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One Book One University Explores Darwin and Evolution

This summer all new, incoming Northwestern University undergraduate students will receive a copy of "The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution" as part of the 2008 "One Book One Northwestern" project.

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June 4, 2008 | by Wendy Leopold
EVANSTON, Ill. --- This summer all new, incoming Northwestern University undergraduate students will receive a copy of "The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution" as part of the 2008 "One Book One Northwestern" project. 

The project -- which will include free and public lectures related to the topic of evolution and natural selection in the upcoming academic year -- will culminate in February with a lecture by the author.

Award-winning nature and science writer David Quammen's "The Reluctant Mr. Darwin" was chosen in recognition of the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's monumental treatise on evolution, "On the Origin of Species by the Means of Natural Selection."

"Despite all the headlines and public debate about evolution, fewer than 35 percent of Americans report having a clear understanding of the theory of evolution," says Teresa Horton, Northwestern research associate professor of neurobiology and physiology and chair of this year's One Book, One Northwestern project. "And this comes at a time when the science of evolution is contributing to important discoveries in medicine, genetics, climate change, petroleum exploration and other areas."

What is evolution by natural selection, and how has it contributed to groundbreaking discoveries in everything from medicine to climate change and genetics to petroleum exploration? These and other questions will be at the center of the One Book One Northwestern project.

Next year's freshmen and undergraduates transferring to Northwestern not only will receive "The Reluctant Mr. Darwin" over the summer but also will have the opportunity to engage in online book discussions as a way to get to know Northwestern faculty and develop friendships before their September arrival on campus.

One Book One Northwestern will move into high gear during Wildcat Welcome Week in September, and continue with a series of events and lectures, many of which will be free and open to the public. The One Book project will conclude with a keynote address Feb. 5, 2009 by Quammen, author of "The Reluctant Mr. Darwin."

"The Reluctant Mr. Darwin" was published in 2006 to critical acclaim. The New York Times said it "works well as a vernacular primer on the Victorian view of evolution," and Science magazine advised "if you are going to buy only one book to commemorate Darwin in 2009, 'The Reluctant Mr. Darwin' could surely be it."'

Members of the campus and Evanston communities interested in the One Book project are encouraged to view "Design in the Age of Darwin" at Northwestern's Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston campus, on exhibition through Aug. 24. For more about evolution and its influence on science and society and upcoming lectures and events, visit the One Book One Northwestern Web site at www.northwestern.edu/onebook.