The great great grandson of Charles Darwin, after whom the University is named, visited his namesake town for the first time last week.
Chris Darwin, one of about 25 descendants with the surname Darwin, spent several hours visiting the Casuarina Campus and held talks with the University’s leading scientists about plans for the 200th anniversary celebrations of Charles Darwin’s birth.
Chris Darwin hopes to involve the CDU scientists in various aspects of his own Darwin Project, a multi-media celebration of the 200th anniversary in 2009. It will also be the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s seminal work The Origin of Species.
He plans the release of a documentary, his own book about the future of the planet and other celebrations connected to the birth of his great great grandfather.
‘2009 will be a very big celebration around the world, with lots of projects being planned,’ says Chris Darwin, who has lived in Australia for the past 20 years.
He says he hopes to draw on the scientific knowledge of CDU experts in environmental science and biology in preparing his own homage to his famous ancestor.
Despite the name, however, Chris Darwin comes from a background far removed from the scientific curiosity of his ancestor. Born in London, he worked in advertising and television commercial production for several years before coming to Australia in 1986.
He now works as a tour guide in the Blue Mountains, where he lives with his partner and their one-year-old son Erasmus Darwin, who will ensure the continuation of the Darwin line in Australia for some years to come. (Erasmus was the name of Charles Darwin’s own grandfather.)
For Chris Darwin, the chance to move to Australia came after he met an Australian tour operator from the Blue Mountains while working on an advertising project in Peru.
‘I was part of an expedition to mount the world’s highest dinner party,’ explained Darwin. ‘Someone thought it would be a good idea to organise a dinner party on the summit of one of the world’s highest mountains.’
He says this record-breaking feat (entered in the Guinness Book of Records) took place at 6700m on the summit of Mt Huascaran in Peru. It was not an unmitigated triumph, however, because the wine froze and two of the guests had to be brought down with hypothermia.
‘After that I was quite happy to accept an invitation to come and work in the Blue Mountains as a guide,’ he says.
Chris Darwin says he has been inspired to investigate the natural world by his famous ancestor, and wants to write his own book about the future of the planet, looking to how new techniques of survival must be introduced in the face of global warming, climate change and other challenges to the environment.