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Gee Research Blog

Changing Perspectives in Conservation

Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:15:44 +0000

Our views of the importance of nature and our place within have changed dramatically over the the last century, and the prevailing paradigm has profound influences on conservation from the science that is conducted to the policies that are enacted. In a recent perspectives piece for Science, GEE’s Professor Georgina Mace considered the impacts that […]

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Function Over Form: Phenotypic Integration and the Evolution of the Mammalian Skull

Mon, 08 Dec 2014 14:05:52 +0000

Our bodies are more than just a collection of independent parts – they are complex, integrated systems that rely upon precise coordination in order to function properly. In order for a leg to function as a leg, the bones, muscles, ligaments, nerves and blood vessels must all work together as an integrated whole. This concept, […]

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Phenotypic Integration and the Evolution of the Mammalian Skull
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The Best of Both Worlds:Planning for Ecosystem Win-Wins

Sun, 16 Nov 2014 12:25:44 +0000

The normal and healthy function of ecosystems is not only of importance in conserving biodiversity, it is of utmost importance for human wellbeing as well. Ecosystems provide us with a wealth of valuable ecosystem services from food to clean water and fuel, without which our societies would crumble. However it is rare that only a […]

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Planning for Ecosystem Win-Wins
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Life Aquatic: Diversity and Endemism in Freshwater Ecosystems

Thu, 06 Nov 2014 11:22:07 +0000

Freshwater ecosystems are ecologically important, providing a home to hundreds of thousands of species and offering us vital ecosystem servies. However, many freshwater species are currently threatened by habitat loss, pollution, disease and invasive species. Recent research from GEE indicates that freshwater species are at greater risk of extinction than terrestrial species. Using data on […]

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Diversity and Endemism in Freshwater Ecosystems
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Handicaps, Honesty and VisibilityWhy Are Ornaments Always Exaggerated?

Thu, 23 Oct 2014 13:30:30 +0000

Sexual selection is a form of natural selection that favours traits that increase mating success, often at the expense of survival. It is responsible for a huge variety of characteristics and behaviours we observe in nature, and most conspicuously, sexual selection explains the elaborate ornaments such as the antlers of red deer and the tail […]

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Why Are Ornaments Always Exaggerated?
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Darwin Building

Darwin Plaque ©Cain

Darwin rented a house on the site where the Darwin Building now stands and lived there with his newlywed wife, Emma, for about 4 years. He moved in on New Year's Eve 1838-9, eager to start his married live in a few weeks time. He and Emma named the house "macaw Cottage" because of the ghastly red and yellow decorating scheme of the previous occupant. To see what the house looked like in Darwin's day, just look across the street.  At the time this was "Upper Gower Street" and it was a quiet cul de sac with a gate at the corner of University Street, where the Grant Museum is now. Darwin liked to jog in the back garden. (Steve Jones likes to call the Darwin Lecture Theater "Darwin's coal basement". Not quite! In Darwin's day the basement served as a kitchen.) Darwin selected Gower Street to live because it was close to Euston Station, brand new in the late 1830s, and he and Emma travelled frequently to see their family in Shropshire.

After the Darwins left the house, it was rented further to various undistinguished people until late in the Century when several houses were bought up by a Tottenham Court Road furniture company. They created a boarding house for 300 men. Two houses over they created a boarding house for 100 women. One would fret for the single family living in the house in the middle! The furniture company went bankrupt in the early 20thC -bought up by Harrod's.

Later the boarding house was used by the Indian Student's Association.

The house was destroyed during the blitz in a raid that destroyed the row of terraced houses and also destroyed what is now the science library (and what had been Darwin's back garden). After the war the plot was cleared and left vacant.

In the early 1960s the Biological Science Building - the present building on the site - was built.  It was controversial for its modernist facade - not at all what some people thought of as classical Bloomsbury.

The building was rechristened "Darwin" in 1982 thanks to the Darwin scholar and bibliographer  RB Freeman, as part of the centennial commemorations of Darwin's death.

Upper Gower Street 1835 © English Heritage

Illustration right by George Scharf 1835:  View looking south along Upper Gower Street. The Darwins’ rented house (no. 12) is in the distance on the left. The Porter’s Lodges at the entrance to the university are on the near left. University Street and Grafton Street are on the near right. Also on the near right is North London Hospital, also called University College Hospital. (Credit: English Heritage 00754062001).


A brief history of the Darwin Building by Professor Joe Cain

Page last modified on 18 aug 14 15:59