A Call for Consideration to the Science Community


OBTAINIUM - Digitizing the Reel Life films of Lynn Margulis:

Dear friends, family, and colleagues,
I am writing to ask you to consider contributing to a campaign to digitize and thus save for posterity a number of films that were made by American scientists in the 1970’s. These films were selected by Lynn Margulis, the late great scientific maverick, as being important to our scientific heritage. Lynn had begun the process of having the films digitized before her unexpected death in 2011. The films were made in the nineteen seventies, when the U.S. was a world leader in the development of new scientific ideas, and were funded by grants from the National Science Foundation. The amount needed to save these films from disintegration is only a minute fraction of that original investment.

Lynn loved science and people and ideas. She welcomed me and the people who were helping me with my book to audit her class on evolutionary biology. I was fortunate to have gotten to know her and she was supportive of my Geobook project- although mostly in telling me what I was missing! Some of her students helped me with research and illustrations for my book and it is one of them who has undertaken a Kickstarter Campaign to raise the money needed to digitize the films that she was determined to save.

Sorry to be sending you this ‘junk mail’ asking for contributions but time is running short; one of the rules of Kickstarter Campaigns is that they can only run for 30 days. If you haven’t heard of Kickstarter, it is a way of crowdsourcing funding for innovative or important projects. Anyone can propose a project on Kickstarter but they have only 30 days to persuade enough viewers to pledge the amount of money required; this keeps Kickstarter from filling up with junk. Most of the money needed to digitize the films has already been pledged (about $12,000 of the needed $15,000) but there are only a few days left in this campaign. There are 63 of these short films that Lynn selected as being worth preserving but she was only able to digitize 37 of them before her untimely death. The goal of this Kickstarter Campaign is to digitize the remaining 26 films so that they can also be housed alongside the first batch in the Library of Congress. Contributors to the campaign will also receive copies that they donate for use in their local libraries or classrooms.

Lynn showed that cooperation is a major force in the evolutionary development of life. Evolution is not all about the survival of the fittest individuals- it is not all ‘red in tooth and claw’- but also about symbiosis and group dynamics. She was the primary architect of Endosymbiotic Theory and one of the co-authors of the Gaia Hypothesis. Although she was ridiculed by the scientific establishment for most of her career, the power of her ideas eventually won out; endosymbiosis is now presented in textbooks, she was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Clinton in 1999 and her papers are now housed in the Library of Congress. That she thought these films were so important to our heritage is a powerful endorsement.

Please consider contributing to this campaign. Feel free to contact me if you have any problems or questions. The campaign is over, win or lose, on October 1st. Sorry for the short notice but I realize that this campaign may fail and it is so close to success!

Thank you for your time and kind consideration,
Wendy Curtis
President, GeoBookStudio