January 8 in freethought history…

alfredrusselwallaceJanuary 8, 1823 - Alfred Russel Wallace (co-discoverer, with Charles Darwin, of evolution by natural selection) is born in Wales. His essay “On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely From the Original Type” was the catalyst Darwin needed to finally complete his magnum opus Origin of Species. In later years Wallace made pioneering contributions to astrobiology, but also dabbled in spiritualism and came down on the wrong side of early anti-vaccination debates. He died in 1913, aged 90.

January 8, 1902 – Carl Rogers, one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century, is born in Oak Park, Illinois. The American Humanist Association named him Humanist of the Year in 1964. He died in 1987, aged 85.

January 8, 1942 – Theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking, best known for his work on black holes, is born in Oxford, England. He is also celebrated for his struggle against the debilitating progressive illness ALS, and for his work as a science popularizer. His nonfiction book A Brief History of Time is an international bestseller, translated into at least 35 languages. A self-described atheist, Hawking has said, “We are each free to believe what we want and it is my view that the simplest explanation is there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization. There is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that, I am extremely grateful.”

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