World Heritage bid for the home where Darwin's work evolved

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The Independent Online

The home where Charles Darwin wrote The Origin of the Species is to be nominated as a World Heritage Site.

Down House at Downe, in the London Borough of Bromley, was the scientist's home for 40 years. Now known as Darwin House, it includes his experimental garden, where he developed and demonstrated his theory of evolution through the study of plants and animals in natural settings and under human management.

In announcing the UK's 2006 nomination for World Heritage status, Tessa Jowell said: "Darwin was one of the greatest scientists of the modern age and his contribution to understanding of the natural world is unrivalled.

"World Heritage Sites are usually associated with cultural landmarks like the Great Wall of China and Stonehenge or outstanding natural landscapes like the Grand Canyon National Park.

"But it is also essential to acknowledge scientific endeavour and discovery, which are both key components in our understanding of environmental conservation. The World Heritage Committee called for nominations for the World Heritage List to recognise and celebrate outstanding achievements of science and the Darwin at Downe nominations does just this. I am delighted to submit this formal nomination."

It was after his epic round-the-world voyage on HMS Beagle in the 1830s, during which he visited the Galapagos Islands, that Darwin and his family moved to Downe in 1842. The site is now managed by English Heritage, which backed the World Heritage Site bid.

The Origin of Species, which outlines Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, is now recognised as one of the most influential books of all time and transformed scientific and wider public thinking about natural life and humans' place in the world.

The change in thinking that the book brought about was a historic stage in the development of the modern understanding of life on earth and human nature.

Sir Neil Cossons, chairman of English Heritage, said: "It is very exciting to think this area could be a World Heritage Site in time for Darwin's bicentenary in 2009 and for the Olympics in 2012."

The nomination of Darwin at Downe has been submitted to the World Heritage Centre in Paris, and will now be assessed by expert advisers to the World Heritage Committee over the next 12 months.

Final decisions will be made by the World Heritage Committee at its annual meeting in the summer of 2007.