Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Darwin

"UK marks Darwin's 200th birthday with pride, humor"
Raphael G. Satter (AP)

LONDON – They threw him a party at the Natural History Museum, they trotted out a set of stamps in his honor, and a zoo offered free admission to anyone sporting a beard in recognition of his famous facial hair.

While more than 600 events took place worldwide Thursday to commemorate "Darwin Day" — the 200th anniversary of scientist Charles Darwin's birth — it was a particularly special occasion in his native land.

Darwin enjoys a special pride of place in Britain, where his face adorns the 10-pound note. In a message to Parliament, British Culture Secretary Andy Burnham called the scientist "one of the most influential Britons of all time."

The British are celebrating his birthday with commemorations, lectures — and a good dose of homegrown irreverence. Bristol's zoo offered free entry to anyone sporting a beard, whether real or fake — a homage to Darwin's big bushy white whiskers.

"We had beards of all different colors, shapes and sizes," zoo spokeswoman Lucy Parkinson said. "It was a bit of fun, but also a nod to Darwin" — whose cottony beard fills the 19th century photographs of the aging scientist. More>>

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