passage about a well-known scientist giving a public lecture on astronomy and the meaning of the universe... "He described how the earth &ts around the sun and how the sun, in turn, around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady in the back of the room got up and said. "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?" You're very clever, young man, very clever" said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!"1 Hawking goes on to say "Most people would find the picture of our universe as an infinite tower of tortoises rather ridiculous, but why do we think we know better?"2 Hawking presented this story to provide a perspective about scientific ideas, empirical data, history, and the search to understand the origin and ultimate fate of our universe. How does this story relate to the theme of the 2008 Florida Historical Society Annual Meeting and the Jillian Prescott Memorial Lecture (Florida and the Environment: From "La Florida" to Global Warming)? Knowledge about the history of our planet is essential to understand the complex geological, chemical, physical and biological systems that sustain life on Earth. An understanding of both history and science, with an appreciation for the complexity of spatial and temporal scale, is a fundamental first step to prepare society for the scientific and human implications of global climate change.
DeFreese, Duane E.
"Florida and the Environment: From "La Florida" to Global Warming,"
Florida Historical Quarterly: Vol. 87:
4, Article 3.
Available at: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/fhq/vol87/iss4/3