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24 September 2014
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Charles Darwin season
Picture: Getty/James M Wehtje

BBC season marking the life and work of Charles Darwin

Season highlights


TV highlights


BBC Four kicks off the season on television at the end of January with two specially commissioned one-off documentaries: What Darwin Didn't Know and Darwin: In His Own Words.


What Darwin Didn't Know (1 x 90-minutes) is a new 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 (1 x 60-minutes) 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.


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


Charles Darwin And The Tree Of Life (1 x 60-minutes) explores the origin of Darwin's great idea. David Attenborough makes a powerful case for the importance of the science of evolution. Co-produced by the OU.


Andrew Marr on Darwin's Legacy (working title) is a major new 3 x 60-minutes 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-produced by the OU and also available in high definition on the BBC HD channel.


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


Darwin Vs God (working title, 1 x 60-minutes) on BBC Two explores whether the theory of evolution undermines belief in God.


BBC One has also commissioned Life (10 x 60-minutes) from the NHU, a natural history spectacular, which captures some of the most extraordinary and awe-inspiring animal survival behaviours.


Four years in the making, Life is filmed in some of the most extreme environments across the globe. Co-produced by the OU, this is a co-production with BBC Worldwide and Discovery.


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.


Melvyn Bragg launches the radio season at the beginning of January with Darwin: In Our Time, a major four-part documentary series about the life and work of Charles Darwin.


Melvyn looks back over Darwin's life and asks why his writing remains such a profound influence on our understanding of the natural world.


In Dear Darwin, each afternoon over five days, an eminent contemporary thinker writes a letter to Charles Darwin to provide us with an intimate understanding of how some modern-day scientists view Darwin's continuing legacy.


Darwin: HMS Beagle, the most important ship in the history of science, has been missing for over a century. But one man believes he's found her at last.


At the beginning of Charles Darwin's bicentenary year, Radio 4 follows maritime historian Robert Prescott as he tracks down the Beagle's last resting place.


Darwin: My Ancestor is a four-part series in which poet, writer and great-great-grand-daughter of Charles Darwin, Ruth Padel, will explore the ideas and emotions which shaped Darwin.


The series investigates how a sense of child-like excitement stayed with him throughout his life and his relationships with his wife, children, servants and local villagers.


Ruth will also examine how Darwin's life and religious views were shaped by the death of his mother and daughter, Annie, and consider his love of literature which in turn helped develop his own style of writing.


BBC Radio 3 presents a series of programmes which explore the roots of Darwin's ideas and their subsequent influence across the intellectual spectrum, in the science, 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 the Rev Angela Tilby looks at how Darwin wrestled with religion through his letters to scientists, clergy, friends and family.


Plus 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


BBC online will be a key destination for a wealth of content about Darwin, his life and work. The website launches in mid-January.


Open University Darwin activities


The OU has also developed a new entry-level course, Darwin and Evolution, using some of the television programmes as student study material.


A free Tree of Life poster accompanies the OU co-produced series, and will be available from


The BBC Darwin season will transmit from Winter 2008/09. All titles may be subject to change.


Full programme information on each programme available nearer to transmission.


Notes to Editors


BBC Vision Productions

BBC Vision Productions is the BBC's in-house production arm. At any one time the studios have about 4,000 programme and multiplatform programme makers in four genre groups across the whole of the UK including drama, entertainment, comedy and factual.


The Open University partnership

The Open University and BBC have been in partnership for nearly 40 years providing educational programming to a mass audience. This partnership has evolved from late night programming for delivering courses to peak-time programmes with a broad appeal to encourage wider participation in learning.


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