Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bicentenary of Darwin's Birth

Charles Robert Darwin was born 200 years ago today. As NatureNews describes Darwin's impact: "No single researcher has since matched his collective impact on the natural and social sciences; on politics, religions, and philosophy; on art and cultural relations".

A Google search for "Darwin" in today's News yields this impressive list. Here is a random sample from some of the stories:

From the BBC: Ten stamps are being issued to mark the birth of scientist Charles Darwin in Shrewsbury exactly 200 years ago.

Royal Mail said it was celebrating the studies that inspired his theories on evolution - zoology, botany, geology, ornithology and anthropology.

From the New York Times: Unlike many members of the human species, Darwin makes an easy hero. His achievements were prodigious; his science, meticulous. His work transformed our understanding of the planet and of ourselves.

At the same time, he was a humane, gentle, decent man, a loving husband and father, and a loyal friend. Judging by his letters, he was also sometimes quite funny. He was, in other words, one of those rare beings, as likeable as he was impressive.

From Nature: Although history is not made entirely, or even mostly, by prominent men and women, two great exceptions to that rule were born exactly 200 years ago today, on 12 February 1809: Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln.

These men shared more than just a birthday, the loss of a mother in childhood and a date with immortality. They shared a position on one of the great issues of their age: the 'peculiar and powerful interest' of their fellow humans bound in slavery. When he circled the world in the 1830s, Darwin's delight at our planet's natural riches was repeatedly poisoned by the cruelties he saw meted out to slaves. "I thank God, I shall never again visit a slave-country," he wrote at the end of the Voyage of the Beagle.

And the Guardian has an excellent mix of items on Darwin here.