Press release - 08 July 2008

The greatest gap year, a revolutionary idea and how it changed the world

Darwin200 is a national programme of events celebrating Charles Darwin’s scientific ideas and their impact over 18 months around his two hundredth birthday on 12 February 2009.

Darwin’s theory – that life has evolved by natural selection over millions of years – revolutionised our understanding of the world and our place within it, paving the way for seeing humans as an integral part of nature. Medicine, agriculture, politics and art are just a few of the areas that have been profoundly influenced by his idea. Today, evolution is at the heart of some of our hottest issues, from bird flu and MRSA to equality and how we educate our children.

The next 18 months offer a wide range of events for everyone around the country, from spying on garden snails for science, follow the clues that inspired Darwin’s theory or marvel at a two storey-high interactive Darwin curiosity cabinet. The celebrations span over two additional Darwin anniversaries – 150 years since Darwin and Wallace announced the theory that rocked science and society on 1 July 2008 and 150 years since On the Origin of Species was published on 24 November 2009.  Organisations involved in Darwin200 range from museums, science centres and research institutes to theatre and dance companies and knitting groups. For information about all events, please visit www.darwin200.org. Highlights include:

Darwin’s Canopy                                                                                   14 June – 14 September 2008

Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum will commission new permanent artwork inspired by Darwin for the ceiling of one of the galleries. Former Turner Prize-winners Mark Wallinger and Rachel Whiteread are among ten leading artists unveiling their vision in a temporary exhibition this summer and the winning commission will be unveiled on Darwin’s two hundredth anniversary.

Happy Birthday Charles Darwin                                                             Launching November 2008

Everyone can send Darwin a card or letter to Darwin for his two hundredth birthday via a PO Box number in Shrewsbury. The best contributions will become part of a book, published in 2009.

DarwinExhibition                                                                        14 November 2008 – 19 April 2009
Natural History Museum

Retrace Darwin’s life-changing journey aboard the HMSBeagle. Follow the clues that helped him develop his ideas, through rare personal belongings, fossils and zoological specimens he collected on his travels. This unique exhibition gives a new insight into Darwin’s theory, concluding with an exploration of how evolution is important in understanding the ways infectious diseases keep changing, as we attempt to control their spread. 

Great Reading Adventure 2009                                                                        January–March 2009

A graphic biography of Darwin’s life is being written by Eugene Byrne and illustrated by Simon Gurr, is being printed as part of the Great Reading Adventure 2009. Over 140,000 copies will be distributed free of charge to schools, libraries, reading groups, businesses and members of the public in Bristol, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Oxford, and Shrewsbury encouraging everyone to read the same book at the same time.

Darwin Day                                                                                                             12 February 2009


Take part in a large range of events around the country celebrating Darwin’s two hundredth birthday and see a new permanent artwork inspired by Darwin unveiled at the Natural History Museum.

Evolution Megalab                                                                                             Launching April 2009

Open University

A mass observation experiment will ask people all over Europe to record information about banded snails in gardens and parks. Recording their information on the website will help test for evolutionary change in response to climate warming and changes in predation pressure over the last 80 years. Users can see the results in real time. www.evolutionmegalab.org

Endless Forms: Charles Darwin, Natural Science and the Visual Arts 16 June – 4 October 2009

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Science meets art in this ground-breaking, cross-disciplinary exhibition exploring the importance of visual imagery in the development of Darwin’s ideas and the impact of his theories on artists of his day. Works by renowned artists such as Landseer, Turner, Degas, Monet and Cézanne from collections in the US and Europe will be joined by drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture, dramatic taxidermy and fossils in a unique presentation of the interaction between art and natural science in the nineteenth century.

Rvolution: Severn Project 2009                                                                                 Autumn 2009
Shropshire and Worcestershire
A nine metre-high interactive puppet of Charles Darwin and his Cabinet of Species will be amongst the creations in this magical evolutionary fairground. A team of specially commissioned street artists will create a large scale outdoor spectacular with sideshows, music, dance and installations combining elements of a Victorian exhibition, a funfair, Jurassic Park, the Garden of Eden and Conan Doyle’s Lost World.

Darwin at Downe – World Heritage bid                                                                               2009
Downe near Bromley, Kent

Darwin’s home and the 10 square kilometres of historic countryside that he used as his open-air laboratory will be the United Kingdom’s 2009 nomination for World Heritage Status. Down House is on the rolling Kent North Downs where Darwin did many experiments while developing his theory. Located in the London Borough of Bromley, the bid area contains his home, garden and grounds at Down House, the neighbouring villages of Downe and Cudham, and the surrounding countryside. The bid will be submitted to UNESCO by the Government early next year. www.darwinatdowne.co.uk

Darwin Now

The celebrations of Darwin’s life, work and the impact his ideas about evolution continue to have on today’s world will extend worldwide through a global programme of activities organised by the British Council.


Notes for editors

• Darwin200 is supported by the Wellcome Trust, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and the British Council.

For more information, please contact:
Press Office, Natural History Museum
020 7942 5654 or 07799 690 151 press@nhm.ac.uk