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Darwin Now

Updated Monday 5th October 2009

Celebrating the life and work of Charles Darwin, in the year which marks the 200th anniversary of his birth.

Lowland gorilla Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission

The Open University is working in collaboration with the British Council on Darwin Now, a global initiative which celebrates the life and work of Charles Darwin and the impact his ideas about evolution have on the world today.

2009 marks the 200 year anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150 year anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species and our range of content will bring Darwin’s legacy alive from exploring his life through the poetry of Ruth Padel, to discovering what his correspondence can tell us about Darwin’s networking skills. We ask Professor Jim Moore to reveal how the social and scientific context in which Darwin developed his ideas and Professor Steve Jones to reflect on the enduring nature of Darwin’s theory. We also reveal the global responses to Darwin and ask some crucial questions such as, can DNA offer clues to what makes us uniquely human? Do languages evolve in the same way as species do in nature? And what can evolution tell us about falling birth rates, the menopause and the role of parents in childcare?

 

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Publishing The Origin of Species

John Murray VII tells the fascinating story of how his ancestor, John Murray III, was offered the manuscript of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species. Drawing upon original letters, photographs, family stories and the help of a set of live pigeons, he gives a unique insight in to the early history of this epoch-making book, telling how early readers advised John Murray against publishing it and revealing the small but crucial revisions that Darwin made to subsequent editions of the book. The tracks on this album were produced by The Open University in collaboration with the British Council. They form part of Darwin Now, a global initiative celebrating the life and work of Charles Darwin and the impact his ideas about evolution continue to have on today’s world. © British Council 2009.

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The Galapagos

The Galapagos Islands are famous for inspiring Charles Darwin to form his Theory of Evolution based on the biodiversity he'd observed there. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of his "On the origin of species", and the unspoilt islands still fascinate researchers. Some of the plants and animals that live here are found nowhere else on Earth. Today that biodiversity is under threat from an increasing population, tourism and invasive non-native species. The video tracks on this album retraces Darwin's first steps on the Galapagos islands, looks at some of the species that fascinated him, and at how threats to the environment are being managed. It also follows the day-to-day research of two biological scientists - Beatrix Schramm, who tries to get a faecal sample from a Giant Tortoise to learn more about what triggers them to mate, and Martin Wikelski who studies marine iguanas and the problems they face as a result of their choice of food. In the audio track, Open University biologist David Robinson talks about his long relationship with the Galapagos Islands and explores some of the issues raised in the video tracks.

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Darwin and Evolution

2009 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On The Origin Of Species. This album introduces Darwin's great revelation: that species change and adapt according to their environment. Apparently diverse specimens and fossils reveal surprising results, such as the common ancestry of the hippopotamus and the dolphin, whose evolutionary paths diverged when their habitats changed. Research on sparrows show how particular characteristics are linked to success at surviving in the wild, and the selective breeding of dogs for aesthetic purposes shows how humans can influence the evolution of other species. This material forms part of The Open University course S366 Evolution.

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Darwin Now pod 9: Living legacy Creative commons image Icon celerrimus via Flickr under Creative-Commons license audio icon

Nature & Environment 

Darwin Now pod 9: Living legacy

Find out how Darwin’s scientific legacy is being carried forward in this year of the bicentenary of his birth.

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Origin Day lecture: Peter Bowler response

Peter Bowler offers his reaction to Professor Wilson's lecture.

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Darwin, 'The Origin' and the future of biology

On the 150th Anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, Professor E O Wilson, considered by many as Darwin’s natural heir, gives his assessment of the master naturalist, Darwin’s big idea and his own vision for a new system of biology equipped to tackle the threats to our natural world.

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Darwinian Demons

Is 'natural selection' inimical to bio-diversity? Why is the natural world not dominated by a few 'super' species? And in the future, can the richness of nature be preserved? In this album, Jonathan Silvertown, Professor of Ecology at The Open University, explains how Darwinian theory uses the concept of niche specialisation to account for the diversity of flora and fauna on Earth. If it were not for environmental niches, Darwinian 'demons', might emerge, powerful species whose evolutionary fitness makes them all conquering. However, according to Darwin, the natural world is infinitely complex and inhabited by a multitude of different species, each of which is peculiarly adapted to its local environment. The tracks on this album were produced by The Open University in collaboration with the British Council. They form part of Darwin Now, a global initiative celebrating the life and work of Charles Darwin and the impact his ideas about evolution continue to have on today’s world. © British Council 2009.

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How has the worldwide audience reacted to Darwin’s theory of evolution? And now that his works are coming online, what has been the impact of Darwin’s going digital?

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Darwin Now pod 3: Darwin's world-wide web

Darwin was arguably the scientific social networker of his day. Explore the web that he spun through his lifetime correspondence across the world.

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