Darwin's Descent: Monkeys, Orchids and Myths

The year 2021 will mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, the book in which he finally explained how he saw his theory of natural selection applied to human beings. 

These lectures will explore Darwin’s book and the ways in which it was received across the world. Reactions ranged from scientific scepticism to light-hearted ridicule, as readers in many different countries were exposed to ideas that shocked some while reassuring others that their prejudices were built on solid scientific evidence. 

They will examine the Descent critically by looking both at some of Darwin’s other works (including some that are seldom discussed), and how his contemporaries –and more recent readers –reacted to him and his books.