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Happy 200th Birthday, Charles Darwin
It is 200 years since Charles Darwin's birth, and 150 since the publication of The Origin of Species. There are a lot of events to celebrate this but, for myself, here are some photographs I took at Down House.

Rear elevation, down house

Rear Facade Down House

And this is one of the greenhouses where he conducted experiments with orchids and carnivorous plants, among others.

Darwin's Greenhouse2

One of the most evocative things to do at Down is to take Darwin's 'gravel walk', where he used to do most of his thinking...

Down House entrance to walk

Start of the Walk

Darwin's walk

Down House from the walk.

Down House from the Walk

Note: It was actually after midnight and therefore the 12th here when I pushed the post button. Apparently, LJ takes the moment when you started editing...

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Happy Birthday, Charlie! (yes, I know, I doubt he was called "Charlie" but I'm in that kind of mood ... it's all the antibiotic I think ... )

*Beautiful* pictures, btw!

Edited at 2009-02-12 02:30 am (UTC)

That's a beautiful house :-) Lucky Darwin.

The Darwin-Wedgewood axis wasn't exactly poor. It's a very liveable Victorian family house with a a good deal of land (and a huge walled garden.) The thing that comes over most there is what a united and happy family the Darwins were - not at all like the picture so often painted of Victorian family life.

I need to go back there again because they have revamped the first floor exhibition centre, which now includes a mock-up of Darwin's cabin on the Beagle. Lord knows, I got excited enough about Darwin's pocket microscope and his Panama hat...

When Darwin's daughter died at an earlier age (probably of TB) he was devastated, especially as he had taken her away to Oxford for a water-cure and watched her slowly die.

Some commentators believe this made it easier to come up with a theory based on extinction.

After his daughter died, Darwin stopped going to church, though he always denied he was an atheist or even agnostic. His wife's letter to him expressing her faith and her worry about his lack of faith had him in tears. (or so he wrote)

Not an idyllically happy life by any means

Not idyllic, as he was, himself, very ill for much of the time (the water cure was one he was having himself.)

He was always careful to try to keep his agnosticism from Emma, but she had read The Origin in all its stages of composition, including the early essay drafts (long before either its publication or before Annie's death) and was well aware of the consequences of what he was saying. She wasn't stupid... and the good biographers agree that she knew that he had serious doubts about God for many years (for the same reason as many other biologists - he had seen too much to believe in a benevolent creator.) Annie's death pushed him into finally quitting the local church, which he had been attending as part of normal village life at that period, but his letters to his many correspondants show he wasn't at all keen on religion - in fact, he had to be very careful with Fitzroy, who was a religious nutter, on the Beagle voyage, as you can read in his diary.

If you think that Natural Selection is based on extinction then you really need to do some more reading before making that comment again. That's pure misunderstanding and it isn't in Darwin at all. Any commentator who says so plainly doesn't understand what Darwin was actually saying either. He's talking about survival, not extinction.

T'was his descendants making that case on Radio 4 the other day and not me.

Which ones? As I understand it, he has about 90. As for the chap who wrote Annie's Box (who is a descendent of Darwin) he certainly does not come to that conclusion! Nor is that a book which has any real importance in respect to Evolution - just to what Darwin family life was like. Indeed, he is one of the people who makes it clear that Darwin was well on his way to agnosticism well before Annie's death. (And as you can be an agnostic Christian/Bhuddhist/Muslim etc as well as an agnostic atheist, I think we can suspect he was leaning towards the latter.)

Oh, and he used to play on the floor or the lawn with his kids, who, like Emma, adored him. He wouldn't have been half as upset about Annie if he hadn't adored her, and spent a lot of time encouraging her education and playing with her. They were a family who loved each other but, like all Victorian families, they lost children (Annie wasn't the only one) to disease.

In a passage from his Autobiography quoted in The Portable Atheist, he called himself an agnostic.

This gives me the perfect excuse to use one of my favourite icons!!!

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