Charles Darwin, Fashionista

on March 28, 2009

BBC News: “Darwin’s ‘Gentleman’ Student Days” It’s the next step in the “hero worship” culture surrounding Charles Darwin: examining his every recorded move.

Since 2009 is the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, we’ve grown accustomed to reading article after article fleshing out his milieu and positing what elements in his background contributed to On the Origin of Species (150 years old this year).

Six books have been posted online that show how Darwin spent money during his time at Cambridge University.

What we had not foreseen, however, was the minor hubbub over the release of some of Darwin’s university-day bills. Six books have been posted online that show how Darwin spent money during his time at Cambridge University from 1828 to 1831.

BBC News and the AAAS Origins blog both focus on Darwin’s extra payment to have vegetables with every meal. “He does spend a lot on food,” noted John van Wyhe, director of the Darwin Online website, who added, “Darwin was a little on the expensive side.” Darwin’s room at the university was one of the best and most expensive.

Darwin also paid for such luxuries as an occasional housekeeper, a shoe-polisher, and someone to bring coal for and stoke his fire. Yet the books do not indicate Darwin bought many books or study materials. “Darwin famously spent little of his time at Cambridge studying or in lectures, preferring to shoot, ride, and collect beetles,” said a spokesman from Cambridge. What the BBC News and Origins coverage omits—though the Mail considered it headline worthy—is that Darwin spent more even on shoes than on books.


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