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Oxford was the location of the infamous debate on evolution and religion in 1860.

Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Crab collected by Darwin © Oxford University Museum of Natural History

In June 1860 the newly opened Oxford University Museum of Natural History hosted one of the most famous debates in scientific history. It was the ‘great debate’ between Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford and Thomas Huxley, the biologist and writer.

They argued furiously about Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection and the questions it raised about man’s place in the natural world and religious belief. Darwin himself was not well enough to attend the debate but Huxley was nicknamed ‘Darwin’s bull-dog’ for his ardent defence of Darwin’s work.

Today the Museum displays a statue of Darwin and some of the crabs he collected during his voyage on the Beagle.


‘There is grandeur in this view of life... from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.’ Charles Darwin