Robert Green Ingersoll: Great American Infidel

Jane ShoupRobert Green Ingersoll, although little remembered today, was the foremost orator and political speech-maker of late 19th century America.  He was a controversial figure, but very prominent and highly regarded, even amongst those who disagreed with him.  He crisscrossed the country and spoke before packed houses on topics ranging from Shakespeare to Thomas Paine, from Darwin to the rights of women and African-Americans.  He was the friend of presidents, literary giants like Mark Twain, captains of industry like Andrew Carnegie, and feminists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  He was a tireless advocate of reason and science.  He also praised the virtues of marriage and family and by all accounts enjoyed an almost idyllic family life.  Many of his ideas were far ahead of his time and, I will argue, applicable to our current situation.

Jane Shoup is Professor Emerita of Biological Sciences at Purdue University Calumet, Hammond, IN, where she taught for 33 years.  She holds the AB in Biology from the University of Rochester, and a PhD in Zoology from the University of Chicago.  Jane has offered a number of courses through the LIFE (Learning Is For Ever) program at UWSP on topics including “Darwin and His ‘Dangerous Idea’”, “The Limits to Growth”, “The Sixth Mass Extinction”, and “Living Within Limits”.