Happy Darwin Day!
Today is the 199th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth. Born on this date in 1809 (coincidentally the same day as Abraham Lincoln) Darwin eventually would revolutionize biology. The idea that life shares a common ancestry and changes over time preceded Darwin, but, until Darwin's theory of natural selection, no one had yet posed a viable mechanism by which evolutionary change occurs. Darwin's deceptively simple idea was based on a few very basic premises; populations vary, their variations can be passed from parent to offspring, and some variants leave more progeny than others. Some individuals leave more progeny than others owing specifically to how their characteristics perform in a given environment relative to other traits in the population. This is natural selection, and it remains a central idea in modern biology explaining everything from the beaks of finches to the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Darwin's monumental contribution to the life sciences was recognized by the scientific community almost immediately. So important were Darwin's ideas to the advancement of science that he was buried in Westminster Abby near that other of Britain's fathers of modern science, Issac Newton. Placing Darwin's remains in Westminster alongside Newton was a recognition that Darwin's theory of evolutionary change was as important as an accomplishment as Newton's ideas on gravity and optics. Today evolution remains the central organizing principle in the life sciences, a testament to Charles Darwin's scientific genius.
Next year will be the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Origin of Species. Next year look forward to exhibits and other activities at Cincinnati Museum Center, and scientific institutions and museums around the globe, celebrating Darwin's scientific accomplishments and the central role of evolution in helping us explain the natural world.