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International Darwin Day at the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities

Date & Time: February 12, 2019
Location: at the Academy
Three years ago, the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities joined many academic institutions around the world in marking International Darwin Day, celebrated on Charles Darwin’s birthday, February 12 (1809). This tradition was initiated ten years ago, in 2009, the bicentennial of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the original publication his On the Origin of Species, in 1859. The festive, worldwide celebration expresses humanity’s great appreciation of Darwin for “opening its eyes” and sparking a scientific revolution.
The Israel Academy celebrated International Darwin Day this year with two special events: the launch of an exhibition documenting the evolution of humankind, and a conference devoted to the human species (Homo sapiens) and its Neanderthal relatives.
Prof. Oren Harman of Bar-Ilan University opened the conference with a lecture on “Neanderthals: A Chronicle of False Hopes.” Prof. Anna Belfer-Cohen of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem lectured on “The Neanderthals, Modern Man and Cave Art,” and Academy Member Prof. Yoel Rak of Tel Aviv University lectured on “The Anatomy of Neanderthals and its Significance.” Dr. Ilan Gronau of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya concluded the conference with a talk entitled “Surprisingly Close Relations between Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals.”
Exhibition on Human Evolution
The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities marked International Darwin Day by launching an exhibition entitled “The Fossil Trail: Evidence for Human Evolution.” Using precise replicas of fossils (including some discovered only recently), the exhibition documents the evolution of humankind since the hominid branch split from that of the chimpanzees. Visitors to the exhibition learn about the different links in the human evolutionary chain and the principal anatomical features that guide scholars in piecing it together. Some of the hominid species on display existed alongside those that are considered the ancestors of modern humans. Their documentation sets out the anatomical considerations behind their removal from the chain of human development.