Darwin: The Evolution Revolution

ROM Magazine, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

Darwin: The Evolution Revolution


Darwin: The Evolution Revolution Saturday, March 8, 2008, to Monday, August 4, 2008

Charles Darwin's curiosity, observations, and discoveries nearly 150 years ago have forever changed our understanding of the origin and nature of all species, including our own. This wide-ranging exploration of Darwin's life and work is presented in the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, the first Canadian venue to host the show during its international tour. It is the most in-depth exhibition ever assembled on the highly original thinker.

Darwin: The Evolution Revolution features the most complete collection of specimens, artifacts, manuscripts, and memorabilia related to Darwin (1809-1882), offering visitors a host of insightful perspectives on his extraordinary life and ideas. Renowned for his groundbreaking 1859 volume, On the Origin of Species, Darwin is also acclaimed for his work as a botanist, geologist, and naturalist. In showcasing the evidence that led him to realize that all life has evolved according to natural laws, the exhibition illustrates not only the impact Darwin's work had on science and society in his own time but its continuing relevance in the 21st century.

Before Darwin formulated his thoughts on the subject, advanced thinkers of the 18th century had speculated about evolution but did not understand how it worked. Natural science was aligned with the biblical story of creation. While naturalists had amassed collections by 1800, classifying species was haphazard, with no concept that they were genealogically related. It was Darwin, through his detailed observations of nature, who proposed natural selection as the mechanism by which evolution worked.

"One exciting aspect of this exhibition is that it allows us to take the same voyage of discovery as Darwin," says Chris Darling, curator of the show during its ROM engagement. "We are at his side as he ponders geology, observes living plants and animals, and collects specimens during his voyage on the Beagle. We are also there when he returns home and carefully develops and refines his ideas while struggling with issues of family, ill health, and insecurity."

Darwin called his five-year around-the-world voyage as ship naturalist the most pivotal event in his life. During that time he observed the patterns in nature that kindled his ideas about evolution. Visitors can see some of the wonders Darwin saw in South America and the Galapagos Islands, including live specimens of iguanas and frogs.

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