Welcome to the first post of the Darwin Correspondence Project’s schools blog!
At a recent Schools Masterclass as part of the Science Festival, pupils were asked to name what they knew about Darwin. Unsurprisingly the most common association was with evolution and natural selection but the £10 note was also mentioned. We wondered what can Darwin’s correspondence teach us about the man on the money?
After studying letters sent to Darwin during his Beagle voyage, pupils were asked to consider how they would have transported specimens back to England from the other side of the world in the nineteenth century. What part of a plant would they send? What packing materials would be used? What would be the advantage of sending back dead animal specimens over live ones? The letters show us that, at this stage, the young explorer had a lot to learn.
They also discussed letters from later life in greater detail to understand how Darwin’s research methods worked. How do you find out about plants and animals in faraway places if you can’t get there yourself? You write letters to ask others to find out information for you. Darwin’s reliance on the contributions of others is clear, as his gratitude and respect for the 2000 people who were happy to correspond with him and to carry out research. His team of helpers included family members of whom he was particularly appreciative.
When asked at the end of the class what they knew about Darwin, the pupils had a whole lot more to say about the man on the £10 note.