Letter: Why Darwin should be on a banknote

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The Independent Online
Sir: I was dismayed to read in your article on the design of banknotes ('Sterling work at the Bank', 2 March) that a suggestion for a portrait of Charles Darwin to appear on the reverse side of one of the denominations had been 'dumped due to the change in current thought of the value of his work'.

If there has been a change, it is that Darwin's central propositions about evolution have been immensely strengthened by the recent advance of biology, as well as by discoveries and theoretical advances earlier in this century.

Innumerable 'missing links' have been found; R. A. Fisher's integration of Mendelian genetics with natural selection (1930) showed natural selection to be immensely more powerful than one would guess intuitively; and the advance of molecular genetics set in motion by Watson and Crick's discovery of the mode of replication of the genetic material has shown the most fundamental of all life processes to be the same in all living things, and has demonstrated relationships between different groups of organisms closely in accord with the idea of common ancestry.

Darwinian evolution is questioned only by those who either are ignorant of the strength of present-day evidence in its favour, or are unwilling to admit a natural origin for the human species, or try to improve their own reputations by seeming cleverer than Darwin himself. I hope none of these factors is at work in the Bank of England.

Yours faithfully,


Trinity College


8 March