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An exhibit celebrating the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species will be on display at Dana Medical Library beginning July 24th, 2011. Rewriting the Book of Nature: Charles Darwin and the Rise of Evolutionary Theory explores Charles Darwin’s vision—“from so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved”—a vision that now forms the foundation of the biological sciences. Radical in sweep, Darwin’s idea of naturally innovating and endlessly changing webs of life undercut all previous sciences.
Charles Darwin’s 1859 work, On the Origin of Species, was instantly seen as a potent sign of a new science, a new way of conceiving the world. His theory was an immediate threat not just to those who were wedded to an older conception, but to all who relied on a given and settled order for meaning and for power. Emerging just as liberal reforms in western society seemed headed for radical explosion, just as technological change provided a social and economic motor that sped up life beyond all imagining, changes in science portended changes in society: “things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”
That Darwin’s thought could be so fertile should not surprise us. On the Origin of Species evoked life in all its intricacy, fecundity, and creativity. This is the world that Darwin explored and surveyed, described and explained — his enduring legacy to science, and to us.
This exhibition was developed and produced by the History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health Office of History. It was curated by Paul Theerman and Michael Sappol.
Rewriting the Book of Nature: Charles Darwin and the Rise of Evolutionary Theory will be on display at Dana Medical Library from July 24 to September 7, 2011. Complementary exhibits also on display around campus include Evolutionary Medicine, at Dana Medical Library, and Darwin’s Worms, at Bailey/Howe Library.
Image from: Charles Darwin, The expression of the emotions in man and animals (London, 1872), 140-41.