Registered charity number: 1038170 Registered company number: 2850118
History of the Darwin Centre
The Darwin Centre for Biology and Medicine was established by Professor Anthony (Tony) Campbell in Cardiff in 1993. It moved to Pembrokeshire in 1999, in anticipation of the Millennium Festival.
The Pembrokeshire Darwin Science Festival was created in 2000 as a product of its parent organisation, The Darwin Centre for Biology and Medicine. The Darwin Centre was established in Cardiff in 1993 to increase the public understanding of science and health, through a number of programmes. The Festival was launched in Pembrokeshire and has developed strong links with local and regional organisations. Its annual programme is designed to engage people with both applied and theoretical science by exciting their curiosity and enabling them to make discoveries:
- Educational programme for schools that links with the National Curriculum in Wales:
- Road shows of hands-on science taken into schools
- Investigative science projects leading to CREST awards for science
- Post-16 lectures
- Community science programme
- A life long learning programme targeted at people in areas of social exclusion and rural remoteness
- Field events, workshops and projects leading to CREST awards for science.
- Field events throughout the spring and summer
- Interactive family days
- Public lectures on cutting edge science by visiting national and international scientist
- Scientific conferences for scientists, teachers, students, and members of the public
The Darwin Centre is based in Pembrokeshire College, and has laboratory and seminar facilities at Milford Haven Docks.
Aims of the Darwin Centre
The Darwin Centre was established to excite young people about science, particularly at the cutting edge, and provide a vehicle for professional scientists and naturalists to engage with the public. Since moving to Pembrokeshire, a major objective has been to contribute to the educational and ecological programmes in West Wales, and Wales as a whole. The Darwin Centre was also established to encourage entrepreneurship, and to engage with local industry. A long term aim was to establish Sabbatical Cymru, an initiative to attract top international scientists, teachers, students and entrepreneurs into Wales, and particularly Pembrokeshire, to interact with our local talent.
The strategy to achieve these aims has been:
- School events
- Projects for school and other students through the CREST scheme
- Public and school lectures
- Natural History events around Pembrokeshire
- Medical fayres and lectures
- Arts and religion events
- The development of a research programme in Pembrokeshire
A key feature has been to arouse curiosity about nature, and then to show how cutting edge science has revealed the mechanisms that explain how life survives, develops and evolves on our planet.
In 1999 Professor Tony Campbell and David Lort Philips, two of the Directors of the Darwin Centre, were successful in obtaining a £21,000 grant from the Millennium, Commission to run the first Pembrokeshire Darwin Science Festival as part of the UK’s Millennium Festival. A new Board of Directors was set up with major stake holders from Pembrokeshire, under the Chairmanship of Robin Lewis. Two research assistants were appointed, based at the Welston Court Science Centre, set up by Professor Campbell and his wife Dr Stephanie Matthews in 1996.
The first Pembrokeshire Darwin Science Festival was a great success, throughout the year involving:
- A series of lecture-demonstrations named after key famous scientists
- Erasmus Darwin – the polymath lecture (Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe)
- Charles Darwin – the exploration lecture (Dr Solene Morris, curator of Down House)
- Philip Gosse – the naturalist lecture
- Isambard Kingdom Brunel – the invention lecture
- Alfred Russel Wallace – the science and society lecture (?)
These were held in various halls in Pembrokeshire
- Several natural history events, including the Great Millennium Glow-worm hunt with BBC Wales, involving night trips and BBC interviews
- A medical fayre at the Queen’s Hall, Narberth, with a lecture on heart disease by Professor Andrew Henderson, Cardiff.
- School visits and events
- Student CREST projects
- Science workshops run by Valerie Morse, including extracting DNA and how genetic engineering works, attended by people from 8 to 80 years old!
- A science theatre production – Not the nine o’clock clinic performed at the Torch theatre in Milford Haven
- A debate on genetic engineering at the Torch theatre in Milford Haven
- A debate in science and religion in the hall of St Mary’s Church, Tenby, including Dr Rowen Williams, then Archbishop of Wales elect, soon to be Archbishop of Canterbury. In the Evensong that followed, Dr Williams began his sermon with his now famous declaration ‘We should thank God for the gift of Darwin, for the insights he has given us into God’s natural world’.
A motto was established in the tradition of Erasmus and Charles Darwin.
‘Curiosity inspires, discovery reveals’