28 Jan 2009

The genius of evolution: The Open University Darwin celebrations begin

Sir David Attenborough shares his views on Darwin

Sir David Attenborough shares his views on Darwin

Sir David Attenborough, Professor Steve Jones, Jimmy Doherty and Andrew Marr are the well-known names taking part in Open University and BBC co-productions as part of the Darwin season, shedding light on Charles Darwin’s legacy and his impact on the world. Professor Richard Dawkins will present the annual broadband lecture for The Open University. The television and online offerings are complemented by a free poster of the Tree of Life from The Open University, illustrating one of Darwin’s key concepts with visually stunning graphics.

Professor Brenda Gourley, Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, said: "The partnership between The Open University and the BBC has been hugely successful since it began nearly 40 years ago. This season's co-productions illustrate once more that we continue to provide informative and educational programming to inspire and stimulate learners."

In Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life, (TX: 1 x 60mins Sunday 1 February, 9pm, BBC One) a one-hour special and a highlight of the Darwin season, Sir David Attenborough shares his personal views on this globally important idea. He asks three key questions: How and why did Darwin come up with his theory? Why do we think he was right? And why is it more important now than ever before? To find out the answers, he goes on a journey through his own lifetime and back to Darwin’s to track the changes in our understanding of the natural world.

Jimmy Doherty in Darwin’s Garden (TX: March 2009, 3 x 60mins, BBC Two) provides a much more practical view of evolutionary theory, as Jimmy recreates Darwin’s ground-breaking experiments in the grounds and greenhouse at Down House and on his own farm. The experiments help us gain a truly original insight into the theory of evolution.

Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (TX: March 2009, 3 x 60mins BBC Two) gives Andrew Marr the opportunity to trace the widespread impact of Darwin’s work, from its inception to the modern day. Andrew shows how so much of today’s world is fundamentally shaped by Darwin’s ‘dangerous idea’. Championing Darwin as a ‘Great Briton’ in the BBC Two series, Andrew Marr will be giving viewers a contemporary and surprising context in which to understand one of the great thinkers of our time.

LIFE (TX: Autumn 2009, 10 x 60mins, BBC One) is a ten-part, natural history television blockbuster, shot throughout in HD. Life is evolution on film. It shows how living things – both animals and plants - have developed real cunning for survival, adapting their behaviour to overcome challenges from both the environment and from their predators. It’s a collection of survival strategies from across the globe with drama, spectacle and surprise. There are winners and losers with epic awe-inspiring images showing animals doing amazing things. This natural history spectacular is narrated by Sir David Attenborough, and is set to be a television highlight in 2009.

Adding academic rigour to the co-produced series are Open University experts Dr David Robinson, Professor Jonathan Silvertown, Dr Peter Skelton and Dr Caroline Ogilvie. Professor Jonathan Silvertown, who is leading the Darwin 200 celebrations for The Open University and who recently edited the book 99% Ape, said: “The OU’s particular contribution to Darwin Year is to make the astonishing facts of evolution as widely known and understood as possible. Everyone should know how the old man on the £10 note earned the right to be in your pocket or handbag and why, unlike that note, his value has grown rather than diminished since his 100th birthday.”

The Open University 2009 annual broadband lecture features eminent evolutionary expert Professor Richard Dawkins. Taking place in partnership with Darwin200 and co-hosted by the Natural History Museum, the lecture will be webcast on Tuesday 17 March at www.openuniversity.co.uk/darwin and followed by a question and answer session with a panel of Darwin experts. A series of podcasts will be created from the lecture and available to download on demand from The Open University’s Darwin website.

To accompany the Darwin co-productions, The Open University has produced a full colour poster with amazing visual graphics, illustrating the Tree of Life. The poster contains additional information on courses, activities and publications and is free of charge, available from www.open2.net/darwin.

For more information on The Open University’s Darwin 200 activities, and related courses, go to www.openuniversity.co.uk/darwin.

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