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24 September 2014
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The BBC announces a major season marking the life and work of Charles Darwin


Update (21.01.09): for the latest updated information about the Charles Darwin season please see the press pack published on 21 January 2009.


The BBC today announces a season of landmark content to mark one of the most astonishing and influential scientific ideas ever conceived.


12 February 2009 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, and 24 November 2009 is the 150th of the publication of his book On The Origin Of Species, which laid out the theory of evolution by natural selection.


David Attenborough, Andrew Marr and Jimmy Doherty are just some of the well-known names who will be helping the BBC and the nation to mark the life and work of Charles Darwin on the BBC in winter 08/09.


The BBC announcement dovetails with the anniversary of the first public reading of Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace's papers on evolution to the Linnean Society on 1 July 1858.


The season sets out to explore evolution, regarded as one of the most far-reaching and influential scientific ideas ever.


It is an idea which has robustly stood the test of time.


George Entwistle, Controller Knowledge Commissioning, BBC Vision said: "The key Darwin anniversaries provide an excellent opportunity for the BBC to explore in real depth this revolutionary idea, and the man behind it.


"The season will stretch across the BBC landscape and we're delighted to have content from across television, radio and online.


"We hope it will connect our audiences to Darwin the man, as well as Darwin the scientific revolutionary.


"I hope this season will inspire our audiences and deliver real insight into his ideas and what they mean for contemporary society."


Andrew Caspari, Commissioning Editor, BBC Radio 4, said: "Radio 4 is commissioning a range of documentaries and short features to mark the anniversaries of Charles Darwin.


"We will look at his work and his life and assess his significant legacy for science and for society."


John Lynch, Head of Science, BBC Vision, said: "2009 and 2010 are years of great significance for science and will see a major push from the BBC in the public understanding of science.


"The BBC has commissioned some of the biggest science landmarks we have ever done, covering some of the most important fundamentals of scientific literacy.


"The Darwin Season is a good example of this focus on science."


A range of BBC content from BBC Science, Natural History Unit (NHU), Religion and Ethics and CBBC will deliver across television, radio and online an array of stories and voices about this mould-breaking scientific theory.


BBC Darwin Season highlights


BBC One kicks off the season with a one-off special from David Attenborough and the Natural History Unit (NHU) in Bristol.


Tree Of Life (working title, 1 x 60-minute) explores the origin of Darwin's great idea. David Attenborough makes a powerful case for the importance of the science of evolution.


Andrew Marr On Darwin's Legacy (working title) is a landmark new 3 x 60-minute series for BBC Two.


Marr will explore the radical impact of Darwin's theory not only in science, but also society, political movements (capitalist, Marxist and fascist) and religion.


It will also show how that impact continues today, underpinning much of our modern understanding of human life. Co-funded by the Open University (OU).


BBC Four will present two specially commissioned one-off documentaries: What Darwin Didn't Know and Darwin: In His Own Words.


What Darwin Didn't Know is a new 1 x 90-minute film exploring a new field of genetics, "evo devo" – the combined study of evolution and development in the womb – which is allowing us to solve some of Darwin's unanswered questions.


Darwin: In His Own Words will use newly-released documents from Cambridge University to chart Darwin's thoughts during the long period before he made his theory known to the public.


Entomologist and farmer Jimmy Doherty recreates many of Darwin's ground-breaking plant experiments at Down House, the Darwin family home in Kent, in Darwin's Garden (3 x 60-minute) for BBC Two. Co-funded by the OU.


BBC One has also commissioned Life (10 x 60-minute) from the NHU, a natural history spectacular which captures the most extraordinary and awe-inspiring animal survival behaviours ever shown on TV.


Four years in the making, Life is filmed in the most extreme environments across the globe. Co-funded by the OU. A co-production with BBC Worldwide and Discovery.


BBC Radio highlights


BBC Radio 4 will be marking the Darwin anniversaries next year with a range of features and programmes delving into the world before On the Origin of Species was published, as well as the legacy it left behind. More details to be announced.


BBC Radio 3 is presenting a series of programmes which explore the roots of Darwin's ideas and their subsequent influence across the intellectual spectrum, in the sciences, arts and philosophy.


In The Origins Of The Origins, historian Andrew Cunningham investigates how Darwin's thinking was a product of the scientific ideas of his time.


And in Darwin's Conundrum, Rev Angela Tilby looks at how Darwin wrestled with religion through his letters to scientists, clergy, friends and family.


Five essays from a wide range of different contemporary professions, from psychologists to economists, explore the unexpected – and often still growing – impact of Darwinism on their subject.


BBC Multiplatform will be a key destination for a wealth of content about Darwin - his life and work. More details to be announced at a later date.


The BBC Darwin season will transmit from Winter 2008/09.


Programme titles may be subject to change.


Notes to Editors


Science programming continues to be at the heart of the BBC schedule and 2008-09 will see landmark, challenging and expert science programmes from the BBC.


Highlights include a new series for BBC One presented by Professor Robert Winston, Medical Frontiers (working title). This series will explore the life and death decisions which are every day events on the edge of medicine.


Horizon, BBC Two's flagship science documentary strand, also returns to screens in Autumn 2008 with a new series of cutting-edge films.


BBC Four will bring in-depth science alive this summer with Blood And Guts: The History Of Surgery. Michael Mosley (multi-award winning journalist and science reporter on BBC's The One Show), gives a powerful insight into the way mistakes – sometimes humorous, often tragic – have shaped the evolution of modern medicine.


Science will have a strong presence multiplatform presence – helping to inspire, inform and promote wider understanding about modern science to a mass audience.


Oceans (BBC Two, Autumn 2008) presented by explorer Paul Rose and environmentalist Philippe Cousteau Jr, has already gone live online with some of its adventures at


And the BBC will again focus on science in 2010 (a year that marks the anniversary of the founding of The Royal Society), with programmes including a landmark series unfolding The History Of Science (BBC Two).






Category: Factual & Arts TV; BBC One; BBC Two; BBC Four; Radio 3; Radio 4
Date: 03.07.2008
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