CHARLES Darwin explained to the world how life on earth had evolved – and now his legacy will be explained to more than 100 students in Huddersfield at a special day of discussion and debate.
Darwin was born on February 12, 1809. Exactly 200 years later, the University of Huddersfield holds its Darwin Day, to be attended by at least 130 sixth formers from 11 Kirklees schools and colleges.
They will hear special talks from some of the university’s lecturers and take part in a wide range of activities and discussions.
The organiser of Huddersfield’s Darwin Day is Dr Jeremy Hopwood, who lectures in science communication for the university’s school of applied sciences.
He explained the importance of Charles Darwin, whose great book Origin of Species was published 150 years ago.
“Darwin’s theory explains why life exists on earth. It enables us to have an understanding of why there are millions of different species on this earth and why there is much variation; why there is sex; why we are all here…”
He added: “There has been a lot of publicity about Darwin lately, but by and large young people won’t have tapped into this because evolution is not a standard part of the curriculum. They learn about classification, that animals belong to different species and so forth. But that’s not evolution.”
Dr Hopwood said Darwin was much more than just a scientist.
“He took his influences from many other areas.
“He was heavily influenced by social commentators and he was heavily influenced by being a member of an elite Victorian family. He had 10 children, two of whom died and that had a powerful effect upon him – he was thinking about population and why not everyone survives”.
At Thursday’s event, history professor Keith Laybourn will talk about Charles Darwin’s life and times, how his theories came about and how they were received by the world. And Prof Paul Ward will talk about the notorious Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, in which a Tennessee teacher was prosecuted for teaching evolution theory.
But a major part of the day will be sessions in which the sixth formers take part in activities and group discussions.
Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, on February 12, 1809.
He was grandson of china manufacturer Josiah Wedgwood.
He studied medicine at Edinburgh University but then switched to divinity at Cambridge.
In 1831 he set sail on HMS Beagle on a five-year voyage which saw him come up with his controversial theory of evolution.
Darwin believed the species, animal or plant best suited to a particular environment would be more likely to survive.
He died in 1882 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.