02.12.14 // It’s Darwin Day 2014!
Written by Sarah Grant, Copy Writer
I found out a couple of weeks ago that Charles Darwin, commonly known as the father of evolution through his publication On the Origin of Species in 1859, has a whole day dedicated to celebration of his life and his work! How cool is that? I did some digging on this amazing man, and here is a summary of what I found.
Charles Darwin was born February 12th, 1809, in Shrewsbury, England. He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland (which makes me immensely jealous!), but he was a poor student, due to his interest in nature over his interest in medicine. His father then sent him to Cambridge University to study for the clergy, but Charles spent more of his time riding and shooting than studying. A cousin introduced him to a popular craze for beetle collecting at the time, and this seemed to pave his way as a naturalist, and one of his professors recommended him to his life-changing voyage to the Galapagos Islands aboard the HMS Beagle.
While on this voyage, he closely observed plants and various animals to see their differences and similarities. For example, he noticed that same types of birds living in different places had different types of beaks. These birds were all finches whose beaks were physically suited to the various types of food they sought in their native habitats.
Darwin also studied geology, the selective breeding used in animal husbandry, and various types of entomology, a continuation of his fascination with beetles when he was younger. Upon his return to England from the Galapagos Islands, he wrote many of his notes and theories into different publications, including The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs, Journal and Remarks (in several volumes, documenting his voyage on the HMS Beagle), and of course, On the Origin of Species.
The celebrations of Darwin’s life mainly center around his birthday–today, February 12. Salem College in Massachusetts has an entire week of celebrations, titled the Darwin Festival, which has been held every year since 1980. The first declared “Darwin Day” event took place on April 22nd, 1995, at Stanford University:
Many famous speakers have been included in subsequent Darwin Day lectures at Stanford, including Richard Dawkins, 1996; Paul Berg, 1997; Robert Sapolsky, 1998; Douglas Hofstadter, 1999; Michael Shermer, 2001; Robert Stephens and Arthur Jackson, 2003; Robert and Lola Stephens, 2004; and Eugenie Scott, 2005. In 2000, the official founding of Darwin Day took place in the United States, and since then, there have been many other organizations and cities who have sponsored their own Darwin Day events. There are currently 92 events listed on the Darwin Day Events page for 2014, everywhere from the United States to Italy to Australia.
For more in depth information about Charles Darwin, his life, and his work, I suggest his Wikipedia entry, as well as the Darwin Day website itself, both of which I used in writing this article. Find a celebration near you, and join in! You can even send a celebratory e-card to your friends and family!