Setting the record straight

At the mulled wine reception at the Natural History Museum last Friday evening, to my great embarrassment, Karen and Peter from the Beagle Project kept introducing me to assorted scientists as the chap who got Darwin on the £10 note. When I saw the delighted look on the scientists' faces, I would immediately and mumblingly explain that I had campaigned to have Darwin on a banknote, but that I didn't think the campaign had had much influence on the Bank of England's eventual choice. After my second mumbling qualifier, I began to suspect that Karen and Peter were doing it deliberately.

The Darwin tenner made the press again last week, when Prof. Steve Jones criticised the depiction of a hummingbird on the back of the note. For the record, although I have nothing at all against the delightful creatures, I did always think that a hummingbird was a pretty odd choice for the Darwin tenner. Not because, as Prof. Jones points out, you do not get hummingbirds on the Galápagos Islands, but because there are an awful lot of other species with far closer Darwinian associations which would have made a more appropriate choice: Galápagos tortoises, mockingbirds and finches, Darwin's rhea, beetles, pigeons, orchids, insectivorous plants, barnacles, the humble earthworm.

But, the simple truth is, all species should forever be associated with Darwin, because Darwin came up with the brilliantly simple explanation of how they are all related, and how they all evolved.

I suspect, however, that the famously modest Darwin would feel uneasy having the entirety of life's grandeur forever associated with his name.

Pesky British modesty!

Richard Carter, FCD

Writer and photographer Richard Carter, FCD is the founder of the Friends of Charles Darwin. He lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteNewsletterMastodonetc…

One comment

  1. Last night my wife and I saw a lecture by Neil deGrasse Tyson here in Portland, OR (USA). At one point he was showing images of scientists on various currency, and the scientific imagery portrayed with them - diagrams, instruments, etc. He showed the the ten pound note, and questioned why, when everyone knows Darwin and finches are inseparable, did they put a hummingbird on the note?

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