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Sunday, 24 September, 2000, 22:30 GMT 23:30 UK
Following in Darwin's footsteps
Kathy Bickerstaff
Kathy Bickerstaff with the book she bought for 50p
A guest house landlady is to follow in Charles Darwin's footsteps after unearthing a rare first edition of his iconoclastic book the Origin of Species.

Kathy Bickerstaff, 51, bought the book, published in 1859, for 50p at a church fete in Luccombe, Somerset, 12 years ago.

She only realised what the book could be worth when one of her guests noticed it was a first edition.

It eventually fetched 11,600 at auction.

It stopped being a book I used because I was afraid of spilling tea on it

Kathy Bickerstaff
Ms Bickerstaff said: "I was amazed. It stopped being a book I used because I was afraid of spilling tea on it."

Ms Bickerstaff, from Allerford, near Minehead, Somerset, will fulfil a childhood dream when she travels to the Galapagos Islands, off Ecuador, where Darwin conducted his research for the book, in October.

She said: "From a small child I have wanted to go to the Galapagos Islands.

"But I would never have been able to pay for the trip unless I had found the book."

Giant tortoises

Ms Bickerstaff will be travelling with her partner, plumber Mike Prideaux, on the 14-day trip which will cost about 5,000.

The Galapagos Islands, famed for its giant tortoises, is where Darwin came up with his theory on evolution by natural selection.

Charles Darwin's theory broke the mould of scientific thought
Darwin, travelling on board the ship HMS Beagle, discovered a volcanic archipelago that had remained much as it was millions of years ago.

Today it is a world heritage site, administered by the Ecuadorean Government.

Darwin's theory - that the various types of plants and animals, including man, have their origin in other preexisting types - contrasted sharply with the teaching of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, which claimed God had created the first humans, Adam and Eve, in his own image.

There was strong resistance to Darwinian thinking but nowadays the theory of evolution is at the centre of mainstream science.

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