The Genius of Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin was born 200 years ago next year, on February 12, 1809.

150 years ago, on July 1, 1858, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace gave a joint presentation to the Linnaean Society entitled “On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection”.  It must have been a quiet occasion; the society’s President remarked in May 1859 that the year had not been marked by any revolutionary discoveries.

Thus the most revolutionary theory in biology crept into the light of day.

Darwin finished the manuscript of “On the Origin of Species” the following year and it went on sale on November 22, 1859.  The first run of 1,250 copies sold out.  It has never been out of print since.

Famous biologist Richard Dawkins celebrates Darwin’s revolutionary idea in a new three-part UK documentary for Channel 4, “The Genius of Charles Darwin”.  Parts 1 and 2 have already been shown August 4 and August 11, and the last part will be shown this Monday, August 18 at 20:00 on Channel 4.

In the first episode, Dawkins gives a biography of Darwin and an account of his observations and how they led to the theory of natural selection with common descent, and introduces evolution to a class of skeptical London schoolchildren, visits his native Kenya where he shows the brutal struggle for existence on the Veldt and interviews a Nariobi prostitute who has survived for 25 years in the occupation due to her resistance to HIV.  He also visits Craig Venter whose computers and automated systems have mapped much of the human genome and that of other organisms, finding striking genetic homologies that overwhelmingly support the common descent of organisms as diverse as bacteria, plants, and animals including humans.

In the UK, the programmes can be viewed on a PC (not a MAC) with Windows using 4od.

The Channel 4 website also has accompanying coverage, here.

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