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The Darwinian legacy

12 February 2009

Charles Darwin

The remarkable impact of Charles Darwin on the world is celebrated with a double anniversary this year.

Today is the exact 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth. October will see the 150th anniversary of the publication of his most famous work, The Origin of Species.

Darwin had many close ties with Wales and his discoveries continue to influence work at Cardiff University in a great many disciplines. A series of events will mark these links throughout the year.

Professor Tony Campbell, of the School of Medicine, also Scientific Director of the Darwin Centre in Pembrokeshire, is giving a series of lectures in Cardiff and elsewhere in the UK on Darwin’s inspirations and legacy, including Darwin’s journey to North Wales which helped shape many of his ideas. Today Professor Campbell will be lecturing in Pembrokeshire as part of the Darwin birthday celebrations.

Professor Campbell said: "Charles Darwin was the Newton of Biology, but without Wales he might never have come up with his big idea that has transformed biology and medicine. His concept of Natural Selection is vital in the 21st century as we try to tackle global warming and exploit the full potential of the DNA revolution without damaging the future of the human race or our planet."

A further series of lectures, Darwin200, has been organised by the Schools of Biosciences and of Earth and Ocean Sciences, demonstrating the great scientist’s effect in a range of fields.

The first speaker in the series is Professor Michael Reiss, of the Institute of Education, who will speak on Discussing Darwin: Can Science Ignore Faith? in the Wallace Lecture Theatre, Main Building, on Tuesday, February 17 at 6.30pm. Professor Reiss was recently at the centre of controversy over the teaching of creationism in schools – a clear reminder of The Origin of Species’ continuing impact.

Professor Dianne Edwards, Head of the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, said: "We have tried to make the series as wide-ranging as possible, demonstrating how Charles Darwin remains very much our contemporary, still influencing theories and ideas in a variety of academic disciplines."

The Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics (CESAGEN) is also joining the celebrations. Professor Evelyn Fox Keller, Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology will speak on The Mirage of a Space between Nature and Nurture at the Reardon Smith Lecture Theatre on March 11 at 6pm. She will look at the idea of nature and nurture as separate causes of trait development, arguing it is "fundamentally incoherent" and was introduced by the 19th Century scientist Francis Galton, Darwin’s half-cousin.

The list of Darwin 200 events is also at http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/earth/newsandevents/events/darwin200.html .

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