Happy 200th Birthday, Darwin!

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Talk about a cause to celebrate! It’s been 200 years since naturalist Charles Darwin’s birth and 150 years since his pioneering publication On the Origin of Species first rocked the scientific world.  In honor of the milestone occasion, the University of Cambridge, where Darwin was a student, is hosting a festival this week through July 10 as part of a yearlong series of events marking the university’s 800th anniversary.

Over 100 scientists, writers, artists and performers will commemorate Darwin’s work at more than 40 events around Cambridge. Speakers and performers include Sir David Attenborough, Ian McEwan, Professor Richard Dawkins, Sir Terry Pratchett, Richard Leaky, and Harold Varmus among many others.

If you’re not a scientist or your level of evolutionary expertise consists of that one high school biology course you took eons ago, don’t fear. The wide range of events caters to all interests, from scientific debates to art exhibitions to stand-up comedy. Street-side performances include interpretations of the evolution of juggling, music, and voice, while the evening Fringe Festival features plays, comedy shows, and film screenings.

“Nowhere else this year will you find such breadth of expertise gathered in one place, at one time, to discuss and celebrate Darwin’s work,” Darwin Festival director Mirand Gomperts said. “The Festival is a key event in the University of Cambridge’s 800th anniversary year. We hope that as many people as possible will enjoy this unique opportunity and discover how Darwin’s ideas can help us tackle the challenges we will face in the future.”


Other festival highlights include:

Guided tours

are provided around the University’s museums, gardens and colleges, which combined, comprise the world’s largest collection of Darwin’s plant, animal, geological and fossil specimens, his published and unpublished works, correspondence, journals and notes.

“Endless Forms” Exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum
Featuring works by Monet, Degas, Cezanne and Landseer, the exhibition examines the relationship between Darwin’s scientific theories and late nineteenth-century art. Paintings, drawings, sculpture and illustrated books are juxtaposed with anthropological photographs, fossils, skulls and rarely-seen original Darwin material.

Whipple Museum of the History of Science
The Whipple Museum holds an extensive collection of scientific instruments, mainly from the 17th to 19th centuries, including the microscope used by Charles Darwin himself.

University Museum of Zoology
The Zoology museum boasts Darwin’s Galapagos Finch collection from his legendary voyage around the world on the HMS Beagle. Also on display are 40 examples of fish he collected around South America and the microscope slides he prepared during his study on barnacles.

Christ’s College
Christ’s College, where Darwin studied, features a restored version of Darwin’s room, as well as a newly created garden inspired by the exotic plants that Darwin discovered on his voyage.

The events are open to all (subject to availability) and in many cases, free!

For more information on events and prices, visit http://www.800.cam.ac.uk/page/82/darwin-2009-festival.htm or for more information on Cambridge’s 800th anniversary events, visit http://www.800.cam.ac.uk/

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