14 February 2009

Darwin Day in London: my live-tweets, pics, vids and thoughts

By popular demand, and as promised on Twitter, I have a clutch of photos, video and a few reflections of my Darwin Day in London to share with you.

I figured the best way to do this is to paste the text of my string of Darwin Day live-tweets right into this post, then add the pictures and video in-line with the feed, all the better for your vicarious enjoyment of Darwin Day as experienced from inside those hearts of Darwindom on Earth: the Linnean Society of London and the Natural History Museum.

A few notes before I begin so that you can tell what's what:
  • The tweets are in reddish italics and my retrospection is in plain 'ol black.
  • I've deleted some of the less relevant tweets, for example automatic twitterfeeds from this blog, replies to other tweeps that make no sense in this context, boring links, etc.
  • #Darwin and #Beagle are 'hashtags' which, according to hashtags.org are 'a community-driven convention for adding additional context and metadata to your tweets. They're like tags on Flickr, only added inline to your post.'
  • @gruts and @cephalopodcast, for example, are Twitter "@replies" which indicate that I am either replying to someone else's tweet or linking to someone else's Twitter feed.
  • I imported the tweets into this post last night around 10pm, which is useful to know when you get to the entries that say, for example, "11:06am yesterday" or "about 23 hours ago".
Okay, here goes!

Test tweet from virgin mobile (in more ways than one).
8:39 PM Feb 11th

@gruts @rdmpage See penultimate tweet. W00t! Looks like I'll be live-tweeting the VIP #Darwin event at the Natural History Museum tmorrow.
8:42 PM Feb 11th in reply to gruts

Wondering whether I will get presents under my evolutionary tree in the morning. #Darwin
10:55 PM Feb 11th

Nope, but I did get my free copy of Open University's Tree of Life poster through my mail slot, which is a pretty darn close second. Even closer would have been a shiny new Beagle, but I guess that's a little too much to hope for (or is it?).

Good morning one & all and happy Darwin Day! There is indeed 'grandeur in this view of life' (psst don't forget to use the hashtag #Darwin )
9:21 AM yesterday

@rmacpherson Won't go to Westminster (entry fee is daylight robbery), but WILL live-tweet #Darwin Day culminating in NHM VIP party @ 7:30pm
11:54 AM yesterday in reply to rmacpherson

Though I didn't go to Westminster Abbey, Rick, it looks like Mark Pallen did, and he brought with him very special guests Lauri Lebo (a journalist who covered the Dover Pennsylvania trial and author of The Devil in Dover) and Cindy Sneath (one of the plaintiffs in the Dover trial). Lauri wrote a guest post on Pallen's blog about their trip to see Darwin's gravestone (right).

All dressed up for museum #Darwin do; even wearing special Pampas (not pompous!) bracelet, a nod to #Beagle voyage.
1:42 PM yesterday

Just scored last-minute ticket to Linnean Society for awarding of Darwin-Wallace medals http://tinyurl.com/bmg7o4 (Fellows only) #Darwin
2:29 PM yesterday

The Darwin-Wallace medals (front and back of the medal, above, respectively) are awarded only every 50 years. The first medal (the only gold medal) was awarded to Wallace himself in 1908. Subsequent medals have all been silver. This year the medals were awarded to '13 outstanding scientists for work in “major advances in evolutionary biology since 1958”'.

Tweeting from London Underground, on my way to Linnean Society for #Darwin-Wallace medals (7 months late, ahem)
4:08 PM yesterday

Am in Linnean Society now right next to the big paintings of #Darwin and Wallace, am sitting next to Adrian Glover.
4:23 PM yesterday

Left: the painting of Darwin in the Linnean Society seminar room.
Right: enlargement of the plaque under the painting.

Linnean pres reviewing former winners including wallace, hooker, fisher, haeckel, haldane, mayr, watson. #Darwin
4:39 PM yesterday

Linnean Society President David Cutler reviewing previous winners of the Darwin-Wallace medals, including Joseph Dalton Hooker, one of Darwin's mentors and director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Now onto this year's medalsts including 3 whole women! (lynn margulis, linda partridge and rosemary grant) #Darwin
4:54 PM yesterday

At the Linnean Society, the stairs from the seminar room, where the medal ceremony took place, up to the library, where there was a post-ceremony party complete with wine, nibbles and singing...

Awesome: On (medalist) Joe Felsenstein's request, whole room sang happy bday to charlie, including not a few FRS's. #Darwin
6:22 PM yesterday

I had hoped that I might capture the singing on my camera for YouTube but I wasn't quick enough ...nor was I brave enough to ask the room for a reprise.

The library of the Linnean Society (not my photo - reproduced from Linnean Society website)

My rather terrible photo from inside the Linnean Society library, looking out across the street at the Wedgwood shop ...seemed appropriate!

Almost time for main event at NHM. Apparently NZ & Aussie high commissioners & Chinese ambassador are coming. #Darwin
6:50 PM yesterday

Me: Tonight Linn Soc gave medals to eminent scientists. Friend: Were you one of them? *snort* excellent!!
7:04 PM yesterday

Museum looks gorgeous; big 200 cake; Just saw Steve Jones & chatted w George Beccaloni, 'Wallace's Rottweiler'
7:36 PM yesterday

As I said the other day, I'm a little miffed at Steve Jones for writing this piece in the Telegraph last week. I have a special rant I've been writing for the last few days. Hoping to post it tomorrow, the last day for Blog For Darwin.

View of Darwin's birthday party in the central hall of the Natural History Museum, taken from just in front of Darwin's statue, looking back towards the entrance of the museum.

It's moments like these that I think I must be one of the luckiest people on earth.

Speeches now about 'darwin's paternity claims' in so many fields of science, ..and humanitarianism!
7:46 PM yesterday

One of the speakers was Melvyn Bragg of BBC Radio 4's In Our Time fame. I caught most of his speech (missed out the first couple of sentences) on digital video and uploaded it to YouTube:

Melvyn Bragg on Darwin, whose statue looms, illuminated, in the upper right-hand corner of the frame.

Rarrgh! It's the natural, not national, history museum, mr. Secretary of state. #Darwin
7:56 PM yesterday

Even after all that #Darwin-ising, still have just enough time to nip to Apple store & pick up newly repaired laptop.
9:05 PM yesterday

Party favours! Royal mail #Darwin stamps & special Newcastle beer 'Darwin's Natural Selection'!
9:51 PM yesterday

Party favours included the Royal Mail Darwin Presentation Pack containing the Darwin Stamp Set (top) and the Darwin Miniature Sheet (middle - note Floreana mockingbird!) and a limited edition Pale Ale, "Natural Selection" (bottom) made by Newcastle's Centre for Life and the Darwin Brewery in Sunderland.

Mad sprint to Apple to pick up repaired laptop upon which debate w 'Genius' about whether #Darwin truly greatest Briton!
10:16 PM yesterday

Nom nom nom #Darwin's 200th birthday cake at Natural History Museum bash was dark chocolate w plenty of frosting; pre-nom pics coming soon
about 24 hours ago

Surprisingly fancy dinosaur poo Darwin's birthday cake surrounded by orchids (appropriate!) just under the tail-end of the cast of the huge Diplodocus fossil that dominates the central hall.

@gruts 'Are you sure you're allowed to announce the itineraries of foreign diplomats like that?' Uh.. er.. probably not, but too late now!
about 23 hours ago in reply to gruts

Happy birthday not only to #Darwin but also to the much more extant @cephalopodcast
about 23 hours ago

Me 'n' Charles on the occasion of his 200th birthday. Note the new plaque which reads ‘Freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds, which follows from the advance of science.’ Excellent, only that both the plaque itself and the NHM website attribute this quote to Darwin but searches on Darwin Online for "freedom of thought", "gradual illumination" and "best promoted" did not yield any hits. I'm concerned. Maybe Mark Pallen, Richard Carter or Michael Barton would care to chase this up.

Update: Here comes Michael Barton to save the day! He notes in comments that I should have searched both Darwin Online and the Darwin Correspondence Project, and that if I had I would have seen that the quote is in fact attributable to Darwin. See Michael's comment for the full context of the quote, i.e. the text of an 1880 letter from Darwin to E.B. Aveling.


Rick MacPherson said...

karen wrote:
It's moments like these that I think I must be one of the luckiest people on earth.

as i'm green with envy, i have to agree

Anonymous said...

One must search Darwin Online and the website for the Darwin Correspondence Project. From an 1880 letter to E.B. Aveling:

"Dear Sir

I am much obliged for your kind letter & the enclosure.— The publication in any form of your remarks on my writings really requires no consent on my part, & it would be ridiculous in me to give consent to what requires none.— I shd. prefer the Part or Volume not to be dedicated to me (though I thank you for the intended honour) as this implies to a certain extent my approval of the general publication, about which I know nothing.— Moreover though I am a strong advocate for free thought on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men's minds, which follows from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science. I may, however, have been unduly biassed by the pain which it would give some members of my family, if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion.—

I am sorry to refuse you any request, but I am old & have very little strength, & looking over proof-sheets (as I know by present experience) fatigues me much.—

I remain Dear Sir | Yours faithfully | Ch. Darwin"

Eric Heupel said...

Sounds like you had a splendid time!
And you deserved to have had it too.

Like Rick I am green with envy!

Karen James said...

Three cheers for Michael Barton!

Michael said...

Karen, I'm jealous! It looks like so much fun, especially the party in the Nat History Museum with cake and disco lighting. So what did people do to the Richard Owen statue? Was it draped in black cloth?

Glendon Mellow said...

cheer #1!

I think our local museum is having a dinosaur made out of balloons this weekend...


Amazing updates, Karen!

Karen James said...

Michael, the Richard Owen statue was moved up the stairs to the left of Darwin, and is in an alcove up there. The Huxley statue was also even more recently moved up the stairs to the right of Darwin, to an alcove mirroring Owen's.

Lauri said...

I wanted to thank you, Karen, for your terrific behind-the-scenes tour of the London Museum of Natural History. Getting to see Darwin's specimens sent back from the Galapagos Islands was just an amazing treat. Thank you for making it possible.

Lauri Lebo

Karen James said...

Lauri, the pleasure was all mine. Thank you for your commitment to truth in journalism (and beyond), especially in relation to the American evolution controversy. I haven't read your book yet but having just read the reviews, it's now on the top of my list!