Are you a fan of the 19th Century
scientist, Charles Darwin?
If so, this website is for you!
This website aims to draw together key publications, media and websites on Charles Darwin for the enthusiast.
I have a real love of the countryside around Downe and have a deep interest in Charles Darwin, having helped manage a number of sites he knew well.
I have created some children’s stories that are set in real places around Downe which I can easily visualise and which I hope readers will get a sense of too.
People often focus on the exotic species Darwin discovered when on his Beagle voyage, but I wanted to highlight the amazing range of wildlife that could, and can still, be found in south-east England in an area Darwin knew well and studied intensively.
The stories are based on many true facts gleaned from writings of Charles Darwin and his family. Read 'The Truth Behind the Fiction' by opening the PDF here.
The stories give the reader a chance to eavesdrop on discussions between a wild, native animal and Charles Darwin, where he explains some of the scientific investigations he is doing. The stories are titled:
Darwin & The Fox
Darwin & The Field Mouse
Darwin & The Duck
Darwin & The Roman Snail
Darwin & The Honey Bee
Darwin & The Badger
Darwin & The Newt
Darwin & The Squirrels
Darwin & The Stag Beetles
Darwin & The Butterfly
Darwin & The Lizard
Darwin & The Rabbit
Darwin & The Wren
Darwin & The Spider
The chapters feature pyramidal orchid, round-leaved sundew, toothwort, primroses, cowslips, duckweed, red clover, violets, white mullein, great mullein, white bryony, spindle and autumn gentian too.
An extract from ‘Darwin & The Spider’ is as follows:
‘They listened together to the end of the Mozart piece being played. Darwin then continued the conversation ‘I very much admire the specialist web-secreting apparatus you have. The fact that you can spin such amazing webs and make your way across spaces by throwing out web-lines is fascinating.’ ‘Yes, we spiders like to think of ourselves as quite unique’. She replied, puffing up her body with a sense of pride. ‘But may I make the point that emerged young spiders at first spin an irregular web and only gradually learn to make a larger and finer one so that practice and experience play a great part’.
Meet the characters and the settings of 'Darwin's Wild Pursuits Around Downe' by printing off (for home or school use only) all the illustrations prepared for the book! Not all could be used in the printed version of the book due to lack of space!
Though I state in ‘The Truth Behind the Fiction’ that ‘as far as we know Darwin didn’t talk to’ animals, in my heart I wouldn’t be surprised if he did! Despite his earlier youth of catching and shooting animals left, right and centre, I have read a number of references in which Darwin is seen by others as a lover of animals. For example, Alphonse de Candolle (1806-1893), a Swiss botanist wrote, following a visit to Down House ‘One thing struck me, although it is not rare in England, where animals are loved. A heifer and a colt were feeding close to us with the tranquillity which tells of good masters, and I heard the joyful barking of dogs.’ Indeed, his 1872 book, ‘The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals’ Darwin points out the evolutionary continuity of man and other animals in the expression of emotion. He wrote: "The community of certain expressions in distinct though allied species, as in the movements of the same facial muscles during laughter by man and by various monkeys, is rendered somewhat more intelligible, if we believe in their descent from a common progenitor."
'Darwin's Wild Pursuits Around Downe' is aimed at children of 9-11 years of age and includes a number of illustrations by the artist Diana Catchpole. The stories can be used to support children in their learning of Evolution & Inheritance’, a new National Curriculum topic. Look at 'Teachers! Use the Stories!'