Darwin in Cambridge (and Richard Dawkins too!)

by Greg Mayer

John van Wyhe, of Christ’s College, Cambridge, director of the absolutely fabulous website The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online (which I have had occasion to notice previously), has recently published a terrific short book entitled Darwin in Cambridge (Christ’s College, Cambridge).  Darwin in Cambridge, by John van Wyhe It’s not available yet on Amazon UK or Amazon, but you can order it direct from Christ’s. It provides a wealth of detail on Darwin’s life and studies in Cambridge, and is especially useful to someone (like me) less familiar with the organization of English universities. It is also beautifully illustrated, and my one complaint would be that the small octavo size does not do full justice to some of the illustrations.

Included in the book are several photographs of university and college ledgers which record Darwin’s various activities at Cambridge (see John’s analysis of Darwin’s student bills here, which have been widely misinterpreted by the media to say that Darwin spent more on shoes than books!). What struck me immediately was the figure on page 22, showing part of the ‘Books of subscriptions for degrees’ recording Darwin’s formal matriculation on February 20, 1828. It wasn’t just that the name of Adam Sedgwick, Darwin’s geological mentor, appears in the registry as having presided over the ceremony.  It was the name of the student who signed the book just below Darwin: Richard Dawkins!

Five students from Christ’s College have signed the register, Darwin being the last, having signed “Charles Robert Darwin”.  Below the Christ’s students, two students from Catharine Hall (now St. Catharine’s College) have signed the register, and immediately below Darwin’s signature appears the signature of the second Catharine’s student, “Richard Dawkins”.

The 20th and 21st centuries’ Richard Dawkins is, of course, an Oxonian; I don’t know if he’s any relation to the 19th century Cantabrigian who, for at least a little while on the afternoon of 20 February 1828, stood next to Charles Darwin.

9 Comments

  1. Hempenstein
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    T’would be interesting to know at what point our Dawkins became aware of Darwin’s Dawkins!

  2. NewEnglandBob
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Or maybe RD is older than he appears. Very good genes???

    £6.00 including P & P sounds like a good deal, but “These prices include postage and packing for UK addresses”.

  3. Scott
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    Let us stop to consider: Given that the Richard Dawkins that now struts the stage has vast and useful insights into Darwinian theory– too insightful, methinks, to have been arrived at by random acts– is it not possible that he is one and the same, now as then, who signed the registry?

    All it would take is one flick of the Almighty’s finger to flip an electron’s spin from one direction to another (if the flick was applied at JUST the right moment) and… Voila! Richard Dawkins lives forever. Or he reappears… or he just POOFS into existence….

    OK, I’ll admit it: I don’t understand quantum mechanics. Maybe I’ll email Francis Collins since he seems to have a pretty good grasp on it.

  4. Stephen
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Proof that Richard Dawkins is the devil, tempting people away from god. It all makes sense now, Dawkins/Devil told Darwin about a theory that would make god redundant and therefore led them away from god. Some things are just too coincidental.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted May 15, 2009 at 7:06 am | Permalink

      Hey look, a certified loonie has shown up!

      Steven, tell us more about your fantasies of demons and goblins and gods and other completely asinine bible crapola.

      Some people can not be taught, they cower in fear of the unknown.

      • whyevolutionistrue
        Posted May 15, 2009 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        NewEnglandBob–

        I think Stephen’s post was tongue in cheek.
        GCM

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted May 15, 2009 at 9:00 am | Permalink

        Poe’s Law did me in again. Sorry Greg & Steven.

      • Posted May 15, 2009 at 10:26 am | Permalink

        Haha

        Friendly fire!

  5. Stephen
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    No I really think he’s the devil ;-)


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