Storyteller Brian Ellis presented “Charles Darwin and His Revolutionary Idea” at the James W. Miller Learning Resources Center Auditorium on St. Cloud State’s campus Thursday night.
The performance was done in celebration of Darwin’s would-be 206th birthday and also commemorated his life and prodigious contributions to the scientific community.
“All good science begins with questions…” Ellis said as he started the presentation. Ellis takes you through the life of Darwin, starting when he was a young man trying to discover what his purpose was in life.
The narration of his background story starts with the Darwin family’s background in the scientific community. He explained why Darwin chose to be a minister, rather than a doctor and how that greatly upset his father. His story resonates to today’s student trying to choose an occupation in a changing economy, because Darwin could not work in the scientific community because a scientist was not considered a profession.
“Most early scientific discoveries was done by members of the church,” Ellis explains.
Darwin chose to be a minister because he would have the rest of the week to dedicate to his studies of the natural world and would only have to work on Sundays. Darwin’s story continues through his university life at Cambridge and how his professors had a profound impact on him, and how he took as many science courses as was possible for a divinity student.
Ellis then takes you through how he was offered to be a naturalist for the HMS Beagle, and how his voyage took him across the world to wild places in and around South America, and how that journey led to the writing of this book The Origin of Species as well as the creation of his theory of natural selection. He paints a clear image of Darwin when he discovered the great biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands saying, “that it was like watching creation happen undisturbed.”
Ellis’s narration of the story of Darwin’s life and his life-altering journey gives a proper context for one to fully understand the development of Darwin’s theories, and a different perspective from how the theories are taught today. Ending the story with how Darwin settled back into normal life and drafted his book, which cause a firestorm of controversy upon publication.
Ellis responds as Darwin to his critic’s saying, “most people attack me personally, because they can’t attack the science behind my theory.”
Ellis is an award winning storyteller and author, who is able to tell the personal narratives of history. He initially started playing Darwin when he was commissioned by Field Museum of Chicago, and was able to research Darwin’s life for over a year, paying close attention to the great deal of Darwin’s personal correspondence written while he was traveling abroad.
“It’s important that we know our past, but how it’s taught is not always very interesting,” Ellis said after the show.
He explained that even he was not interested in history as a student, but once he discovered the stories of history he knew they had to be told.
“The way the stories are narrated helps put history in a context that is interesting and engaging,” Ellis said.
Ellis said that he tells the stories of our past unlike we have never heard them before, allowing his audience to walk away with a better understanding of our history.