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Blogger Profile

David Manly
Freelance Science Journalist
Toronto Ontario CAN

David Manly is a freelance journalist who will blog about a wide range of topics that all fall under the umbrella of zoology and ecology. While his expertise lies with reptiles and amphibians, he has a wide array of knowledge and interest in all animal species - from the sponge to the great ape. He hopes you will enjoy his blog, as he plans to make it both entertaining and enjoyable (as well as fill it with interesting facts, tidbits, photos and videos).

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Well, I'm back from my trip to the UK and Europe! I went to Glasgow, London, Paris and Amsterdam for my trip and had an amazing time. I met a lot of great people, and saw sights that I have been wanting to see for a long, long time.

Did you miss me? I know I missed all of you!

Probably the best part of my trip was finally going to London, England. It's one of those places that is so steeped in culture and history, that you cannot help but be in sheer awe of it. I was there for a total of six days and still did not get to see everything I wanted.

But, that's not what I'm here to talk about. I'm here to talk about something that I experienced in a very unusual place in London that was probably the geekiest, and yet best, part of my time in England.

In London, my twin brother and I went with a few other people from our trip to one of the most famous churches and burial grounds in all of England – Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey was originally built for coronations in 1066, but the present church was begun by Henry III in 1245. It currently houses the resting places for seventeen monarchs, and many of the most important individuals in England's history are buried there.

But why am I mentioning this place?

Well, the answer is one name: Charles Darwin.

Charles Darwin was buried in Westminster Abbey a week after his death in 1882, and is next to the eminent scientist Sir John Herschel (the creator of modern astronomy), and is a mere few feet away from Sir Isaac Newton. Not a bad location, eh?

Darwin's inscription on his gray grave is simple, and reads, "Charles Robert Darwin Born 12 February 1809. Died 19 April 1882." That is it, and compared to some of the other more elaborate tombs there, it seems awfully plain. But, reflecting on who Charles Darwin was (and I know a lot), it made sense.

It was an awe-inspiring sight, and something I had been looking forward to for years. There is something to be said of standing over the grave of a man who is your personal hero. And yet, that was not the moment that I am talking about. This one happened a few minutes before, with an off-handed comment.

As we were walking through the Abbey, my brother mentioned the name of a grave marker that I walked by without notice. Stopping, I walked back and notice the grave of Sir Charles Lyell, the noted geologist.

It took me a few seconds to realize who that was, and then, staring at the grave marker, I said loudly, "NO WAY! THAT'S CHARLES LYELL! It's Charles Lyell!!"

Yes, I did have a rather large geek out moment in the middle of Westminster Abbey, a still functioning Abbey. But was I embarrassed? Of course not, I was elated!

Now, I know what you are thinking – but David, you're an animal biologist/zoologist! You've said repeatedly that one of your heroes is Charles Darwin, and how much he has influenced your life, but you're talking about a geologist?

Yes, but let me tell you why.

Sir Charles Lyell was the preeminent geologist of his day, thanks to writing a groundbreaking book entitled, "The Principles of Geology." In this book, Lyell discusses and argues that the Earth was shaped by impossibly slow forces still occurring to this day (also known as uniformitarianism), through looking at mountains, glaciers and volcanoes. We all know that the Earth has been undergoing changes for millions of years, but this was radical thinking at the time.

In essence, his theory of geology was that minute changes accumulate over large spans of time into very large and noticeable alterations from the original.

See where I'm going?

Doesn't that sound like a rather simplistic, but not incorrect, description of evolution?

And if fact, you're right.

Darwin read Lyell's book, and even became close personal friends with the man, citing Lyell's book as one of the inspiration for creating The Origin of Species. I had completely forgotten that Lyell was buried in Westminster Abbey, and was completely off-guard when I realized it. So I purchased his book as soon as I arrived home to Canada. And it is fantastic read!

It is true what they say – that the best things are not those that you expect, but those that surprise you.

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And that is how the best science is also made. When you put old concepts together in a new way (or from a new point of view).

Kelly Oakes
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"I was there for a total of six days and still did not get to see everything I wanted."

I've been here for three years and still haven't either.

Never been to Westminter Abbey, might add that onto my list!

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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It sounds like you had an awesome trip, David. Glad to have you back :)

That place sounds like it'd be a lot of fun to visit. I want to see more pictures!

David Manly
Freelance Science Journalist
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Brian - If you want to see pictures, check them out of Facebook :P
Kelly - It is a definite must-see, in this humble biologist's opinion :)
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