Darwin’s birthday celebrated with University events

Celebrations to mark the birth of one of science’s greatest figures will take place at the University of Aberdeen today (Thursday 12 February).

Charles Darwin's 200th birthday will be commemorated with a series of events aimed at engaging the public with the lifework of the man whose theories shaped our understanding of how life evolved.

Poetry and pigeons will be used to provide Primary 7 pupils children from Kittybrewster, Riverbank and Woodside schools in Aberdeen, with an insight into Darwin's revolutionary thinking.

Author and poet Kelley Swain will give readings from her book Darwin's Microscope, inspired by the scientist's travels, to the pupils on board the Reading Bus which will be parked outside the University's Zoology building. 

The children will be asked to produce their own creative writing, taking inspiration from the range of real life specimens and samples within the institution's Natural History Centre including platypus, turtle skulls and shells.

They will also examine up close a species of animal which was key to Darwin's work – the pigeon. 

The children will have the chance to handle live species of bird – that was bred by Darwin as part of his study into his theory of evolution by natural selection – under the watchful eye of Ian McKay, President of the Aberdeen Federation of Racing Pigeon Societies.

The pupils will also toast Darwin's birthday with specially made birthday cake prepared in honour of the occasion.

This evening the commemorative events continue with a public lecture by Dr Lyall Anderson from Cambridge University's Department of Earth Sciences, and formerly of the University of Aberdeen's Geology department. 

In his lecture I, a Geologist, Dr Anderson will provide an insight into his current work on rock samples collected by Darwin himself during his famous voyage on the survey ship HMS Beagle in 1831.

Dr Anderson's lecture will take place in the Meston Building Lecture Theatre 1, on the University's King's Campus beginning at 6.30pm.  Birthday cake and beverages will be on offer before the lecture from 6pm.

Admission to the lecture is free and pre-registration is not required.

The events to mark Darwin's birthday begin a series of public and schools activities inspired by Darwin's work and coinciding with the National celebration DARWIN200.

Dr Ken Skeldon of University's Public Engagement with Science Unit said: "It's great when we get the chance to celebrate a scientist like Charles Darwin, because he not only revolutionised the way we view the natural world, but was passionate about engaging a general audience with his discoveries." 

"Throughout 2009 we have some great events inspired by Darwin's work. Some tie in with big festivals like National Science and Engineering Week in March, the University of Aberdeen's Word Festival in May and TechFest in September.  In November two of the world's experts on Darwin's finches, Professors Rosemary and Peter Grant based in Princeton, are coming to the University's School of Biological Sciences. And we are blending the Darwin theme with the International Year of Astronomy 2009 for our March Café Scientifique, when Professor John Parnell comes to chat about rocks sent into space and brought back again for analysis.

"Our programme culminates on November 24th, the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species when the University's Natural History Centre will be hosting an Evening with Evolution."

For more information about the University's Darwin events visit http://www.abdn.ac.uk/darwin/ or contact Dr Ken Skeldon on 01224 272410 or by email k.skeldon@abdn.ac.uk .


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