Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The hummingbird on the ten pound note

Not quite sure why Steve Jones is getting quite so upset about the humming bird on the British ten pound note. His complaint is that
'The note is supposed to encapsulate Darwin's trip to the Galapagos, with him looking at a hummingbird as a source of inspiration. But there are no hummingbirds on the islands'

OK there are no hummingbirds on the Galapagos, but according to the Bank of England:
" the ship HMS Beagle... is depicted on the back of the note. Also pictured is an illustration of Darwin 's own magnifying lens and the flora and fauna that he may have come across on his travels."
In other words, the illustrations on the note are not specifically about Darwin's trip to the Galapagos, but illustrate all his travels on HMS Beagle. And there is no question that he saw hummingbirds. He might not have written about them in The Origin but then he doesn't specifically mention Galapagos finches in The Origin either. So, this all strikes me as a storm in teacup. Why is this news?!

If one wanted to rant about Bank of England notes, let's start with the way in which they replaced the quintessential English composer with a Scotsman on the £20 note! Hrmmph! When did the Bank of Scotland last put an Englishman on one of their notes? If one wanted to start a conspiracy theory, one could blame it on the Scotsman who is running England ;-)


Janet said...

I think it's just a nice story and the Bank of England did originally say

"On the back of the note, the left-hand side is taken up with an image of a humming bird feeding on yellow blooms. The humming bird is based on the type characteristically found in the region of the Galapagos Islands, coloured in the banknote's predominant colour scheme."

However, to get things in proportion, most people don't hang on to cash long enough to read what's on the back of it.

Janet said...

PS - link not working - should be -