Monday, February 09, 2009

Celebration of Darwin Anniversaries

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species. Incidentally, 50 years ago there was a centennial edition of the book with an introduction by Julian Huxley (the first Director General of UNESCO, known for his seminal book Evolution: The Modern Synthesis); the centennial edition remains instructive and has been reissued this year in paperback. Huxley came from a distinguished family. His brother was the writer Aldous Huxley, and his half-brother a fellow biologist and Nobel laureate, Andrew Huxley; and his paternal grandfather was Thomas Henry Huxley, a friend and supporter of Charles Darwin and protagonist of evolution.

Down House, Darwin's Home and Workplace from 1842 until his death in 1882 has been on the list of tentative candidates for inclusion in UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites since 1999 and is the nominee of the United Kingdom for 2009.

As part of the commemoration of Darwin's work, UNESCO is sponsoring a series of symposia with the International Union of Biological Sciences. (Read more about the symposia.)

Perhaps the most enduring memorial to Charles Darwin would be the protection of the Galapagos Islands. These have a unique biological diversity, and Darwin's visit to the islands was instrumental in helping him to develop his theory of evolution. The Galapagos Islands have been recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1978 and the Galapagos National Park (of Equador) has been a part of UNESCO's global network of bioreserves since 1984. Unfortunately, the Galapagos Islands have been on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in Danger since 2007.

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