Celebrating Charles Darwin's Evolutionary Legacy Through Darwin Day
February 12, 2014

Celebrating Charles Darwin’s Evolutionary Legacy Through Darwin Day

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

For most people, February 12 is just another day; it comes 10 days after Groundhog Day and two days before St. Valentine’s Day. But this day does have special meaning for some.

On a scientific note, Feb 12 marks the day a meteor left a large impact crater in Sikhote-Alin, Soviet Union (1947). It is also the day NASA’s NEAR Shoemaker landed on 433 Eros (2001), becoming the first spacecraft to successfully land on an asteroid.

Also, Feb. 12 is celebrated in the US as the birthdate of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. Interestingly enough, Lincoln, who was born on Feb 12, 1809, shares his day of birth with another famous historical figure.

Charles Darwin, known around the world for his work in evolutionary theory, was born this day in 1809.

Darwin, who was the first to posit that all life on Earth descended from common ancestors, made it his life work to study the evolutionary traits of living things around the world. His 1859 book On the Origin of Species,’ which was published on his birthday, was the basis of scientific understanding of evolution.

Also, Darwin had earlier embarked on a five-year expedition (1831-36) aboard the HMS Beagle, which later established him as an eminent geologist. A book he wrote about his voyage also established him as a popular author.

After a long life of discoveries and scientific theories, some not without controversy, Darwin passed away on April 19, 1882. While he was gone, his legacy was not. In commemoration of his life’s work in the field of science, Darwin Day celebrations are held on Feb. 12 of each year.

While there is no direct date that is attributed as the inauguration of Darwin Day, celebrations and tributes to the notable scientist have been organized almost immediately following his death.

On the centennial of his birthdate (1909), more than 400 scientists from 167 countries met in Cambridge to honor Darwin’s contributions to science and to discuss recent discoveries and related theories vying for acceptance. The event was widely reported.

The New York Academy of Sciences also held a 100th birthday celebration for Darwin at the American Museum of Natural History, unveiling a bronze bust statue of Darwin.

The University of Georgia (UGA) also holds an annual Darwin Day celebration, first brought to the school by Prof Mark Farmer in 2009, just in time to celebrate the 150-year anniversary of Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’ book and the 200-year anniversary of his birth. The University celebrates the impact that Darwin's work had on the scientific community through a series of lectures around campus.

Many other organizations, institutions and agencies also celebrate Darwin Day each year and this year there is no short supply of events related to the father of evolutionary theory.

The International Darwin Day Foundation is a nonprofit educational corporation that was established to promote public education about science and to encourage the celebration of science and humanity throughout the global community.

The foundation’s website is a one-stop source for everything Darwin and hosts information on all the celebratory events that take place on and around Feb 12.

While organizations, schools, institutions, agencies and others are busy celebrating one of the greatest evolutionary scientists to have ever lived, another scientist is taking this day to immortalize Darwin by honoring him with the distinction of having his name tied to a new genus of insect.

The insect, which was among specimens that were discovered during Darwin’s five-year-long journey aboard the HMS Beagle, was recently rediscovered and described by Dr Stylianos Chatzimanolis, an entomologist at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

The insect is described as a new genus and species of rove beetles, a group of insects with more than 57,000 described species. The scientific name of the beetle has been named Darwinilus sedarsi. The genus name of course is in honor of Charles Darwin, while the epithet (sedarsi) is in honor of Mr David Sedaris, a US writer.

Chatzimanolis published his findings in the open-access journal ZooKeys.