1970 October 21

John T. Scopes, of Famous Monkey Trial, Dies


John T. Scopes was the central figure in the Scopes Monkey Trial, which began on July 10, 1925. He was prosecuted for teaching evolution, in violation of a Tennessee state law prohibiting it in the state’s public schools. The Scopes trial is one of the most famous trials in American history, raising profound issues over the freedom to teach and the place of religion in American life. Scopes was convicted, but because the judge made an error in sentencing him the conviction was overturned on appeal. The state of Tennessee, evidently embarrassed by the publicity surrounding the trial, decided not to appeal.

The play and the film about the Scopes case, Inherit the Wind (see below), contains many melodramatic elements that were invented, but the part dealing with the trail includes many exchanges taken directly from the trial transcript and is worth watching for that reason. Spencer Tracy gives a tremendous performance in the part based on the attorney Clarence Darrow.

Read Scopes’s Memoirs: John T. Scopes, Center of the Storm: Memoirs of John T. Scopes (1967)

Watch a documentary on the Scopes trial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVD4TjxnJ0M

See the film on the trial: Inherit the Wind (1960)

Learn more about science and religion: http://ncse.com/

And more about the famous case: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/scopes/scopes.htm

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