Darwin’s Anniversary

Posted: February 12th, 2009 | Author: Manuel Lima | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of a genius. On February 12th, 1809, Charles Robert Darwin was born. This date is being celebrated by people and institutions in events all across the globe, as a way of highlighting Darwin’s contribution to biology and promoting science in general. There’s the Darwin Day Celebration, which showcases a vast list of international events, and there’s also the Darwin 200 celebration, hosted by the Natural History Museum in London. For the University of Cambridge, this year will be celebrated in a special way. 2009 represents, not only the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his seminal work ‘On the Origin of Species’, but also the 800th anniversary of this venerable institution.

Besides all the Darwin-related events happening throughout 2009, many books have been (or will be) published this year. Here are a some of them, from a list gathered by NewScientist:

Being a big admirer of Darwin, and living in London, it would just be a matter of time before I headed down to the house that sheltered his extended family and saw him write his remarkable theories on evolution. In September 2008 I went to Down House in Downe, Kent, which is fairly close to London. There you can explore a beautifully preserved garden and many of the house’s original settings - of particular relevance is Darwin’s studio, where he spent many hours researching, testing, writing, and certainly debating with himself many of his earth-shaking ideas. Here are some of the images I took from the trip.

The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life image that appeared in Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection, 1859.

The image on the left, representing the Tree of Life, was the only illustration in the original version of his seminal work On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection, published in 1859. Darwin believed that phylogeny, the ascent of all species through time, was expressible as a metaphor he termed the Tree of Life. The modern development of this idea is called the Phylogenetic Tree and there are three projects in VisualComplexity.com that focus on this particular topic (see below):

Nature in Motion

From the many magazines covering the anniversary of Charles Darwin, I particularly enjoyed reading the extended coverage by Scientific American magazine (January 2009), reflecting on the current and future progress of his original vision. In reference to Darwin’s outstanding contribution to Science, evolutionary biologist Francisco J. Ayala of the University of California, said: “Darwin completed the Copernican Revolution by drawing out for biology the notion of nature as a lawful system of matter in motion that human reason can explain without recourse to supernatural agencies”.