’Darwin’ to lecture on evolution

’Darwin’ to lecture on evolution

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.

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.

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