Today we published a biography of Charles Darwin in honor of his birthday. But today also happens to be his 200th birthday, making 2009 a special opportunity for scholars and fans of Darwin to reexamine and celebrate his work. (The University of Cambridge, for example, is hosting a festival on Darwin this summer.)
How did Darwin become the legacy that he is today? Senior Writer Isabel Cowles writes that, like another mastermind, Albert Einstein, Darwin “was never a great student.” But he was an “avid collector of beetles” and loved the outdoors. Following his naturalist passion, Darwin accepted a position on the HMS Beagle to examine and collect specimens across the world. The observations he made while stationed on the Galapagos Islands became “The Origin of Species,” the foundation of the theory of evolution.
His work was not unanimously praised when it was first published. But today prominent figures emphasize how important Darwin is to science. For example, Sir David Attenborough has argued, “Evolution is not just a theory. It is a historical fact like any other historical fact.”
In a New York Times editorial on the bicentenary, author Verlyn Klinkenborg writes that Darwin’s explorations are in effect the “cornerstone of what we know about life on earth.”
Learn more about Darwin's work with the American Museum of Natural History’s online exhibit on Darwin.
You can even become friends with the digital effigy of Charles Darwin on Facebook and find multiple Web sources listed on his profile, linking to interesting articles about the man and his work.