Hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life joined a Facebook group devoted to the celebration of this year’s 200th anniversary of the birth of the “Father of Evolution,” Charles Darwin. Now the organizers of the Facebook group are hoping hundreds of thousands more will sign up to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publishing of Darwin’s famous book, On the Origin of Species.
The runup to the anniversary in November will also be marked by a series of lectures by some of the most eminent thinkers about evolution, which anyone may register to attend online.
NGS illustration of Charles Darwin and the variety of life that intrigued him by Ned M. Seidler
By Brian Handwerk
Special contributor to NatGeo News Watch
Charles Darwin’s virtual birthday bash was such a smashing success its organizers are hoping for an encore.
A quarter of a million people joined a Facebook group (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=53320310123) to record videos, pen poems, draw pictures, and otherwise wish the Father of Evolution a happy 200th.
Now Phil Terry and Kendall Crolius hope to top that effort and rally one million Darwin devotees to their cause by November 24. On the Origin of Species was first published on that date 150 years ago.
As On the Origin of Species is one of the most important books with some of the biggest ideas in the last 2,500 years, we think it deserves one of the biggest groups on Facebook, says the group’s Web site The Darwin 150 Project.
The viral, grassroots effort to celebrate all things Darwin has picked up steam around the globe, adding hundreds of people a day and drawing a wide range of Darwin enthusiasts to the cause with technologies like Twitter (http://twitter.com/Darwin150).
“Phil calls us a rag-tag group of global volunteers,” Crolius said, though participants also refer to themselves as “a group of proud monkeys.”
The group is open to anyone with an interest in Darwin but includes some of the world’s top scientific minds, who will tackle evolutionary topics in a series of free, live webcast lectures this fall.
The first talk of five talks, by esteemed Harvard University Professor Emeritus Everett Mendelsohn, is slated for September 16. Fittingly, it will set the stage for the Darwin’s evolution revolution by exploring the “World Before Darwin.”
Later speakers will include Jonathan Weiner (October 7) & Sean Carroll (November 4) on On the Origin of Species itself, and E.O. Wilson on the future frontiers of evolutionary biology (November 24).
“We’ve been surprised and thrilled that these people are willing and happy to share their love of the subject with people who are not necessarily academics but just very interested in Darwin,” said Crolius, who in her day job is a founding partner of the Sulevia Group.
Telephone reading groups have also formed for those who wish to tackle the seminal text in a Socratic style dialogue with expert moderator Stephanie Aktipis, of Harvard’s Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology (fees may apply).
Reading groups will meet Tuesdays October 6, November 3, and December 8.
Crolius said those who’ve never picked up Darwin’s famed book (online text available) might not be able to put it down once they give it a chance.
“He’s not just a brilliant scientist, he’s a wonderful writer,” she explained. “The way he describes things obviously reflects back on those extraordinary powers of observation which enabled him to hold all that information in his head and then connect the dots.”
Darwin’s First Clues (National Geographic Magazine)
Was Darwin Wrong? (National Geographic Magazine)
PHOTOS: 7 Major “Missing Links” Since Darwin (National Geographic News)
“Instant” Evolution Seen in Darwin’s Finches, Study Says (National Geographic News)
Darwin’s Secret Notebooks (National Geographic Channel)
PHOTOS: How Do Species Evolve? (National Geographic News)