The Charles Darwin exhibition marks the 200th anniversary of the evolutionist’s birth

The Charles Darwin exhibition marks the 200th anniversary of the evolutionist’s birth

Almost two hundred years after his birth, the Natural History Museum in London presents a unique insight into Charles Darwin as a scientist and family man. The special exhibition runs from mid-November 2008 to the end of April 2009 and also includes some unusual exhibits such as strands of the great man’s beard!

Darwin was the father of the ‘theory of evolution by natural selection’ and this exhibition reflects the impact his controversial ideas had on a deeply religious and stubborn Victorian society. His extensive five-year world voyage aboard HMS Beagle is described in great detail; also included is a selection of other exhibits accumulated and used during his extensive journey, which included an extended stopover in the Galapagos Islands. This destination provided much of the evidence and inspiration for his highly contested theory of evolution. Materials used in his travels, such as well-preserved notebooks and many of the specimens he collected, are also included in this wonderful educational exhibition.

A graduate of theology at Cambridge University, Darwin set off in 1831 on the travels that would eventually cause so much controversy and anger within the Church of England. However, it was not until much later, after carefully examining thousands of specimens and postulating his theories, that Darwin published his bestseller On the Origin of Species in 1859. Contrary to belief in divine creation, Darwin may have incurred the wrath of the church , but the book he co-wrote with naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace was incredibly popular with the masses.

Darwin followed this success with The Descent of Man, published in 1871, which again caused trouble with the church. But this exhibition concentrates more on the positive impact Darwin had on the intellectual world of natural history. This lasting impact is illustrated by the fact that museums from the UK and North America eagerly collaborated with the Natural History Museum to organize the exhibition, including the American Museum of Natural History; The Boston Museum of Science; The Chicago Field Museum and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada.

Anyone visiting the Darwin Exhibition and wishing to combine it with a stay in the capital will find many London hotels offering special offers for museums and exhibitions during the winter. Those interested in the natural world should head across London to the O2 in Greenwich, where the stunning Body Worlds 3 exhibition is in full flow. Featuring Dr von Hagen’s plastinated human and animal bodies, it offers a unique insight into the construction of the human body and is the perfect accompaniment to the Darwin exhibition.

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