Portable Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin posing with two angels

Want a stand-up Darwin for your classroom, laboratory, or geeky party? Just contact me and I’ll send you a link to the Photoshop file. You just print him, mount the sheet onto something like Gatorboard, then cut him out with an X-ACTO knife or equivalent. You can usually pay the print shop to do all of this if you’re lazy.

All I ask is that if you publish or post any photographs, please credit Carl Buell as the artist. It would also be nice if you could link to this page so that others know they can get their own (see futile goal, below). If you post any party pics to Twitter and want to tag me, I’m @colinpurrington. On Instagram I’m @colin_purrington.


When 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, 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 so I reached out to Carl Buell, an illustrator, who was nice enough to make one for me … just in time for the party. (I’m the guy on the right.)

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. If set up in a nice area, a portable Charles provides an irresistible photo op. Great for museums, Darwin Day parties, lounges in biology buildings, etc. I’d estimate that there are now 50 life-sized Darwins on the planet.

My futile, long-term 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.

Borgny Bay Landergren's mural of evolution

By the way, the background in the above photograph is an illustration by Borgny Bay (Landergren). She was also a geochemist. The original is at the Scientific Institute of Oslo, but there’s a copy on a wall in Swarthmore College’s biology building. 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 joined the whole thing together with a grid of 8′ bamboo poles. It was huge, and a huge pain. But worth it.