For the last month, I have been a visiting researcher in the conservation science unit at Cambridge University, which turns 800 (!) this year. Another impressive birthday is today: Charles Darwin’s bicentennial–a grand event here in England, although they do admire Darwin daily (note the 10 pound note):
Across the nation, events are commemorating Darwin and his contribution to science, including two of my weekend plans: the British Natural History Museum’s Darwin exhibit and tonight’s lecture at the Bath Royal Literary & Scientific Institution by Shifting Baselines’ own Daniel Pauly (this is him cutting the pre-lecture cake).
At Cambridge, there is a particularly affinity for the man who wrote the treatise on natural selection. Darwin was a Cambridge scholar and studied theology at Christ College. The zoology museum has a great exhibit with fish specimens from the Voyage of the Beagle…
The University is also hosting a number of great events in association with Darwin’s birthday, including Randy Olson’s Flock of Dodos, the big Darwin festival in July, and (as always) a weekly lecture series out of Darwin College.
A couple weeks ago I attended one such lecture by Dr. Jim Secord. He put up a list of the years when On the Origin of Species was published for various languages (e.g. German: 1860, French: 1862, Spanish: 1877, Japanese: 1896, Arabic (9 chapters): 1918).
On the O of S was not published in Turkish until 1970. That becomes particularly interesting if one recalls the 2006 study published in Science about public acceptance of evolution. The authors found that the percentage of U.S. adults accepting the idea of evolution has declined from 45% to 40% over the last 20 years but also that, an examination of 34 countries (most of them European), Americans are the least likely to accept evolution, just after Turkey. But then Jim Secord’s statistic hit me: the Turks have had fewer than 40 years to digest the theory of natural selection. Meanwhile, On the Origin of Species was published in our mother tongue. At least Turkey has an excuse.
For more blogposts on Darwin, check out the consolidated Blog for Darwin dedicated to the man and his big idea…