An object a day #16: Darwin’s desk

Sat 25 Apr 2020 Opinion

Every day for 30 days we will be featuring a museum object that has inspired or intrigued us, in the hope that “an object a day keeps the doctor away.” We love creating exciting, meaningful storytelling through engaging experiences, but still firmly believe that it is hard to beat the thrill of being in the presence of authentic artefacts. Today’s object is: Darwin’s desk.

A reimagining of Darwin’s study has been created at Down House in Kent, England.

For anyone who is not terribly tidy, Darwin’s desk provides some hope that genius can come from disorder. It is the epicenter of our intellectual coming of age as a species.

Charles Robert Darwin was a British naturalist and biologist known for his theory of evolution and his understanding of the process of natural selection. In 1831, he embarked on a five-year voyage around the world on the HMS Beagle, during which time his studies of various plants and animals led him to formulate his theories. In 1859, he published his landmark book, On the Origin of Species. Darwin’s revolutionary theory that new species arise naturally, by a process of evolution, rather than having been created — forever immutable — by God fundamentally changed the way we (well, many of us) think of ourselves. It was our personal Copernican revolution.

Down House in Kent, where his desk can be found, belonged to the great scientist and he lived here for 40 years from 1842 until his death in 1882. His study remains structurally unaltered from Darwin’s time, restored to the original 1870s arrangement and 1921 decoration. Nearly every piece of furniture is original, as well as dozens of Darwin’s possessions, including some dating from his time on HMS Beagle. 

 Down House is currently closed. Check website for details.