Portable Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin posing with two angelsWhen I was organizing a 200th birthday party for Charles Darwin I desperately wanted a life-size cut out that people could pose with. If done right, even non-scientists would want their photograph taken (right?) … and then they’d share their photographs on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and in the process spread acceptance of evolution. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a life-size Darwin anywhere on the planet. I was despondent. So I reached out to Carl Buell, an illustrator, who painted him for me just in time for the party.

Carl, being a great guy in addition to a great illustrator, lets me share the digital file with individuals who will put a portable Charles Darwin to good use. It’s simple: you contact me and tell me you need it, then I send you a file Photoshop file that you can print and mount onto poster board. If set up in a nice area, a portable Charles provides an irresistible photo op. Great for museums, Darwin Day parties, biology buildings at colleges, etc. I’d estimate that there are now 50 life-sized Darwins on the planet.

Contact me if you’d like to synthesize him. All I ask is that you (1) post, online, at least one photograph that is in some way funny, dramatic, alluring, etc., (2) link to this page so that others can get their own Darwin, and (3) credit Carl Buell as the artist.

My long-term, futile goal is to encourage the use of Charles Darwin as an icon for science, not just evolution and natural selection. Currently, when the media needs an image for science, it opts for Einstein. Darwin would be better because he did thousands of creative experiments (see Darwin’s Backyard, e.g.) and wrote about them for the general public. If you need a person to represent the scientific process and a creative mind, he’s the guy. And he had great facial hair.

If you want to tag your photographs on Twitter or Instagram, please use #darwinposse. If you want me to see it, CC me on Twitter at @colinpurrington or on Instagram at @colin_purrington.

Borgny Bay Landergren's mural of evolution p.s. The background in the above photograph is an illustration by Borgny Bay (Landergren), who was also a geochemist. The original is at the Scientific Institute of Oslo, but there’s a copy at Swarthmore College (the one at right is at Carleton College). I took six photographs of the mural, stitched those together in Photoshop, then used a poster printer to make a large backdrop composed of multiple panels joined by tape on the back. I attached the whole thing together with a grid of bamboo poles. It was huge, and a huge pain. But worth it.

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