February 12th, 2009

Wanaka tree

The greatest Briton?

I think so.
Today is an important day for me. It is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. Darwin is one of my heroes and I remember, when I was a teenager, reading the journal he wrote during the second voyage of HMS Beagle. In that journal are his first ideas about natural selection and reading it you get a real insight into how he came to develop his theory of evolution. It's a remarkable work, written when he was still very young and forms the basis of all the work he did in later years. Not only did he come up with what is now established as a, to use a horrid current phrase, compelling truth, he also went on to use that knowledge to study all fields of natural science. He suffered much ridicule and abuse during his life from blinkered people and vested interests, yet he rose above all that by sticking to what he knew and showing much more composure and integrity than all of his detractors.

Darwin was a great Briton, one of a breed that includes the likes of Brunel, Florence Nightingale, Cromwell, WilberforceJohn Lennon, Newton, ShakespeareChaplin, Cook - all people who pushed the boundaries of thought and deed in their chosen fields. To my view he was probably the most important of them; without his work and inspiration we would know so much less about the world we live in and how it works. We would know less about how we got here and how we came to be the species we are. Anyone who dispels superstition and gets to the heart and truth of the matter is great by me.

Happy Birthday Charles Darwin.
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