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The Impossibility of Avoiding Darwin on my Vacation

First of all, many thanks to Greg Laden for filling in for me on the blog for the last couple of weeks while I was away on my much-needed vacation. Where did I go? Mainly to Cambridge, England, but my travels also took me to Cardiff (in Wales), London and Paris.I went to Cambridge to visit some fri...

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Charles Darwin at museum. Photo by Sarah Zielinski




First of all, many thanks to Greg Laden for filling in for me on the blog for the last couple of weeks while I was away on my much-needed vacation. Where did I go? Mainly to Cambridge, England, but my travels also took me to Cardiff (in Wales), London and Paris.



I went to Cambridge to visit some friends, not to see any of the Charles Darwin-related sites, such as his room at Christ's College. And though I had intended to see the movie Creation about Darwin (which I will blog about sometime in the next couple of weeks), it seemed that almost everywhere I turned, except for Cardiff, I couldn't avoid the man.



The first hint came on a tour of Cambridge, where Darwin was one of the four scientists proudly touted as having a connection to the university (the other two were Francis Crick and James Watson, who discovered the structure of DNA while working at the university, and Rosalind Franklin, a Cambridge alum whose X-ray data was used in their discovery).



The next day, on the hunt for ichthyosaurs, I headed to the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences. The museum is tiny but crammed with an enormous number of fossils and rock samples in dozens of old-fashioned cases. At one end, easily overlooked in one glass-topped case, sits several small fossils that Darwin found while on his Beagle journey. And the other end is dominated by a brand new exhibition, Darwin the Geologist, which highlights Darwin's geological finds.



Even an afternoon in the Cambridge Botanic Garden had its Darwin connection: The garden was begun by Cambridge professor John Stevens Henslow, best known for inspiring Darwin in natural science.



In London, a few days later, I headed to the Natural History Museum. Surely I would not encounter Darwin if I skipped their new Darwin Centre. Wrong. Just last year the museum restored their life-size statue of the man to its original place in the Central Hall.



By that time, I realized that since Darwin was everywhere I looked, I might as well join my friends on a visit to Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum to see the Endless Forms exhibition about how visual arts influenced Darwin and how Darwin's theories and discoveries then influenced visual arts.



By the time I left for Paris, however, I thought that that was the last of Darwin on my vacation. But I was wrong. Strolling through the Jardin des Plantes, there was the man peeking up from little displays on topics such as pollination and co-evolution.



This truly is the Year of Darwin. At least on my vacation.
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About Sarah Zielinski
Sarah Zielinski

Sarah Zielinski is an award-winning science writer and editor. She is a contributing writer in science for Smithsonian.com and blogs at Wild Things, which appears on Science News.

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