Darwin Sesquicentennial Celebration Records Now Available

By Lauren Fink

Two years ago, University of Cincinnati students and faculty celebrated the sesquicentennial anniversary of Charles Robert Darwin’s seminal work, On the Origin of Species. The celebration was a collaborative community educational program for greater Cincinnati that included not only UC but also Xavier, NKU, Mt. Saint Joseph, and Thomas More College, as well as the Cincinnati Museum Center, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.  Now, the Archives and Rare Books Library holds the collection documenting this unique celebration’s planning and realization.

On the Origin of Species, published November 24th, 1859, was a groundbreaking work that posited concepts of evolution, natural selection, and common descent. Much of the research presented in the text comes from Darwin’s HMS Beagle expeditions and is readable by both scientists and non-scientists. Widespread interest in Darwin’s work has ensued since its publication, leading to religious debates about creationism vs. evolution that, two centuries later, still continue. This debate, among others, like whether Darwin withheld publication of Origin for 20 years (his basic theory was developed in 1838) intentionally or circumstantially, was discussed at the Darwin Sesquicentennial.

Cincinnati celebrated 2009 with symposiums and lecture series, such as “The Vision and Legacy of Charles Darwin,” and “Darwinism: Science, Religion & Society.” DAAP students and local artists participated in a Darwin-inspired art exhibit entitled “Form from Form: Art from Discovery.” On the medical campus, Dr. Andrew Filak moderated a mini medical college in Darwin’s honor entitled “Your Genes & You: Health, Disease, and Medicine.” Honors program students were invited to participate in a Darwin seminar that culminated in a study tour to the Galapagos Islands. To join in the celebration, McMicken College incoming freshman were all required to read UC professor, and Darwin 2009 lecturer, Kenneth Miller’s book, Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul.

Information about these happenings can be found in the new collection entitled “University of Cincinnati Darwin Sesquicentennial Celebration,” which can be viewed in the Archives and Rare Books Library. Of additional interest, this collection also includes the files of the planning/coordinating committee, bios of lecturers, notes and books related to lectures, event flyers, posters, programs, and articles written about or related to the Darwin 2009 Sesquicentennial.

Undeniably Darwin has had, and continues to have, a prominent impact on modern evolutionary theory. To learn more about any of the aforementioned celebrations of his influence, or to view books like, Science, Evolution, and Creationism, or David Quammen’s The Reluctant Mr. Darwin, come to the Archives and Rare Books Library located on the 8th floor of Blegen. Or, schedule an appointment by calling (513) 556-1959 or e-mailing archives@mail.uc.edu. The finding aid for the Darwin Sesquicentennial Celebration is now available online on the OhioLINK Finding Aid Repository. To view any of the Archives and Rare Books Library’s other holdings, such as first editions of Darwin’s publications, multiple biographies, or even Darwin’s Beagle letters, visit the ARB website.