DCS: Local Heritage Event:
The Young Darwin at Christ's College

Saturday 12th November 2011 Return to Alumni Events

Darwin College and Darwin College Society have arranged many events with Charles Darwin in mind especially for the two-hundreth anniversary year of the publication of the Origen of Species but his early life in Cambridge has remained reasonably unexplored by the College or DCS. So it was with excitement we met as guests of Christ's College thanks to the help of their Development Director, Catherine Twilley. Once again the trip was fully booked but at the last moment we were told that we could take some extra people and some were able to accept the late opportunity.

In 2009 Christ's College restored the rooms Charles Darwin stayed in whilst at Cambridge and opened them to the public but after the anniversary, they had to revert to working rooms for teaching and Fellows use, although the decor and furnishing of the rooms has been retained. We were privileged to be able to visit the rooms with Catherine as our guide. The amount of research that had gone into the resurrection of the rooms was amazing, including chemically analysing paint flecks in the woodwork before matching the colour. Modern students would not have been able to have the freedom of use of the rooms that Darwin had as shown by the gun hanging on the wall for his hunting enjoyment and the basket for his dog. The bedroom is small but comfortable.

The Bedroom Used by Darwin

Catherine Twilley in Darwin's Rooms

The Darwin Garden and Bronze

The Portico and Bust of Darwin

Catherine Twilley was a well-versed guide and answered the many questions with a lot of knowledge before taking us to a lecture room to meet Professor Jim Secord who has been the Director of the Darwin Correspondence Project since 2006. The project has just reached volume 19 which will be published next year but the final number of volumes is projected to reach 30 volumes by which time an estimated 15,000 letters written to and from Charles Darwin will have been reviewed. Professor Secord is also a Fellow of the College and a Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge. We could not have wished for a more knowledgable or enthusiastic speaker. He took us through aspects of Charles Darwin's early life at school and at the universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge as well as his life in London after the Beagle voyage and showed how many of the lessons he learnt during this period helped and directed him in later life. He showed that Darwin was not a lazy student but probably worked very hard although not always on his divinity studies. Even the Glutton Club was group dedicated to tasting new foods which was a popular pastime at that period and not necessarily a such a waste of study time or the over-eating orgy that is often believed.

Jim Secord was an excellent speaker who knew his subject to the smallest detail and held us tranfixed. All of us came away with new ideas about Darwin and his character and were very impressed with our speaker.

We retired to Darwin College after admiring the Darwin Garden with it's impressive bronze and portico, for a very nice lunch with wine. Jim Secord joined us still with all of his enthusiasm for discusion about Darwin. It was a most impressive trip, one of our best, and huge thanks go to Catherine Twilley, Jim Secord and the Darwin College kitchen staff especially Paul.


(Click on the pictures for larger versions) Return to Alumni Events


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