Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin

Today marks the 198th birthday of Charles Darwin, and somewhere he must be smiling.

Over the weekend, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City opened a new permanent exhibition on human origins, bringing together the sciences of paleontology and genetics to describe the physical and behavorial evolution of modern man from primates and proto-humans. The Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins will address the same questions that preoccupied Darwin: where did we come from, who are we now, and what is in store for the future of our species.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in Wales, work proceeds apace on plans to build a working replica of HMS Beagle, which will set sail in 2009, the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth. The replica, crewed by scientists and sailors, will retrace the 1831-36 voyage of the original Beagle. Like that other vehicle of wonder, exploration, and education, the space shuttle, the replica Beagle will be equipped with cameras for distributing streaming video of the voyage and onboard scientific experiments to classrooms around the world via a dedicated website. After her return to Wales, the replica ship will be used as a sailing classroom and laboratory.

(What about the original Beagle? According to Peter McGrath of the Beagle Project, "the ship that singleboatedly changed intellectual history almost certainly lies under five metres of mud, mud, glorious mud in the River Crouch near Paglesham in the English County -- and once Kingdom -- of Essex.")

Related links:
Charles Darwin Online
Darwin Day
The Beagle Project

Did You Know? Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born on the same day: February 12, 1809. Darwin posited that Homo sapiens had evolved from earlier primates; Lincoln was frequently compared to a monkey, an ape, and an "ape baboon."


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