Page last updated at 09:56 GMT, Friday, 30 January 2009

UK launches Darwin heritage bid

Darwin's former home Down House, in Bromley (photo: English Heritage)
A decision will be made on the bid in the summer of 2010

The laboratory where Charles Darwin developed his famous theory of evolution is to be the UK's 2009 nomination for a World Heritage Site.

Down House, in Bromley, south-east London, includes his home, experimental garden and surrounding land.

The scientist studied plants and animals at the site for 40 years.

This year is the bicentenary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of the Species.

Darwin achieved world recognition after developing his theory of evolution by natural selection.

The bid highlights the importance of careful observation and the need to look at everyday surroundings in a rigorous way.
Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe, chairman of English Heritage

Situated in the Kent North Downs, Down House gave Darwin access to valleys in Downe and Cudham. He studied them intensely while developing his research.

Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said: "Darwin's contribution to our understanding of the natural world is unrivalled. His life of science was based on meticulous research in and around his home and the surrounding farmed valleys.

"These still survive as the tangible context for his original scientific insight. They remain - 200 years exactly after his birth - an inspiration to shape the thinking of future generations on our approach to biodiversity, ecosystems and the role nature can play in helping people adjust to the effects of climate change."

He added: "World Heritage Sites are usually associated with cultural landmarks like the Great Wall of China and Stonehenge or outstanding natural landscapes like the Grand Canyon National Park.

"But it is also essential to acknowledge scientific endeavour and discovery, which are both key components in our understanding of environmental conservation."

'Protect legacy'

Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe, chairman of English Heritage, said: "The bid highlights the importance of careful observation and the need to look at everyday surroundings in a rigorous way. These are as relevant today as they were then."

A new exhibition at Down House will open to the public on 13 February.

Leader of Bromley Council, Councillor Stephen Carr said: "The nomination includes the farms, fields, and woodland around Down House within our borough and will help protect the Darwin legacy as well as demonstrating the importance of rural countryside and wildlife to London's differing environment."

The government first submitted the site for nomination in 2006, but withdrew it a year later following concerns raised by the World's Heritage Committee's advisory body.

A decision on the nomination will be made by the committee in the summer of 2010.

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