'Darwin' to lecture on evolution

09 Mar 2009 14:08:00.000

PA 62/09

Science buffs are being invited to take a trip back through time to hear the founding father of modern biology Charles Darwin present his theory of evolution as part of an event taking place at The University of Nottingham.

Darwin — aka evolutionary geneticist Professor John Brookfield in full Victorian attire — will outline the ideas from his 1859 breakthrough publication The Origin of Species, which presented the theory of natural selection as the main driving force for evolution.

The lecture comes as part of a wider event running at the Portland Building on University Park campus between 11am and 4pm on Saturday March 14, organised to celebrate National Science and Engineering Week and to mark 2009 as the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth.



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Of his forthcoming role, Professor Brookfield said: “I decided to be Darwin circa 1862 when he was 53, the same age I am now. It will be as if Charles Darwin has come forward in a time machine just that morning and isn’t up to speed on 21st century biology so there won’t be anything in there about DNA and the latest genetic advances.


“Charles Darwin was incredibly important because he, along with Alfred Russel Wallace, was the first person to come up with the mechanism for evolution. It wasn’t a new concept — for around 100 years many people generally accepted that evolution probably happened and that different species had evolved over time, had a shared descent and a common ancestor. Darwin produced a lot of new evidence for evolution but, more importantly, he produced the theory of evolution by natural selection, the key mechanism that explains how variations affect the ability to survive and reproduce and how characteristics are inherited over generations.”


The free event, Darwin 200 Celebration, will examine the past, present and future of evolution and will also feature a whole host of fun, hands-on activities suitable for a range of ages, from around three years old up to adult.


In the ballroom of the Portland Building, the School of Biology museum will present a display of zoological specimens and fossils, with expert David Fox on hand to discuss what they tell us about evolution and the diversity of life. The Frozen Ark project will have a stall outlining why they are trying to preserve genetic information from endangered species, headed by Professor Olivier Hanotte, and community scientist Amy Rogers from the school’s OPAL project will be discussing her work and conducting earthworm studies.


In addition, in the cafe area, there will be the chance to look at paw prints, build genetic code from sweets and beads, play a natural selection computer game, uncover the sex lives of snails, look at the microscopic diversity of life in the University lake and delve into the creepy crawly world of spider genetics, with the chance to meet some real tarantulas.


All eight biology research groups in the school will have posters of their work on display covering human genetics; molecular microbiology and genome dynamics; animal behaviour and ecology; developmental genetics and gene control; parasite biology and immunogenetics; population and evolutionary genetics; molecular cell biology and biophysics; fungal biology and genetics.


The event is completely free and open to members of the public. Professor Brookfield will deliver his Darwin lecture at 12 noon and 2.30pm.


— Ends —


Notes to editors:


•    National Science and Engineering Week runs from 6-15 March 2009 and an online programme of events can be found at http://www.nsew.org.uk National Science and Engineering Week is coordinated by the British Science Association in partnership with the Engineering and Technology Board and is funded by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS).


The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.


More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.


The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's ‘only truly global university’, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.


Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.

Story credits

  More information is available from Professor John Brookfield on +44 (0)115 823 0392, john.brookfield@nottingham.ac.uk or Sarah Pierce , Outreach Projects administrator in the School of Biology on +44 (0)115 951 3415, sarah.pierce@nottingham.ac.uk

Emma Thorne Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: emma.thorne@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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Published Date
Friday 13th March 2009

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