Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin!

IMG_0124So today would have been Charles Darwin’s 207th birthday. It seems improbable that he would still be alive today under any circumstances (unless he knows Tupac?), but that doesn’t mean we can’t still celebrate his life and work! For one of the top five Charles’ of all time, we’ve got a nerdy science t-shirt and cookies to accompany my freshmen biology students’ genetics test.

Here’s what the media have put out on “Darwin Day”. What is going on in your classrooms? Post here in the comments, or let us know on social media!


Energizing Evolution

it, as well as our understanding of it, just keeps going and growing and going…

During the holiday break, I have come across a number of valuable resources (video, audio, and paper) for demonstrating to students that the processes of natural selection and speciation, that Darwin made us aware of 150 years ago this past year, are actually occuring before our very eyes.  

Instead of hypothetical just-so-stories, these resources are user friendly and thought provoking real world examples with organisms and adaptations that students can relate to.  These examples also highlight the work of the people, and the personalities, behind the acquisition of new scientific knowledge.  I commend these scientists and numerous others who understand the importance of communicating science to a sometimes skeptical public and whose efforts have provided us with these wonderful resources and springboards for learning.


Read on to find out about these 7 resources…

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The Grandeur of Life Exhibit

A Celebration of Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species:
An Exhibition of Rare Books from the History of Science Collection
by William B. Ashworth, Jr.


Where: Linda Hall Library
When: October 1, 2009 through March 27, 2010

  • Monday: 9:00 am – 8:30 pm
  •  Tuesday-Friday: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
  • Saturday: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

A little over a week ago, on the evening of October 1, I had the pleasure of attending the opening of this wonderful exhibition.  My words would put the exhibit to shame so read the introductory words that the library has published in a brochure for the exhibit.

Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809.  When he was fifty years old, in 1859, he published On the Origin of Species, a book destined to radically change our view of the living world.  In 2009, we celebrate both the bicentennial of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his great work.

Darwin began his scientific career as a naturalist, as someone who collected plant and animal specimens, studied and recorded the details of their structures, and attempted to identify and classify them.  He thus worked within the framework that was known as natural history.  Natural history had a vernerable pedigree, with its roots in Aristotle, but it especially flourished and matured in the four centuries before the Origin of Species.  Darwin was the direct heir of naturalists like Konrad Gesner, who published the first illustrated encyclopedia of zoology (1551-58), Carl Linnaeus, who successfully sorted out the plant and animal kingdoms with his influential taxonmic Systems of Nature (1735), Joseph Banks, who sought new species in the south seas on the first voyage of Captain Cook (1768-71), and Jean Lamarck, who made the study of invertebrates a respectable branch of zoology (1801).

We choose to honor Darwin, therefore, by showcasing the tradition out of which he himself evolved.  Fortunately, for exhibition purposes, the works we have chosen to display are not only important intellectually, but are also some of the most beautiful books ever published.  “There is gradeur in this view of life,” Darwin remarked in the last sentence of the Origin of Species.  We hope our exhibition captures some of the grandeur, and of Darwin’s great achievement.

I also had the pleasure of listening to Lyanda Haupt’s lecture on “Darwin’s Evolution as Naturalist: A Bird’s-eye View”, and have subsequently purchased and have begun to read her book, Pilgrim on the Great Bird Continent, that the lecture was based on.  It has been a good read so far…   Luckily for you there are two remaining lectures in the series honoring Darwin, on October 29th and December 3rd.  To learn more about these lectures visit Linda Hall’s Darwin Lecture Series site.

So, as we draw near to the anniversary of the publication of our Origins, take a few minutes and tour the grand exhibit at Linda Hall and please inspire your students to do the same.


Happy 200th Birthday, Charles Darwin!


Charles Darwin once wrote, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”  With that quote in mind, I decided to compile a few of the Darwin related resources that I have recently and happily become inundated with.  So, click, read, download, listen, and watch, all the while gaining knowlege and gradually losing any confidence that you may have had… 

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Nature’s Evolutionary Gems

A pdf Resource for Teachers wishing to spread Awareness of Evolution by Natural Selection


In this celebratory year of the Birth of Charles Darwin and the publication of his On the Origin of Species, it is fitting that the January 1 issue of the journal Nature announces a document “for teachers and others wishing to spread awareness of evolution by natural selection.”  The document is accessible at the link above, which forwards one to a seventeen page pdf file

The document includes student-friendly “editorial introductions” to 15 papers that have been published in Nature during the past decade.  These papers were selected “to illustrate the breadth, depth and power of evolutionary thinking”, and cover natural selection from the perspectives of the Fossil Record, Habitats, and Molecular Processes.  The specific titles are given by clicking the more link at the end of this post. 

Each abstract is formatted to a single page, and is followed by a link to the orginal paper, links to additional resources (which may not be accessible), and a link to the website(s) of the author(s).  For those that don’t have a subscription to the journal, many of the links to abstracts of the original research papers provide access to the full text and a freely downloadable pdf .  Happy readings!

Nature, thanks for compiling this fitting and freely available educational resource!  It is a wonderful New Years Gift!

Continue reading “Nature’s Evolutionary Gems”