Page last updated at 15:20 GMT, Monday, 9 February 2009

Darwin turned down university job

Charles Darwin (Getty Images)
Darwin turned down the post on the grounds of his health

Scientist Charles Darwin could have been a rector at the University of Aberdeen, it has been revealed.

Darwin, who introduced the theory of natural selection to explain evolution, was offered the position in 1872.

However he declined the post in a letter, citing the "status of my health" as the reason.

Scientist and philosopher Thomas Huxley, who was a friend of Darwin and a strong supporter of his theory of evolution, accepted the position.

Darwin circumnavigated the globe in the 1830s.

His book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life was published in 1859.

The Aberdeen connection has been revealed as the university launches a series of events to commemorate Darwin's life and work, beginning with celebrations to mark what would have been his 200th birthday on Thursday.

Darwin letter
The letter was in response to a request in 1872
Dr Stuart Piertney, senior lecturer in evolutionary biology at the University of Aberdeen, said: "Darwin was invited to take on the post of rector by John Smith Craig, an undergraduate student studying medicine in 1872 - the same year the sixth edition of his most significant work The Origin of Species was published."

"Darwin replied by letter to say that whilst he was very honoured to be asked, his ill health would make it impossible for him to accept.

"Dr Craig's daughter Anne donated the letter to the university in 1957 and it is now held in the institution's special libraries and archives collections.

More information about the Darwin events is available at

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