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Darwin Day Celebration

The Origins and History of DDC

We suspect that ever since Charles Darwin published his famous book, On The Origin of Species that there have been sporadic efforts to celebrate his accomplishments. One, with a recent but prolonged history, was initiated in 1980, at Salem College in Massachusetts. This weeklong event called the Darwin Festival continues to be held each year.

However, the history that leads directly to this Darwin Day Web site was initiated by Dr. Robert ("Bob") Stephens and took place at Stanford University. The first EVENT sponsored by the Stanford Humanists student group and the Humanist Community, was held on April 22, 1995. The famous anthropologist Dr. Donald Johanson, who discovered the early fossil human called ‘Lucy’, gave a lecture entitled "Darwin and Human Origins" to over 600 people in the Kresge Auditorium.

In subsequent years the location and date of the celebration was changed to coincide with Darwin's birthday and was held on, or near, February 12 each year. The success of the venture is reflected in the list of speakers which include Richard Dawkins, 1996; Paul Berg, 1997; Robert Sapolsky, 1998; Douglas Hofstadter, 1999; Michael Shermer, 2001; Robert Stephens and Arthur Jackson, 2003; Robert and Lola Stephens, 2004; and Eugenie Scott, 2005.

In the intervening years, after the original Darwin Day Celebration was established, Bob worked with other groups to expand the idea of celebrating Science and Humanity. Modern cultures, which rely so heavily on scientific knowledge which was developed solely on the basis of human curiosity and ingenuity, had not developed a tradition by which to show appreciation for this phenomenal knowledge system which is largely responsible for providing all of us with the standard of health and prosperity that we enjoy today. Therefore, the Darwin Day celebration was seen as an authentic way to show appreciation to all those, both past and present, who have contributed to the scientific enterprise. The overall goal of the original concept was to recognize the achievements of humanity as represented in the acquisition of verifiable scientific knowledge.

In the year 2000, after a serendipitous meeting between two Darwin enthusiasts, Amanda Chesworth and Bob Stephens -- they co-founded the Darwin Day Program. Bob became Chairman of the Board and President of the nonprofit corporation while Amanda became a member of the Board, Secretary and Executive Director of the Program. Amanda's interest in Darwin complemented that of Dr. Stephens by having had a long-standing interest in Darwinian evolution and also, by having independently hosted previous Darwin events. The third member of the Board was Dr. Massimo Pigliucci who, also independently, initiated an annual Darwin Day event at the University of Tennessee, in 1997. Dr. Pigliucci became the Vice President. Arthur Jackson, who had been involved since the original Darwin Day Celebration in 1995, became a member of the Board in 2002. Much was accomplished during the next 3 years and much of the credit goes to Amanda. The number of EVENTS that took place around the world increased substantially over these years and thousands of people attended these events to learn more about Darwin. More importantly however, they learned about Science and the role of humans in developing the Scientific Method that permitted the acquisition of an enormous amount of verifiable scientific knowledge, that is now available to modern humans. To Amanda's credit, a substantial book was published in 2003 by Tangled Bank Press, entitled Darwin Day Collection One.

Celebrating Science and Humanity within our various cultures throughout the world is an idea that is overdue, and the current mission of Darwin Day is to greatly expand our outreach efforts directed towards a Global Celebration in 2009, Darwin's 200th birthday. Please register your event with us. For current and ongoing information about Darwin Day Celebration please go to our current site here.

Additional independent Darwin Celebrations have also been developed. For instance,  in 1997 the University of Tennessee initiated an annual two-day event sponsored by the Tennessee Darwin Coalition. This web site is an excellent example for other Universities to visit when they are considering the development of a Darwin Day project for their campus.

Baruck College has an interesting Darwin web site with a number of facets to it, that was started in 1998 with an ‘Introduction to Charles Darwin.’ Subsequent additions took the form of Faculty Development Colloquia and Seminars.

Shrewsbury England is the place where Charles Darwin was born and this small town in the Western Midlands near the Welsh border has had a week long Celebration in early February for the past four years. However, in 2005 they expanded the Celebration to a month-long affair. This impressive Celebration will feature films, speakers, and plays, together with many activities for citizens and visitors alike. They recognize the importance of their "most famous native son" and look forward to expanding their celebration.

A novel way of celebrating Darwin that has its roots in the misty past is to have a "Phylum Feast". This tradition has been nurtured since 1989 by the personnel at the Eastern Biodiversity Museum at Bishop Mills, Canada.

Once our web site was established in 2000 we invited all those around the world who wanted to join  the Celebration of Science and Humanity to register and advertise their events on this site and you can review them here. Note that events take place in many countries and vary from private dinner parties to week-long symposia. Our current objective is to reach out to ever greater numbers of people and organizations to make Darwin Day a truly International Celebration.

No doubt there are other Darwin-related events with historical significance of which we are not currently aware. However, if you will send us your information we will be happy to include it here. Thank you in advance for your assistance.