The Friends of Charles Darwin were officially founded 20 years ago today, on 2nd March, 1994.
On that date, my co-founder, Fitz, and I posted a letter to the Chief Cashier of the Bank of England, in which we drew the bank's attention to a ‘glaring omission’: Charles Darwin had been overlooked on their bank notes! We pointed out that Darwin's image ‘would add some much-needed dignity to the family of British bank notes’, and asked if it would be a good idea if we arranged a petition. Then we began collecting names.
A little over six years later, the Bank of England announced that Charles Darwin would soon replace Charles Dickens on the £10 note.
To be honest, I suspect the bank's decision to grant Darwin his rightful place on one of their bank notes had very little, if anything, to do with our campaign: Darwin was the obvious choice for the next person to appear on a note. Our campaign was just supposed to be a bit of fun: collecting the names of like-minded people who were prepared to declare ‘Charlie is my Darwin’, and who relished the idea of seeing Darwin on a bank note, and of putting the letters FCD (Friend of Charles Darwin) after their names. Which is why we've continued to take on new members long after Darwin finally appeared in all his bearded magnificence on the tenner:
Nowadays, arranging online petitions is a piece of cake: it's as easy as asking people to click a ‘Like’ button on Facebook. But back in our early days, having a website at all was pretty damn impressive. The Friends of Charles Darwin first appeared on the web some time in 1995. I shudder to realise how dreadful our website must have looked by modern website standards. Fortunately, the internet archive doesn't go that far back. But, as an indicator of how bad it was, here's our first logo:
But who cares if it all looked (and still looks) a bit amateurish? That's the whole point! The Friends of Charles Darwin is a fan club, set up for our fellow Darwin groupies. And an amateur is someone who does something for love, not profit. Just like Charles Darwin, in fact.
Happy Anniversary to us!
And here's to the next 20 years!