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Gee Research Blog

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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PREDICTS Project: Land-Use Change Doesn’t Impact All Biodiversity Equally

Mon, 13 Oct 2014 09:17:53 +0000

Humans are destroying, degrading and depleting our tropical forests at an alarming rate. Every minute, an area of Amazonian rainforest equivalent to 50 football pitches is cleared of its trees, vegetation and wildlife. Across the globe, tropical and sub-tropical forests are being cut down to make way for expanding towns and cities, for agricultural land […]

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Calculated Risks: Foraging and Predator Avoidance in Rodents

Fri, 03 Oct 2014 10:07:08 +0000

Finding food is one of the most important tasks for any animal – most animal activity is focused on this job. But finding food usually involves some risks – leaving the safety of your burrow or nest to go out into a dangerous world full of predators, disease and natural hazards. Animals should therefore be […]

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Foraging and Predator Avoidance in Rodents
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Applying Metabolic Scaling Laws to Predicting Extinction Risk

Thu, 25 Sep 2014 10:32:49 +0000

The Earth is warming. That much were are now certain of. A major challenge for scientists hoping to ameliorate the effect of this on biodiversity is to predict how temperature increases will affect populations. Predicting the responses of species living in complex ecosystems and heterogenous environments is a difficult task, but one starting point is […]

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The Importance of Size in the Evolution of Complexity in Ants

Tue, 16 Sep 2014 10:14:37 +0000

Ants are amongst the most abundant and successful species on Earth. They live in complex, cooperative societies, construct elaborate homes and exhibit many of the hallmarks of our own society. Some ants farm crops, others tend livestock. Many species have a major impact on the ecosystems they live in, dispersing seeds, consuming huge quantities of […]

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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