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Darwin did Wales so Wales does Darwin

New exhibition at National Museum Cardiff marks the bicentenary of Charles Darwin's birth

He's the bearded man on the ten pound note, a name to which everyone nods their heads and the figure included in every school curriculum. But why is Charles Darwin such a recognised name, and why is his bicentenary being celebrated at National Museum Cardiff in February?

Darwin: A Revolutionary Scientist, an exhibition by National Museum Cardiff will open on Saturday, 7 February 2009 and a series of activities in conjunction with the Open University in Wales will follow. The campaign will provide an insight into the remarkable life of Charles Darwin - the scientist better known as the ‘father of evolutionary biology,' his voyages, discoveries and his time in Wales.

It was just seven days, yet the week Darwin spent in Wales in 1831 with one of the leading geologists of the day, Adam Sedgwick before embarking on his voyage around the World in the Beagle, provided him with important grounding in practical geology:

"This tour was of decided use in teaching me a little how to make out the geology of a country." Charles Darwin

Darwin: A Revolutionary Scientist will look at this crucial time of his life, when he visited Cwm Idwal in Snowdonia where he identified igneous rocks, found fossils of corals and interpreted the structural geology of the valley. Darwin also travelled to Conwy, Bangor, Capel Curig and Barmouth. 

"Darwin was no stranger to Wales," said Tom Sharpe, Senior Curator, Geology, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales. "He went on holiday with his family to Abergele and Tywyn and made several visits to north Wales between 1824 and 1830, on walking tours or to collect insects."

Parts of Darwin: A Revolutionary Scientist will be dedicated to the young scientist, Alfred Russel Wallace a letter from who prompted the publication of the revolutionary On the Origins of Species, which reveals Darwin's ideas on evolution. Loosely defined as ‘the genetic changes in organisms over time,' Darwin's theory has become central to modern biology and provides an explanation for the diversity of life on Earth.

"One of the most famous scientists in the World, we felt it was a ‘must' to celebrate Darwin's bicentenary especially considering his links with Wales," concluded Mr Sharpe. "His actual Birthday is on 12 February, but the exhibition will run until the end of the year, giving schools and visitors an opportunity to delve into the life of Charles Darwin."

Rob Humphreys, Director of the Open University in Wales added: "Wales helped Darwin learn more about evolution, so in this 200th anniversary it's a great time for Wales to learn more about Darwin and evolution. The exhibition at National Museum Cardiff will be an inspiration to discover more about Darwin and his theory. The Open University has a website dedicated to Darwin, featuring information on related courses and interactive content."

There will be a full range of activities, learning events and lectures at the Museum during 2009, as part of the Darwin anniversary year. For further information, visit Admission to National Museum Cardiff and the exhibition is free thanks to the support of the Welsh Assembly Government.

The Open University has a broad programme of activities and BBC television co-productions for the Darwin anniversary year, as well as a new course specifically on the subject - S170: Darwin and Evolution - and a book, 99% Ape: How evolution adds up. A special Darwin microsite,, features an interactive game called Devolve Me, which allows you to see how you would have looked as an early ancestor!

For other events across the UK, please visit


Catrin Mears, Communications Officer, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales on 029 2057 3185 / 07920 027067 or email or Dewi Knight, Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Open University in Wales on 029 2026 2708 or email