Dr Edwin Rose discusses Darwin’s samples with Susan Calman

Dr Edwin Rose, Advanced Research Fellow at Darwin, will show plant specimens collected by Charles Darwin to comedian and broadcaster Susan Calman in a programme to be screened by Channel 5 this Friday.

The specimens were collected by Darwin on his famous Voyage of the Beagle between 1831 and 1836, and have rarely been seen for 200 years. They include a lichen collected in Tierra del Fuego in 1833 which has never been the subject of scientific or historical analysis, while fungal specimens from Brazil remain wrapped in the original newspaper Darwin used to preserve them on the Beagle. 

The exchange forms part of an episode of Susan Calman’s Great British Cities which explores Darwin’s relationship with his friend, teacher and mentor Professor John Stevens Henslow through visits to the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, founded by Henslow in 1846, and the University’s Herbarium.

“A major drive for the collection of plants was to explore how they interacted with the wider world in order to gain a better understanding of ‘God’s creation’,” Edwin explains.

“Henslow, in particular, was fascinated with plant physiology and the question of: ‘Why does God design these plants in this way?’ Darwin was taught botany in this line known as ‘natural theology’ and there was never any doubt in God’s existence. As we know, in later life Henslow and Darwin diverged on this but that curiosity to explore plants in relation to their wider environments was sparked by Henslow’s pioneering teaching.” 

The Cambridge episode of Susan Calman’s Great British Cities will air at 9pm on Friday 22nd March on Channel 5. The series is also available on My5.


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