The Evolution of Darwin: Exhibition in the Library

Published on
February 1, 2009

2009 has been declared the Year of Darwin. Charles Darwin was born 200 years ago and his most important book, The Origin of Species, appeared 150 years ago. The debate about and the research on Darwin's theory of evolution and its scope are still on-going. The exhibition "The Evolution of Darwin" has recently opened in the Forum Library. The Wageningen UR Library owns editions of almost all of Darwin's works that appeared in his life time, or translations thereof, and these form the staple of the exhibition. What immediately stands out in the exhibition is the breadth of Darwin's scientific interest from geology and biology to sociology and psychology. On closer consideration, all of his works proved to have a link to his theory of evolution.

The most extraordinary object in the exhibition is the book that Darwin gave "With the compliments of the author" to Jacob Krelage (1824-1901), a descendent of the prominent family of flower bulb growers from Haarlem who also bred different varieties of bulbs. The two gentlemen probably met in 1866 at a congress in London for which Darwin was a member of the organising committee and where Krelage gave a talk.

Charles Darwin is part of a long tradition of scientific expeditions and species research. In addition to his trip with the Beagle, Darwin's knowledge was based on literature studies. Because of this, the exhibition also gives attention to the travel accounts and the treatises that helped Darwin along his way. The influence of his scientific friends in the areas of geology and botany was immense. However, he also found literature outside of the scientific world that inspired him.

Even during his life, we see that the theoretical formation of Darwin's theory of evolution went its own way. Because of Hugo de Vries' s mutation theory, Mendel's Laws of Heredity, and Watson and Crick's discovery of the function of DNA, among other things, evolutionary biology still has a place in science at Wageningen.

The exhibition is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm until 29 May in the Forum Library's Special Collections reading room. Every Friday from 12.30-1.30 pm, a talk will be given on the exhibition in Dutch and/or English.

(newsletter 2-2009)