Almost two hundred years after his birth the Natural History Museum in London is presenting a unique insight into Charles Darwin as both scientist and family man. The special exhibition runs from mid-November 2008 until late April 2009 and also features some unusual exhibits such as strands of the great man’s beard!
Darwin is the father of the ‘theory of evolution through natural selection’ and this exhibition covers the impact that his controversial ideas made on a deeply religious and staid Victorian society. His extensive five-year world voyage aboard the HMS Beagle is covered in great detail; also included is a selection of other exhibits accumulated and used during his extended voyage that included a lengthy stop at the Galapagos Islands. That destination provided much of the evidence and inspiration for his highly disputed evolutionary theory. Materials used on his travels such as well-preserved notebooks and many of the specimens he collected also feature in this marvellous educational exhibition.
A University of Cambridge Theology graduate, Darwin set off in 1831 on the travels that were to ultimately cause so much controversy and anger to the Anglican Church. However, it wasn’t until much later, following careful examination of thousands of specimens and the postulation of his theories that Darwin published his best-selling Origin of Species in 1859. In contradicting the belief in divine creation Darwin may have incurred the wrath of the Church, but the book which he co-authored with naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace was incredibly popular amongst the masses.
Darwin followed up on that success with The Descent of Man, published in 1871 which yet again stirred up trouble with the church. But, this exhibition concentrates more on the positive impact that Darwin made in the intellectual world of natural history. That enduring impact is illustrated by the fact that museums from the UK and North America eagerly collaborated with the Natural History Museum to stage 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 plenty of hotels in London offering special museum and exhibition deals over winter. Those interested in the natural world should head across London to the O2 at 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.