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Gee Research Blog

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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Understanding Catfish Colonisation and Diversification in The Great African Lakes

Fri, 05 Sep 2014 10:29:42 +0000

Why some regions or habitats contain vast, diverse communities of species, whilst others contain only relatively few species, continues to be the subject of scientific research attempting to understand the processes and conditions that allow and adaptive radiation. The Great African Lakes exist as freshwater ‘islands’, with spectacularly high levels of biodiversity and endemism. They […]

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Sex Differentiation Begins During Early Development

Wed, 27 Aug 2014 14:04:57 +0000

Males and females look different from each other, and these sexual dimorphisms are the result, largely, of sex differences in the expression of certain genes. Typically, scientists have studied sexual dimorphism in sexually mature adult animals, as this is the lifestage where differences are most apparent. However, many sex-specific phenotypes arise from sex-biased development, so […]

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Extinction and Species Declines:Defaunation in the Anthropocene

Mon, 18 Aug 2014 10:35:52 +0000

We are in the grips of a mass extinction. There have been mass extinctions throughout evolutionary history, what makes this one different is that we’re the ones causing it. A recent review paper from GEE’s Dr Ben Collen discusses the current loss of biodiversity and suggests that our main concerns are species and population declines, […]

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Defaunation in the Anthropocene
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Evolving Endemism in East Africa’s Sky Islands

Fri, 08 Aug 2014 14:16:32 +0000

The World’s biodiversity is not evenly distributed. Some regions are hot spots for species richness, and biologists have been trying better to understand why these regions are special and what drives evolution and diversification. A recent paper by GEE’s Dr Julia Day and recent PhD graduate Dr Siobhan Cox, investigated the diversification of White-Eye Birds […]

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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