Remember Moon, Mann, and Otto? No!? I Cannot. Believe. It. Modern Biology? 1956 edition? Advanced Bio with Mr. Bertram? Unfortunately, its star is a bit dimmed for me thanks to the TEXTBOOKHISTORY site where I was reminded that All Mention of Evolution were scrubbed from this text. I’d learned this from my teacher, Mr. Bertram, who used the 1956 edition because he had to, but he had a 1921 edition of Mr. Moon’s earlier biology text on his desk to make a rev0lutionary point: Darwin was on the frontispiece and Mr. Moon started the book with the statement that the whole of biology is “based on the fundamental idea of evolution” and that “both man and ape are descended from a common ancestor.”  Holding both books up, Mr. B. asked us, So what’s changed?  He asked the question with that sly grin and lit-eye look he used to grab Everyone’s Attention Immediately. We thumbed through our textbook. Clueless as to what he was talking about. After a while, he asks, What’s changed is this: By 1956 Mr. Moon had to erase most mention of evolution from his book.  More profits for the publisher.

Even at 16 I had wondered at all the mention of God in my biology text. But despite the grave omission and probably because of Mr. B’s riveting teaching, I survived to be a nature lover.

(All sorts of memories here; please let me know if you had this book too and tell me your memories; I can see it now right there on the NYT Best Seller List: Moon, Mann, and Otto Reunion.)  

Today I want to connect MM&O to the White Throated Sparrow.

The White-Throated Sparrow is a hopping, flying anatomy lesson says the allaboutbirds folks. It’s because his face markings are so clearly delineated that you can match each color with the name of that part of the face.

In birding books we have these Learning Pages? Parts of a Bird learning pages usually take up a nice space with a pencil drawing of a bird with straight lines going from the name of the part to the actual part. Knowing the name of a body part helps you focus your attention on a specific part of a bird and notice what might be the distinguishing characteristic. (So, does it have an incomplete eye ring or what’s the color of the undertail covert?) But, it’s hard to learn from those charts; they pack a lot in.

White-throated Sparrow PhotoAdult white-striped

Enter Mr. White-Throated Sparrow. He’s a textbook example of  body parts.

For instance, his head. It has such a striking pattern it’s as clear as those Moon, Mann, and Otto charts. (Remember them? Those overlays? Very High Tech for 1963 we thought. Cutaway views of first the frog and then–yes!!-the human torso, albeit minus the reproductive organs, as we high school kids observed. Really, was that necessary, Mr. Otto? First you take Charles Darwin off your cover and then you remove body parts?)

Back to W-T-Sparrow: black eyestripe, white crown and supercillium, yellow lores, white throat bordered by black malar stripe (we’d call it a black whisker). Perfectly defined. Just like MM&O.

The Fox Sparrows who touched down last week to take a few days off from their migratory trek have left to continue North, but the White-Throated Sparrows who’ve been here all winter are sticking around. Both are stay-near-the-ground-scratch-through-leaves-in-search-of-food types. During the winter they loved my deliberately-placed-and-happy-to-be-of-service-brush piles. I notice they’re eating some of the new buds off the bushes now too. They usually go further north to breed, but who knows, maybe they’ll like it so much here, they’ll stay. I love waking up to their  sweet whistled song. I bet you’ve heard it too. It’s one of the most recognizable bird songs: Oh Sam Peabody Peabody Peabody, or, if you’re Canadian, Oh-sweet-canada-canada-canada.

Patty 4/26/11

6 thoughts on “Moon, Mann and Otto and the White-Throated Sparrow

  1. I just ran to my bird song book to play your white-throated sparrow’s song! I wish one or two of them would come for a live performance in our back mini forest! Thanks for all the info on nature that you share. It is great fun to read.


  2. I’ve decided that I hear the White-Throated Sparrow singing “Oh Sweet Canada,” not “Oh Sam Peabody.” I wonder if this means I’ve got some Canadian roots way underground?
    Here’s a birding news flash: the House Wrens have been working on clearing out and freshening up the little bird house they’ve occupied these last few years, but late yesterday afternoon I spied a Chickadee couple emerging from said house. In and out they went, as if they owned the place. Uh oh. An invasion? Where are my HW?


  3. Thanks for the link to Textbook History ( Sorry you subjected to the ’56 Modern Bio. I at least learned from a modestly updated 70’s edition. The dark story is that mentions of evolution faded in 20th century American biology textbooks (until its partial and still fought-over restoration starting in the 60s) because the topic was usually closely linked to the hot topic of eugenics. Since you mentioned the ’21 Moon, the one with Darwin on the frontispiece, you might enjoy this article as well:


    1. Thank you, Ron. This is fascinating, even if the Moon in the presenting piece was on the Blue Moon and not on the piece the blog masters in their wisdom put at the bottom of the page. I love it. As someone who taught for 40 years I’ve got a love-hate relationship with any textbook.


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