WWU to Mark Charles Darwin Anniversaries

Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution, it seems, have always been controversial. Mary Spratt, William Woods University Cox Distinguished Professor of Biology, hopes to shed some light on what is now recognized as a leading work in natural philosophy and in the history of mankind.


Darwin was the first of the evolutionary biologists, the originator of the concept of natural selection. His principal works, “The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection” (1859) and “The Descent of Man” (1871), marked a new era. His works were both attacked and defended—then and now.


Spratt said, “Evolution is one of only a handful of main ideas in biology. It [evolution] is the single core idea that unifies the diverse field of biology and makes sense of why there is both a unity of life and the great diversity of living things.”


She added, “Darwin’s documentation and arguments were so detailed and extensive that he is the one we principally associate with this idea. It is both a simple idea once it is understood, and one that applies to every aspect of biology–‘elegant in its simplicity.’”


Marking the 200-year anniversary of his birth (Feb. 12, 1809) and the 150-year anniversary of the publication of his book, “Origin of Species,” Spratt will host two events in the Library Auditorium that are free and open to the public.


On Monday (Feb. 9), she will present, “What Evolution is Really About,” a movie and discussion at 4:15 p.m. It is a general video on evolution, evidences of it, what happens and why it is an important concept.


On Tuesday (Feb. 10) at 6:30 p.m., Spratt will show the movie “Inherit the Wind,” the somewhat fictionalized version of the famous Scopes “monkey” trial that occurred in Tennessee in 1925 when a young biology teacher was tried for having taught the idea of evolution to his high school biology class.


The movie will serve as a vehicle for discussing the separation of church and state and how 83 years later the same battle is being fought in many states regarding the teaching of evolution. Professor Mary Mosely will also be involved in leading the discussion


Because of the proximity to Darwin’s birthday, new members of the William Woods Beta Beta Beta (Tri Beta) chapter, a national biological honors society, will be initiated on Wednesday. To commemorate the actual birthday on Thursday, the Biology Club and Tri Beta will host a birthday party for Darwin over the lunch hour.  


Spratt hopes that students can learn more about evolution.


“The special events are partly to increase student’s awareness of the history of science, dispel some of the mistaken ideas about evolution, and partly just for fun!”


For more information, contact Spratt at (573) 592-1143 or mspratt@williamwoods.edu.