Tuesday, February 12, 2013


On the Twelfth Day of Darwin

Twenty-three years after publishing the book that made him famous, Darwin died at home, aged seventy-three. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, in London, the more usual location for state funerals, royal marriages and national celebrations. Such a burial site for the author of On the Origin of Species was ironic in many ways, for the nation was well aware of Darwin's reputation for having undermined church authority. By the time of his death, however, Darwin was fêted as a great scientific celebrity, a grand old man of science, someone who had looked further and seen more than others, of an intellectual rank as great as Newton, and certainly deserving to be honored in the country's primary commemorative setting. Professors, churchmen, politicians, medical luminaries, aristocrats and members of the public crowded the Abbey to see him to the grave. 'Happy is the man that findeth wisdom' sang the choir. It is hardly possible nowadays for us to guess whether Darwin died a happy man but he was certainly revered for his achievement and personal character, the very model of what a man of science ought to be.

- Janet Browne, Darwin's Origin of Species: A Biography, Atlantic Monthly Press (2007)

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