Virtual Event: Jeremy DeSilva
How Upright Walking Made Us Human
in conversation with KATE WONG
April 8, 2021
7:00 PM ET
Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration
Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes JEREMY DESILVA—associate professor of Anthropology at Dartmouth College and editor of A Most Interesting Problem: What Darwin’s Descent of Man Got Right and Wrong about Human Evolution—for a discussion of his book First Steps: How Upright Walking Made Us Human. He will be joined in conversation by KATE WONG, senior editor at Scientific American and co-author of Lucy's Legacy: The Quest for Human Origins.
Contribute to Support Harvard Book Store
While payment is not required, we are suggesting a $5 contribution to support this author series, our staff, and the future of Harvard Book Store—a locally owned, independently run Cambridge institution. In addition, by purchasing a copy of First Steps on harvard.com, you support indie bookselling and the writing community during this difficult time.
About First Steps
Humans are the only mammals to walk on two, rather than four legs—a locomotion known as bipedalism. We strive to be upstanding citizens, honor those who stand tall and proud, and take a stand against injustices. We follow in each other’s footsteps and celebrate a child’s beginning to walk. But why, and how, exactly, did we take our first steps? And at what cost? Bipedalism has its drawbacks: giving birth is more difficult and dangerous; our running speed is much slower than other animals; and we suffer a variety of ailments, from hernias to sinus problems.
In First Steps, paleoanthropologist Jeremy DeSilva explores how unusual and extraordinary this seemingly ordinary ability is. A seven-million-year journey to the very origins of the human lineage, First Steps shows how upright walking was a gateway to many of the other attributes that make us human—from our technological abilities, our thirst for exploration, our use of language—and may have laid the foundation for our species’ traits of compassion, empathy, and altruism. Moving from developmental psychology labs to ancient fossil sites throughout Africa and Eurasia, DeSilva brings to life our adventure walking on two legs.
Delving deeply into the story of our past and the new discoveries rewriting our understanding of human evolution, First Steps examines how walking upright helped us rise above all over species on this planet.
Praise for First Steps
“It should come as no surprise that walking matters. But what will surprise most readers is how and why. DeSilva takes us on a brilliant, fun, and scientifically deep stroll through history, anatomy, and evolution, in order to illustrate the powerful story of how a particular mode of movement helped make us one of the most wonderful, dangerous and fascinating species on Earth.” —Agustín Fuentes, Professor of Anthropology, Princeton University and author of Why We Believe: Evolution and the Human Way of Being
“Master anatomist and paleontologist Jeremy DeSilva makes no bones about the fact that when looking at fossils ‘I let myself be emotional . . . ’ Thus does this world expert and gifted story teller take us on a tour through the sprawling, complicated, saga of human origins. Drawing on his personal knowledge of topics ranging from sports medicine to childcare and his acquaintance with a host of colorful characters—whether lying inert in museum drawer, sitting behind microscopes or feuding with one other—DeSilva adds flesh and projects feelings onto the bones he studies, a tour de force of empathic understanding.” —Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, author of Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding
“Before our ancestors thought symbolically, before they used fire, before they made stone tools, or even entered the open savanna, our ancestors walked upright. In one way or another, this odd locomotory style has underwritten the whole spectrum of our vaunted human uniquenesses, from our manual dexterity to our hairless bodies, and our large brains. In the modern world it even influences the way other people recognize us at a distance, and it is crucial to our individual viability. In this authoritative but charmingly discursive and accessible book, Jeremy DeSilva lucidly explains how and why." —Ian Tattersall, author of Masters of the Planet
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