Friday, February 27, 2009

Darwin Stamps

A few days ago I got a letter from the Royal Mail. It was a complete set of Darwin stamps issued by the Royal Mail in the UK to honour Charles Darwin. You can see some of them on the right. They are stunning. Thank-you Ms. Sandwalk for arranging to have them sent.

I also got a postcard from Kate. She mailed it from London on Darwin's birthday. It was addressed to someone called "The Nutty Professor" but for some strange reason it ended up in my mailbox anyway. Thank-you Kate & Mick.

Great Britain, especially London, was the intellectual capital of the world back in Queen Victoria's time. Most of the world's top scientists were there and the number of scientific advances that came out of that environment was truly amazing.

Much of it was due to the wealth of the British Empire (science loves money) but also to the intellectual freedom, individualism, and entrepreneurship that was characteristic of that society. It was the same society that created the industrial revolution and sustained it for one hundred years.1

What's amazing is that not only did Victorian England nurture and support men like Charles Darwin but that today, 150 years later, Great Britain is still proud to celebrate the scientist whose name is most closely associated with evolution.

1. Eat your heart out, Ken Miller (Only a Theory). :-)


  1. It is shameful that the US does not have a Darwin stamp

  2. In 2007, the Humanist Association of Ottawa submitted a proposal to Canada Post for a series of 4 Canadian evolution-themed stamps to honour the Darwin anniversaries, with Canadian fossil sites:
    The Burgess Shale
    Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta
    Miguasha Provincial Park in Quebec
    Joggins Cliffs in Nova Scotia.

    Alas, our proposal was rejected.

  3. Thanks for the call out! Glad everything arrived safely.

    The Natural History Museum in London is putting on an Adult only "After Hours" event until April this year. Basically it's child free time for the adults to have run of the Museum. They have tapas, drinks, jazz bands and guest speakers - Mick and I are booked in for March. We'll tune in to some Darwin lectures to see what they have to say 200 years later...

    Chat soon!

  4. Nice stamps.

    As far as I know, Victorian Britain didn't support and nurture Darwin. That is, I don't think he ever received any government money. He supported himself and paid for his own research. (On board the Beagle he was the captain's companion and, again as far as I know, didn't have a budget for collecting, preserving and shipping things, but maybe the Royal Navy can be credited with allowing him to piggy back on the ship's mail)....

    In fact, it was a terrible struggle for some of the leading naturalists of the day. AR Wallace, co-discoverer of evolution by natural selection, had to support himself for much of his life by selling specimens, although I believe he finally received a pension, later in life. TH Huxley was a relentless campaigner for state-supported science, but he faced concerted and determined opposition. Did the government support Kew and the natural history museum? To what extent? What about labs at univerities? There are historical studies of these things but I don't know the answers.

    All of which makes Darwin, Wallace and others more remarkable and interesting.

  5. Anonymous says,

    As far as I know, Victorian Britain didn't support and nurture Darwin.

    I wasn't thinking of direct financial support.