Note: Today we welcome Dr. Janice Voltzow, chair of the University of Scranton Biology Department, as our very first guest blogger! Dr. Voltzow has been studying Charles Darwin’s life and works, in addition to her biological research in invertebrate functional morphology.
February 12, 2009, marks the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin and this year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of his landmark book On the Origin of Species. The theory of evolution by natural selection, as first articulated by Darwin and subsequently observed, verified, and tested by generations of biologists, is the foundation of our understanding of the complexity and diversity of life on earth. It explains how life evolved from single-celled organisms to include all the various forms of life we see around us today, from single-celled bacteria to complex, multi-cellular, sexually reproducing organisms. Modern biology, and indeed, modern life, rests on a foundation of evolutionary theory. Molecular genetics has provided overwhelming support for Darwin’s mechanism of natural selection as the primary force of evoutionary change. His theory continues to have a tremendous impact on our daily lives, including our understanding of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (bacterial populations that have evolved to resist the effects of anti-bacterial drugs or antibiotics) and the increasingly complete fossil record. At The University of Scranton we are celebrating this event with seminars, workshops, and plenty of cake. I encourage you to celebrate Darwin Day 2009 and to participate in the international celebration of the work of one of the great intellectual giants of all time—Charles Darwin.
There are a number of wonderful web sites available to help you learn more about Darwin and evolution. All of his major works, notebooks, and most of his letters are now available at The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online at http://darwin-online.org.uk/. For more of his incredible correspondence, see The Darwin Correspondence Project at http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/. And for a wonderful interactive site on the voyage of the Beagle, see http://www.aboutdarwin.com/voyage/voyage03.html.
Thanks, Dr. Voltzow! I’d like to add some of my favorite Darwin-related resources — check out last year’s Newsweek article comparing the lives of Darwin and his co-birthday celebrant Abraham Lincoln. Another fascinating site is Tree of Life, a collaborative web project that brings to life the evolutionary tree that Darwin envisioned. And if you still want to celebrate, Jonathan Eisen at UC-Davis offers you “10 simple ways to honor Charlie D.”