Although the Bank of England has finally announced that Charles Darwin is to be celebrated on one of their bank notes, they weren't the first people to recognise his genius. Darwin has already been honoured in many other ways. One of the strangest was his depiction on a sachet of sugar.
I came across this sachet at a business meeting in February 2000. A colleague had just torn it open and stirred the contents into a particularly unpleasant cup of coffee. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw who was depicted on the sachet, and knew that I had to include a scanned copy of it on the Friends of Charles Darwin web site.
Slyly, I scoured the remaining sachets, looking for a pristine example, but to no avail: my colleague had unwittingly selected the very last Darwin sachet. So, trying not to draw too much attention to myself, I carefully placed my personal organiser over the discarded sachet and swept it nonchalantly into my lap.
I think you'll agree, the sachet bears more than a passing resemblance to the Friends of Charles Darwin bank note campaign logo:
Unfortunately, the sugar sachet is misleading in two ways (which is pretty good going on a sugar sachet):
Firstly, the sachet implies that Darwin was the first person to come up with a theory of evolution. He did not. Many people, including Darwin's own grandfather, believed in some form of evolution before Darwin came along. Darwin, however, was the first person to explain correctly how evolution occurs (by means of Natural Selection).
Secondly, the sachet depicts the clichéd image of a straight line of bipedal forms gradually "ascending" from ape to man. Although mankind (excluding Jehovah's Witnesses) undoubtedly did descend from ape-like ancestors, the image gives the misleading impression that it was an inevitable, natural progression. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The human family tree is just that: a tree—branching off in all sorts of directions throughout its convoluted history. Depicting our evolution as a simple straight line does not do us, or Darwin's theory, justice.
But at least the sugar company had the discernment to honour the right person.
This article was published in 2000.
The Friends of Charles Darwin no longer use the crappy bank not logo.