I doubt there’s a biologist alive that hasn’t realised that 2009 marks a significant bicentennial – the birth of Charles Darwin, a man whose legacy is one of the most profound of any scientist who has ever lived. Conveniently it is also the 150th anniversary of the book that is he is most famous for, “On the Origin of Species”.
A good hub for information on the celebrations would be the Natural History Museum’s Darwin200 site.
I was glad leafing through Chris Miller’s blog today to find out that I’m not the only scientist who has actually never read this book. I actually downloaded the text from Project Gutenberg some years ago and stuck it on my iPod (in the days before I carried a smartphone) with the intention of reading it. It was too long for the iPod reader, so I never got around to it.
In the absence of any formalised New Years Resolutions I promise to go out and find a nice hardbound copy to grace my bookshelf. And read it too.
However, it’s not the only scientific anniversary being celebrated. For those people who are more interested in staring at the sky than staring at living organisms 2009 is also the International Year of Astronomy.
Again, there’s a fantastic dropping off point from the IAU and UNESCO at astronomy2009. But why is this being celebrated? In this case it is the 400th anniversary of the first use of an astronomical telescope by Galileo Galilei, whose legacy is at least as awe inspiring as that of Darwin’s.
With an amateur telescope setup with a CCD camera/webcam capable of producing pictures rivalling that of a 200″ telescope in the 1950′s I always feel it’s a shame that more people don’t stare in awe at the sky. I particularly liked this story on the Physics World site, about how a group of people are going to build a replica of Gallileo’s telescope and image through it, to show what the man himself might have been capable of resolving.
I find it interesting that these are both thinkers who proposed theories that were against the prevailing religious orthodoxy, and in Darwin’s case some even now failing to be accepted by some people of a more closed minded religious persuasion. Maybe all Darwin needs is another 250 years?
Whilst I’m making ad hoc resolutions – I will also use this year to interact more with my local astronomical society, a group of people who I am in frequent email contact with, but have yet to pitch up to the society meetings to join.
I’m proud to be a scientist, and I’m proud of the wonderful achievements science has made, so it will be nice to use these two excellent celebrations to push my own knowledge forward a little more. And not just focused around the computerised science I spend my time on.