Darwin in the Field: Collecting, Observation and Experiment

A multi-disciplinary conference

Dates: Saturday 11th to Sunday 12th July 2009

This conference will focus on Charles Darwin’s (1809 – 1882) practical
work in the field and examine the geological, zoological and
anthropological data, observations and experiments upon which he built
his subsequent theorizing. It will take place at the Sedgwick Museum of
Earth Sciences in Cambridge as part of the programme of events to mark
Darwin’s 200^th birthday and the 150^th anniversary of the publication
of /On the Origin of Species/. Associated events include a major new
HLF-funded exhibition and original research on Darwin’s work as a
geologist based on the rocks and minerals that he collected on the
Voyage of the /Beagle/ (1831 – 1836) now held in the collections of the

Although the /Beagle /Expedition was Darwin’s major and perhaps most
widely known period of fieldwork activity, we hope this conference will
explore and illuminate how and where he acquired practical skills prior
to the Voyage (such as his fieldtrip to Wales with Sedgwick and his
scientific education in general). The smaller projects that he
subsequently undertook in later years including plant and animal
breeding, barnacles and earthworms could also be examined.

We are also interested in exploring how Darwin collected and documented
objects and what selection criteria he used prior to their inclusion in
his theories and publications. Darwin’s collections are still very much
alive and subsequent scientists have utilised them for different means.
Finally, we are interested in exploring how they relate to present day

We invite papers from historians, museologists and scientists on the
following themes in Darwin’s life and work:

* collecting practices
* experimental/ identification practices in geology, palaeontology,
zoology and chemistry
* systems of naming and classification
* work aboard the Beagle
* theorizing using collected specimens
* field notebooks and drawings
* early scientific education and teachers in scientific practice
* anthropological investigations
* experiments at Down House
* use of Darwin’s collections and/or specimen theorizing in
historical or contemporary scientific practice

If you are interested in presenting a paper, please submit a title and
an abstract of no more than 500 words to Lyall Anderson
([email protected] <mailto:land07