What about Darwin, for starters

4 07 2010

After a short nap; a welcome dinner at the Angelsea Arms with my fellow classmates (eight of Harvard, one of Princeton), instructors (two of Harvard, one of MIT), and the instructors’ adorable little boy (of monster trucks and pence for play); and a night or so of sleep; we made our way, jet-lagged, to our first class of the summer at the facilities of Imperial College.  Much like my initial disorienting walk down Gloucester, the first morning class and the first afternoon field trip were quick immersion in the subject material.  What exactly was the Victorian era, and why do we care to spend our summers studying it?  (Hint: Check the FAQs tab at the top)

As Mini-project one and Mini-project two attest, our first order of business was basic orientation–through exposure to snatches of Victorian culture and through acquaintance with a framework of facts with which we need to be familiar in order to proceed.  This basic orientation has taken place in the classroom, and, perhaps more interestingly, outside it.

For example, back at the Angelsea, I noticed Charles Darwin on the backside of the ten-pound note (Queen Elizabeth gets the front, of course):

Charles Darwin’s significant contributions to biology have changed quite remarkably our understanding of life on Earth, of course.  Perhaps a little less obvious is that Darwin–yes, you guessed it–is straight out of Victorian England (à la NWA ‘straight outta Compton’, or, if you prefer, Eminem ‘straight out the trailer’).  With no planning involved at all–except that I should have English currency in my pocket–Charles Darwin, straight out of my backside pocket on the backside of a ten-pound note, embodied influences of Victorian England in modern London, even in my wallet.  He made for an interesting dinner conversation topic.  Oddly enough, our conversation found its way eventually to the Creation Museum, reportedly home of perhaps the world’s most motivated museum staff.

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