Monday, 20 October 2008

Darwin shouted at and played piano to worms

by Derry Nairn

A lesser well-known book of Darwin's (his last, in fact) is ‘The formation of vegetable mould through the action of worms: with observations on their habits’, wherein the famous Victorian scientist concluded that worms had no sense of hearing. This was the result of the creatures making no response to
“shrill notes from a metal whistle, which was repeatedly sounded near them; nor did they hear the deepest and loudest tones of a bassoon. They were indifferent to shouts, if care was taken that the breath did not strike them. When placed on a table close to the keys of a piano, which was played as loudly as possible, they remained perfectly quiet.”
A new exhibition opens next week in the main library at University College London, where Darwin lived for a period. Included is a first edition of the Origin of Species and personal correspondence with the polymath Galton. There is also a talk on the opening night: UCL Professor Steve Jones will expand on the topic of what Darwinism tells us – and does not tell us – about our own place in nature.

More information can be found on this website.

Its all part of Darwin200: a national programme of events celebrating Charles Darwin’s scientific ideas and their impact, leading up to his two hundredth birthday on 12 February 2009. More information about the event programme can be discovered by clicking here.

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