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University to celebrate anniversary

Liz O'Donell | Thursday, February 5, 2009

Today marks the beginning of a yearlong celebration of Charles Darwin’s life that will take place at Notre Dame.

“Darwin at Notre Dame” is a series of events that will take place at the University through the rest of this school year as well as into the next in order to commemorate the life and works of the esteemed scientist.

Margaret Culhane, a senior majoring in Biology and the Program of Liberal Studies, said the planning for this celebration has been taking place for around two years.

“I have been actively involved in “Darwin at Notre Dame” since August, though I do research as a research assistant for Phil Sloan who had me compiling lists of Darwin events all last year,” she said, “I know that planning for the events has been underway since 2007 at least.”

2009 marks the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his most famous work, “On the Origin of Species.”

On the official Web site of the celebration, John McGreevy, Dean of the College of Arts and Letters said, “That Notre Dame would celebrate, and investigate Darwin’s accomplishments is especially appropriate, given the long history of interaction between Catholicism and modern science, from the geneticist monk Gregor Mendel to scholars working at the Vatican Observatory.”

The calendar of events corresponding with the celebration begins today at 5:30 p.m. The film “Inherit the Wind” will be shown.

Jon Vickers, Managing Director of Performing Arts, will also give a lecture about the connection between the film and the drama “The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial”.

The drama is based off transcripts from the famed 1925 Scopes-Monkey Trial. It will be shown Friday, Saturday, and Sunday according to the event’s Web site.

Another activity of the Website’s schedule held this month will be an International Playwright’s Conference on Darwin and Theater, from Feb. 23-26, focusing on the discussion of migration and evolution.

At the end of the month, from Feb. 24 to March 1, there will be the first American showing of Guernica, a drama written by Yiannis Lymtsioulis. The play is about the suspicious sinking of a refugee ship in 1997, according to Web site’s event page.

Throughout the month of March, the Snite Museum will be holding an exhibit entitled “In the Wake of the Beagle: Darwin in Latin America 1831-1836.” This will be housed in the Scholz Family Gallery for Work on Paper, further information can be found on the Web site.

In addition, the Snite Museum will be holding a reception for the exhibit on March 5th in the Atrium, according to the Web site.

The Glynn Family Honors Program will host a conference that will take place the weekend of April 3-4. The symposium is entitled “Evolution of Age: Multidisciplinary Reflections on Darwin 150 years later.” This event can be found on the Darwin Web site.

This conference was planned, designed, and organized by a group of Notre Dame seniors, and is geared towards undergraduate students.

“Our academic speakers are coming from institutions like the Vatican Observatory, the University of Chicago, and Harvard University,” Culhane said, who was one of the students on the planning committee, “they are excellent researchers who have all committed to presentations that will both deepen and broaden our understanding of Darwin and evolution as it stands today.”

In addition to the events that will be taking place, students will also have the opportunity to take classes to learn more about Darwin. For the Spring 2009 semester, three courses were available for students to take. One is a biology class focusing on the topic of evolution. The other two classes are philosophy classes with one emphasizing the life and works of Darwin and the latter focusing on its effects in the 21st century. All course offerings can be found on the Darwin Web site.

Culhane said that there are many ways that people today can learn from Darwin.

“Darwin pushed the intellectual limits of his society; he treated man as an organic being and explored humanity’s history in an innovative manner,” she said, “His intellectual curiosity is an asset for which we should all strive.”