Friday, February 13, 2009

Moving Darwin

A statue of Charles Darwin was sculpted by Sir Joseph Boehm in 1885. It cost £2200. The money was raised by soliciting individual contributions from individuals around the world and so much money flowed in that there was enough left over to fund research in evolution.

The statue was unveiled on June 9, 1885. Charles Darwin was hugely popular, as you can see by the crowd of people outside the Natural History Museum. The statue was placed in a prominent position at the top of the main staircase in the Central Hall.

In 1927, Darwin wasn't as popular and his statue was moved to make way for an elephant display. The place of honor was soon taken up by a statue of Richard Owen, founder of the museum, and not a huge fan of Darwin [The North Hall Statues].

Darwin, and his friend Huxley, sat in the North Hall, under the main stairs in what became the museum cafeteria. This is not a place of honor and when I saw it there in 2006 I thought it looked very much like the museum was trying to hide Darwin from its visitors.



The Natural History Museum decided that they had better take steps to rehabilitate Darwin in preparation for the 2009 celebrations. So last Spring they moved Darwin back to the original position at the top of the stairs in the Central Hall.

You can watch a video of the statue on the move on the Natural History Museum website [Darwin's statue on the move].

I'm glad they decided to move the statue. While there's a danger of reading too much into the traveling statue, I think it reflects a time in the early 20th century when Darwin's reputation was somewhat eclipsed. At that time, there were many scientists who didn't think that natural selection could explain evolution.



2 comments :

  1. > The place of honor was soon taken up by a statue of Robert Owen, founder of the museum, and not a huge fan of Darwin

    I think you probably meant to write Richard Owen

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