Penn Museum Hosts Free Darwin Day and Evolution Teach-In Feb. 12

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Media Contact:Pam Kosty | pkosty@sas.upenn.edu | 215-898-4045January 9, 2006

PHILADELPHIA -- The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology offers its first annual Darwin Day celebration Feb. 12 from 1 to 5 p.m. The free event and evolution teach-in held in honor of the 197th birthday of Charles Robert Darwin, author of "On the Origin of Species" and the originator of the modern theory of evolution.  The Penn Museum is located at 3260 South St., across from Franklin Field, in Philadelphia.

The free day features short "teach-in" talks by experts in the galleries, a discussion forum in the "Science Cafe" and a physical anthropologist corner with plaster casts of hominid skulls and other bones.  Visitors are invited to sign up and deliver short readings of excerpts from Darwin's many writings.  There will be a birthday cake and the opportunity to play badminton, reputedly a favorite game of Darwin.  Darwin himself, or a reasonable likeness, is expected to make an appearance during the day.

"Penn Museum is delighted to join a growing, international chorus of classroom teachers, museums, universities and other organizations in celebrating the life and achievements of Charles Darwin," said Richard M. Leventhal, the Museum director.  "Darwin's theory of evolution has dramatically changed the way people study and think about our world.   

Evolution connects to our story of humans and human societies through archaeology and anthropology, as we study how societies evolve over time." Penn faculty from several disciplines are participating in the teach-in, offering attendees a variety of perspectives on the study of evolution.  The following experts will offer 10- to 15-minute lectures, several times throughout the afternoon:

Additional teach-in lecturers to be announced.

As part of the Darwin Day teach-in, visitors have an opportunity to sign up and read aloud excerpts from Darwin books and other writings at an ongoing reader station at the Main Staircase.

At 3 p.m., the Museum Cafe plays host to a special afternoon session of Penn's popular "Science Cafe," a talk-and-discussion program usually held monthly at the Mar Bar in University City.  "New Frontiers in Evolutionary Theory" is the topic, and Michael Weisberg, assistant professor of philosophy at Penn and the Museum's recently appointed Evolution Project chair, will introduce speakers who will discuss cutting edge-evolutionary research before opening things up for questions and discussion.   The Museum Cafe serves up a non-alcoholic "Darwin Punch" and "Intelligently Designed Cookies" for the occasion.

Janet Monge, the Museum Casting Project coordinator, together with graduate-level physical anthropology students, will host a special Physical Anthropology corner, featuring hands-on examples of important fossil casts of hominids from 3 million to 100,000 years ago.

The first part of a 13-part 1979 television BBC documentary, "Life on Earth," narrated by David Attenborough, will be shown in the Museum's Rainey Auditorium.

To make the celebration complete, the Museum director will cut a birthday cake for Darwin.

Penn Museum Darwin Day and Evolution Teach-In is coordinated by Michael Weisberg, chair of the Museum's newly created Evolution Project.  Other upcoming Evolution Project programs include an informational Web site, a spring teachers' workshop on evolution, scholarly symposia and development of a major traveling exhibition, "Surviving: The Body of Evidence."                             A growing list of other Darwin Day events at other museums and educational institutions is available online at www.darwinday.org.

General information about Penn Museum is available at 215-898-4000.