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Thoughts on Visiting Darwin’s Home, Down House

I am always interested in seeing how countries and cultures honor their scientists, thinkers, and innovators. Today, entertainers and athletes get the bulk of popular acclaim. I don’t begrudge their fame—it is well deserved—but it is always nice to see when people who have advanced our understanding of the world in profound ways get their due. On a trip to Britain in August, I finally got to realize a lifelong dream and visit the home where Charles Darwin lived and worked the last forty years of his life (1842–1882), Down House. In a secluded rural area of Kent, southeast of London, it is where he researched and wrote On the Origin of Species.

It is where he carried out studies and observations that led not only to his theory of evolution by natural selection (codiscovered independently by Alfred Russell Wallace) which he published in 1859 but to an amazing variety of other groundbreaking papers and books (he was the world’s expert on barnacles; he loved and studied worms; he measured plant movements; he was an astute geologist) that have made Darwin one of the preeminent scientific figures of all time.

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