Man is but a Worm


Punch Almanack: Man is But a Worm (1881)

Darwin's ideas challenged conventional beliefs and and were inevitably lampooned by the cartoonists of the day.

Linley Sambourne's cartoon ‘Man is but a Worm’ appeared in satirical magazine Punch on 6 December 1881, shortly after the publication of Darwin's ‘On the Origin of Species’. It depicts the evolution of the worm into the human - in this case, Darwin himself - as a means of ridiculing any link between the two species.

Here, evolution starts at the bottom left with ‘chaos’ and an earthworm. It then proceeds through spermatozoid creatures, to apes,  cavemen, a top-hatted Victorian man and finally Darwin.

‘Charles Darwin of Gower Street’, a UCL Library Services exhibition of items from its Special Collections in honour of Darwin, will be officially opened by Professor Steve Jones, head of the UCL Research Department of Genetics, on 27 October.

Darwin lived in a house on the site now occupied by UCL's Darwin Building from 1839-1842, just over two years after his return from H.M.S. Beagle's second voyage. The materials selected for this exhibition illustrate Darwin's life, work and the influence of his ideas about inheritance and evolution on his contemporaries and successors, including eminent UCL people.

UCL's long association with the development of genetics stems from this period, and several exhibits come from the personal libraries and papers, held by Library Services, of Sir Francis Galton, Darwin's cousin, and Karl Pearson, first Galton Professor of Eugenics.

The exhibition will be on display in the Main Library until January 2009. A digital version of the exhibition will be permanently 'on display' through the Library's Exhibitions Online Web site.

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