Campus events will remember the demise of the passenger pigeon a century ago

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(Illustration by Michael S. Helfenbein)

The 100th anniversary of the extinction of the American Passenger Pigeon will be commemorated on campus on Saturday, Oct. 11 with a daylong symposium and the North American premiere of a symphony to be performed by the Yale Symphony Orchestra (YSO).

Titled “Extinction: Biology, Culture, and Our Futures,” the symposium will be held 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. in the Whitney Humanities Center auditorium, 53 Wall St. Sponsored by the Franke Program in Science and the Humanities, the event will focus on the scientific, cultural, and humanistic implications of human-mediated extinction and will bring together biologists, historians of science, linguists, and literary scholars for lectures and discussions on extinction. The symposium will also examine the contemporary extinction crisis, and reflect on its broader implications for the planet’s biota and human cultures.

Symposium speakers will include Resit Akçakaya, Stony Brook University; Neely Bruce, Wesleyan University; David Harrison, Swarthmore College; Ursula Heise, University of California-Los Angeles; Ben Novak, The Long Now Foundation; David Sepkoski, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science; and Kristoffer Whitney, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Following the symposium, the YSO will perform the North American premiere of “The Columbiad, or Migration of American Wild Passenger Pigeons.” The symphony was composed by Philip Anthony Heinrich and was inspired by the unprecedented migration of the wild Passenger Pigeons in the United States before their demise. The concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Woolsey Hall, 500 College St.

Heinrich immigrated to the United States in the early 19th century and ultimately settled in Kentucky where he became acquainted with John James Audubon and the American wilderness. “The Columbiad” was composed in 1857, and was performed only once in Prague to great acclaim in the same year. The YSO concert will be the first performance of the work in over 150 years.

Both the symposium and the concert are free and open to the public. For more information, visit the conference website or email Justin Eichenlaub.

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