Darwin Celebratory Dinner


12 February 2009
A festive fundraising dinner was held on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin.

The bicentenary celebrations of the birth of Charles Darwin began with a festive fundraising dinner held in College on the 200th anniversary of his birth. The evening marked the start of an exciting new collaboration between Christ's College and the Galapagos Conservation Trust,  both places so closely associated with the development of Darwin's radical thinking.

Darwin was an undergraduate at Christ's prior to his five year voyage on the Beagle, and returned to College in the period immediately afterwards. It was from observations made on the voyage, especially of the Galapagos mockingbirds, that Darwin later drew the evidence to support his theory of evolution by means of natural selection.

The Darwin Bicentenary Dinner raised over £250,000 towards the Charles Darwin and Galapagos Islands Fund. A lasting link between Galapagos and Christ’s will help ensure the survival of the Galapagos as a natural resource by promoting research on pressing issues affecting the islands, such as human population growth, planning and tourism. Cambridge, as one of the world’s leading universities, has a wealth of expertise across a wide range of disciplines and is therefore ideally (and appropriately) placed as one of the first universities to develop a permanent and supportive research link with the Galapagos Islands generally and the Charles Darwin Foundation specifically.

On the morning of 12th February Christ’s was thrilled to welcome HRH The Duke of Edinburgh to unveil the Bronze sculpture of the young Darwin by Anthony Smith in First Court. Throughout the afternoon, dinner guests arrived, taking the opportunity to visit Darwin’s Rooms in First Court and the Charles Darwin on Land and Sea exhibition in the Old Library.

The evening began with a drinks reception in the Master’s Lodge, followed by a lively panel discussion between Britain’s best-known natural history film-maker, Sir David Attenborough, and Felipe Cruz, Deputy Director of the Galapagos National Park. The discussion was chaired by Andrew Marr, President of the Galapagos Conservation Trust, who famously championed Darwin in the 2002 poll to decide the Greatest Briton.

After the discussion, guests walked back through a snowy, candle-lit College to a cosy black-tie dinner in the Great Hall hosted by the Master of Christ’s, Frank Kelly. Guests were then delighted to hear from Christ’s College Choir, Alison Richard, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, Chancellor of the University of Cambridge and Patron of the Charles Darwin Foundation. Many of the guests had visited Galapagos, and enthusiasm for the future of the fund and its work was key to the evening’s success.

Money raised to date will enable Christ’s to begin an academic exchange programme between researchers in Galapagos and those in Cambridge more broadly. It is anticipated that research areas will include climate change, socio-economic investigations, plant and animal species biology, and geological research. The aim is to raise £1.5m so that the work we are starting now can develop in coming years into a lasting legacy that will honour the man to whom the world owes so much. 

Christ’s College and the Galapagos Conservation Trust would like to thank all guests for attending the Bicentenary Dinner and for supporting the Charles Darwin and Galapagos Islands Fund