Dear Darwin

Five leading scientists address letters to Charles Darwin, expressing their thoughts on his work and legacy.

Episodes

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01*2009010520091229

Dr Craig Venter, one of the men who first successfully mapped the human genome, tells Darwin about his own experiences as a collector, medic and geneticist.

Dr Craig Venter on his own experiences as a collector, medic and geneticist.

Five leading scientists address letters to Charles Darwin, expressing their thoughts on his work and legacy.

Dr Craig Venter, one of the men who first successfully mapped the human genome, tells Darwin about his own experiences as a collector and hands-on biologist, from boyhood toad fascination to his Sorcerer II voyage, which circumnavigated the globe in the manner the young Darwin did aboard HMS Beagle.

Nowadays, however, Craig collects genes rather than pickled specimens.

He tells Darwin of his Institute's current efforts to produce the world's first synthetic lifeform, completely fabricated by man, yet otherwise untouched by nature and therefore arguably unevolved.

022009010620091230

Sir Jonathan Miller on advances in the study of genetics.

Five leading scientists address letters to Charles Darwin, expressing their thoughts on his work and legacy.

Sir Jonathan Miller takes issue with Darwin's thoughts on reproduction.

Darwin had no conception of modern genetics, but by the very nature of his work was tempted to speculate on the mechanism of reproduction.

Jonathan questions why in this, one of the most central problem of biology, Darwin deviated from his otherwise exacting empirical standards, and support a just-so story of reproduction that could not even explain why circumcision was not inherited.

Sir Jonathan Miller takes issue with Darwin's thoughts on reproduction and describes the huge advances in the understanding of genetics that have filled the holes in Darwin's understanding of inheritance.

032009010720091231

Prof Jerry Coyne tells of the evidence that has been discovered to support Darwin's work.

Five leading scientists address letters to Charles Darwin, expressing their thoughts on his work and legacy.

Prof Jerry Coyne's main research scours the heart of Darwin's great work, On the Origin of Species.

Using the humble fruit fly, case study of so much modern biology, Jerry's team seek to understand the mechanism by which related generations first become 'reproductively isolated'; in other words, how does a new species emerge? Over the years Jerry has, therefore, been embroiled in plenty of the discussion surrounding Intelligent Design.

He tells Darwin about the huge body of evidence that has been discovered in the century since that supports his theory.

Prof Jerry Coyne, whose main research relates to On Origin of Species, tells of the huge body of evidence that has been discovered since its publication to support Darwin's theory.

042009010820100101

042009010820100101

Five leading scientists address letters to Charles Darwin, expressing their thoughts on his work and legacy.

Dr Peter Bentley, who works at the cutting edge of digital biology, tells Darwin about the emerging field of evolutionary computing. Peter tells of how Darwin's elegantly simple algorithm lies at the heart of so much complexity in our world, and how abstracting it from 'wet' biology and into the digital realm allows this most powerful of natural processes to be harnessed in industry, finance, medicine and even one day perhaps to construct true artificial life; self replicating, self-designing, self-adapting, self-repairing, self-everything devices.

042009010820100101

Dr Peter Bentley tells Darwin about the emerging field of evolutionary computing.

Five leading scientists address letters to Charles Darwin, expressing their thoughts on his work and legacy.

Dr Peter Bentley, who works at the cutting edge of digital biology, tells Darwin about the emerging field of evolutionary computing.

Peter tells of how Darwin's elegantly simple algorithm lies at the heart of so much complexity in our world, and how abstracting it from 'wet' biology and into the digital realm allows this most powerful of natural processes to be harnessed in industry, finance, medicine and even one day perhaps to construct true artificial life; self replicating, self-designing, self-adapting, self-repairing, self-everything devices.

05 LAST2009010920100102

05 LAST2009010920100102

Prof Baruch Blumberg on his work with the hepatitis B virus.

05 LAST2009010920100102

05 LAST2009010920100102

Five leading scientists address letters to Charles Darwin, expressing their thoughts on his work and legacy.

Prof Baruch Blumberg received the 1976 Nobel Prize for his work on viral infection. He and his colleagues discovered the Hepatitis B virus, diagnostic methods for its detection, and the vaccine. The vaccine, the first anti-cancer vaccine, is now one of the most commonly used world-wide and has prevented many cases of disease and death. He describes the central issues that viruses - unknown to Darwin - raise for biologists looking at the role of cooperation in the history of life; and further, how evolution proved to be fundamental in his later work for NASA, searching for life elsewhere in the universe.

05 LAST*2009010920100102

Prof Baruch Blumberg on his work with the hepatitis B virus.

Prof Baruch Blumberg, who received the 1976 Nobel Prize for his work on viral infection, tells Darwin about his work with the hepatitis B virus and his later work at NASA searching for life on other planets.

Five leading scientists address letters to Charles Darwin, expressing their thoughts on his work and legacy.

Prof Baruch Blumberg received the 1976 Nobel Prize for his work on viral infection.

He and his colleagues discovered the Hepatitis B virus, diagnostic methods for its detection, and the vaccine.

The vaccine, the first anti-cancer vaccine, is now one of the most commonly used world-wide and has prevented many cases of disease and death.

He describes the central issues that viruses - unknown to Darwin - raise for biologists looking at the role of cooperation in the history of life; and further, how evolution proved to be fundamental in his later work for NASA, searching for life elsewhere in the universe.