Kurt Vonnegut’s “Homage to Santa Rosalia”: The “Patroness of Evolutionary Studies” and Galapagos
Though critics have noted the evolutionary themes in Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos, none has discussed the name Vonnegut gave to the fictional island where most of the novel’s action takes place: Santa Rosalia. Since Vonnegut had been reading up on evolutionary ideas while writing the novel, it seems likely that his source for the name was ecologist G. Evelyn Hutchinson’s famous 1959 article, “Homage to Santa Rosalia: Or Why Are There So Many Kinds of Animals?” In a study of water bugs in a spring below a cave on Mount Pellegrino where Saint Rosalia’s bones had been found in the seventeenth century, Hutchinson established ecological principles regarding speciation, ecological niches, and biodiversity, and he expressed prescient concerns about human impacts on the natural world. These concerns all surface in Galapagos. Of particular interest to Vonnegut must have been Hutchinson’s designation of Saint Rosalia as the “patroness of evolutionary studies.”
Keywords: Kurt Vonnegut, Galapagos, G. Evelyn Hutchinson, Santa Rosalia, evolution, biodiversity loss, extinction, ecological niche, speciation, ecocide
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