Please note: The campaign to have Charles Darwin celebrated on a Bank of England bank note is now closed (for the very good reason that we've got exactly what we wanted). The following page has been retained for historical interest, and to avoid the curse of missing links (pun intended). All verbs should, therefore, now be read in the past tense.
The Friends of Charles Darwin are campaigning for the commemoration of Charles Darwin on a Bank of England bank note* by the year 2009—the bicentenary of Darwin's birth, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his most famous work, The Origin of Species.
Why a bank note?
Like most countries, the United Kingdom is in the habit of celebrating noteworthy (deceased) citizens on its bank notes. Admittedly, there are other ways of celebrating great national figures, but depiction on a country's currency is something special, reserved for a select few.
Previous and current incumbents on Bank of England notes include: William Shakespeare, Sir Isaac Newton, the Duke of Wellington, Florence Nightingale, George Stephenson, Sir Michael Faraday, Sir Edward Elgar, and Sir John Houblon (Sir John Who-blon?). Conspicuous by his absence, however, is a certain Charles Robert Darwin.
Get real! With the possible exception of Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin is the most influential British scientist in history. His theory of evolution by means of Natural Selection has withstood the test of time, and now underpins the whole of modern biological science. How could there possibly be a more worthy candidate from a nation of such great animal lovers?
So why isn't Darwin on a note already?
Well, the Bank of England reckons that it should not celebrate anyone from the same field as another person already celebrated on an existing note. The argument was that, as Sir Michael Farady was already on a note, Darwin should not be. The fact that Faraday was a physicist, whereas Darwin was a biologist and geologist, does not seem to matter—they were both from the same field ("the sciences"), as far as the Bank of England is concerned.
However, Sir Michael Faraday has now (unfortunately) been removed from the £20 note, to be replaced by the composer Sir Edward Elgar. Evidently, the fact that Elgar was from the same field ("the arts") as another current bank note incumbent, Charles Dickens, does not seem to bother the Bank. Never mind, the tragic loss of Faraday means that there is now a gaping vacancy for a scientist on a British bank note - and one very obvious candidate springs immediately to mind.
Unless, of course, Darwin is seen as too controversial a choice for celebration on a British bank note. (Heaven forbid!)
OK, I'm convinced. How can I help?
That's easy: join The Friends of Charles Darwin.