Darwin came to my attention as a student in Junior High School, when we studied the impact of the publication of 'on the Origin of Species' and his theory of evolution.
Being an avid bird watcher and animal lover as well as plantswoman, I have spent the rest of my life observing similarites and differences in species and pondering on how one plant, bird or animal may have evolved from another. Indeed, one of the great joys of life is the act of endless observations and hypothesising around them.
Travelling the world has only added to my fascination with evolution and indeed with Darwin himself. Last year my travels to Kenya and Tanzania left me in awe of the acacia. The leaves are instantly identifiable; familiar to any Australian, yet so locationally diverse. All fix nitrogen into the soil. All are fabulous food sources and homes to a plethora of other living species. It seems, Darwin himself is never far away as I ponder such things, mentoring me through such observations!
Similarly the solacea family of plants (potato/tomato family). Starlings. Cranes, Magpies.... variation and adaptations determined by place, vegetation and climate. Evolution is evident all around me.
All life is connected; and my own connection with Darwin keeps growing. To me, he is the greatest mind of the nineteenth century and arguably has had an even more profound and longstanding impact on our modern world than other scientific icons of their time, such as Leonardo Da Vinci, or Gallileo Gallilae. Certainly, for anyone fascinated by the natural history, Charles Darwin remains the naturalist whose thinking transformed the way we perceive the world.
I now own a copy of 'on the Origin of Species' and can highly recommend it as a fascinating read. Not only is it of incredible scientific and historical interest, Darwin's iconic book is a fascinating and enriching read in its own right. His narrative style as he describes the details of pigeons he is experimenting with at his home, or cross pollination experiments he conducted in his garden is as lively as any Victorian narrative I have ever read.
I also love 'Darwin's Garden', by Michael Boulter. This biography, details the relationship of Darwin between his family and the scientific community, as well as exploring Darwin's extensive experiments he conducted at Downe House, his home, where he wrote The Origin of Species and conducted experiments to support his theory of evolution. It also explores his growing passions for botany and biology as a young man, studying in fact,to become a member of the clergy!
'Darwin's Notebook, the Life, Times and Discoveries of Charles Robert Darwin' written and compled by Jonathan Clements, is another delight. Alive with illustrations, photos, diary entries and more it chronicles the often vexed development of Charles Darwin, who was by no means an academically gifted student, nor the confident man about town we imagine such a world changing man to be. It catalogues his voyage on the Beagle and many more formative and legendary points throughout this extraordinary man's life.
An excellent film was produced by the BBC to mark 150 anniversary since the publication of 'on the Origin of Species'. 'Creation'; the story of Charles Darwin. It too explores the difficult life of this iconic scientist, the prolonged and conflicting emotions he had around publishing his findings on evolution and his debilitating chronic health problems.
Most recently I visited Down House, Darwin's rather palatial home in Kent and a short journey from London. Both Darwin and his wife and first-cousin Emma were grandchildren of Charles Wedgewood, of fine bone china and decorative arts fame. Arguably, had Darwin not been independantly wealthy in his own right, thanks to chance of birth, this world-changing man may never had the time, nor opportunity to work for so long to develop, let alone publish his life's work and make such an extraordinary contribution to perceptions and concepts that make up 'the living world', as we know and define it today. There is something to be said for independant income; Charles Darwin certainly made good use of 'the family fortune; it has become an inheritence of which we are all benefactors!