A field-trip course in England and Wales on Darwin and evolution

This contains a re-blog of Jerry Coyne’s account of the Harvard Summer School on Darwin this year, which you will find at the end of my photos


A good account of the American biologist (and atheist) Jerry Coyne on this years Harvard Summer School on Dawin based in Oxford. For three days they have to enjoy my presence as I show them the delights of Dariwn in Shropshire and above all in Snowdonia. It was great to be with Harvard University students again.

I have been lucky to help on this course since 2005.

My part lasts three days. On the first day we go round Shrewsbury and after supper wlak up Nesscliff where Darwin visited in 1831 trying to make a geological map.


The highwayman Kynaston’s cave.



The next day we stop at Chirk and visit the canal (aqueduct and tunnel) and see the railway viaduct, both of which Robert Darwin invested in.




We continue up Telford’s London-Holyhead Road  (A5) to Llyn Ogwen


visit the “vomitory”   Darwin’s term for the ice fall


and then to Cwm Idwal and see what Darwin did in 1831 as an inexperienced geologist



And then in 1842 when he came to check Buckland’s ideas of an Ice Age and was finally convinced after sharp comments on Aggassiz in his “Voyage of the Beagle” and his “long gigantic blunder at Geln Roy.


Darwin’s boulders



Unlike glaciers I cannot carve out such a large Valley!! This non-action replay photo is inspired by De la Beche’s 1831 cartoon mocking the geologist Lyell’s uniformitarianism


Then Andrew leads them up Y Garn (3104ft) and in recent years I stay around Llyn Idwal with those who don’t want to go up. This year we did well on Drosera and Butterwort and the remains of bog asphodel. I am detailed to stay down so that all who want, including teaching assistants can savour a Welsh mountain.



But then I’ve only climbed it some 30 times, including snow routes requiring crampons. also Andrew may think I’m past it.



The next day we go to above Castell Dinas Bran above Llangollen, which the Welsh built in the 13th century to keep EdwardI out. We look at the geology and what Sedgwick and Darwin did  and then search for fossils in the Carboniferous Limestone. This year we found a good range of corals.




The students are always a great bunch and I’ve probably learnt as much as they have, particuarly on botany.

My paper on Darwin’s 1831 trip just-before-the-beagle

My blog last year with references to my papers https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2017/08/04/darwins-boulders/


You will find me on it!


Why Evolution Is True

Every year my friend Andrew Berry, a lecturer and student advisor at Harvard, teaches a summer course at Oxford for Harvard undergrads. Its theme is Darwin and evolution, and the best part is that since the course takes place in DarwinLand, he can take the students to various historical sites and show them the science and history behind the Great Idea. I went to Down House, Darwin’s adult home, with Andrew’s course one year, and we were given a tour by none other than Janet Browne, historian of science and author of the wonderful two-volume biography of Darwin (see here and here) that I consider the best account of his life and work. Janet still takes the students to Darwin’s home, and you can see her in the penultimate photo.

Every year Andrew puts up a photo website of that summer’s course for the delectation of the…

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