Charles Darwin, from a 19th century glass lantern slide created by the famous Scottish photographer, George Washington Wilson
Charles Darwin (1809-1882): The Legacy of a Naturalist
Dodd Research Center Gallery
Curators: Kentwood Wells, Melissa Watterworth and Carolyn Mills
This exhibit features rare books, prints, natural history specimens, and other artifacts to illustrate the life and career of Charles Darwin, one of the most influential scientists and thinkers of all time. The year 2009 marks not only the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth, but also the 150th anniversary of the publication of his most famous book, On the Origin of Species.
The exhibit begins with a section on the Darwin and Wedgwood families, which intermarried for several generations. Charles Darwin’s paternal grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, was a respected physician and scientist and a close friend of his maternal grandfather, Josiah Wedgwood, founder of the Wedgwood Pottery Company. Charles Darwin’s wife, Emma Wedgwood, was his first cousin, the daughter of Josiah Wedgwood II. The Darwin family produced several generations of successful scientists and writers. Books by members of the family are on display.
The exhibit also traces Darwin’s development as a naturalist, including his famous voyage around the world on H. M. S. Beagle and his work on geology, coral reefs, barnacles, plants, and animals. The development of his theory of evolution by natural selection and his later work on botany, animal behavior, and earthworms are illustrated with books and specimens.
A final section of the exhibit deals with commemorations of Darwin and his work, beginning with his burial in Westminster Abbey, and with Darwin as a cultural icon, as reflected in the widespread use of his image on postage stamps, coins, trade cards, advertisements, and even children’s toys.