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Nelson College Team to Follow in Darwin’s Steps

Nelson Boys College Team to Follow in Darwin’s Footsteps

Winners of the 2008 Freemasons BIG Science Adventures school DVD competition are soon to depart for the UK, to follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin.

Year 12 students from Nelson Boys College, Ross Inness-McLeish, Jack Tippler, Oliver Neas and teacher, Mrs Leigh Riley, will begin their journey on Saturday 26 July.

The team will visit London, Edinburgh and Shrewsbury, seeing places which were significant in Darwin's life. They will visit the Royal Society of London, Oxford and Cambridge Universities and Darwin's house in Kent, as well as his birthplace in Shrewsbury.

This year’s competition theme, ‘Darwin and Evolution’, was chosen by the Royal Society of New Zealand to mark the 150th anniversary of the Wallace-Darwin paper on natural selection. The paper was read to the Linnaean Society in London on 1 July 1858, and On The Origin of Species was published the following year. There will be an international celebration next year to mark this, and the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth.

The DVD produced by the Nelson team, ‘Finding Time’, explained how Ernest Rutherford’s understanding of radioactivity underpinned Darwin’s theory by showing that the Earth was indeed old enough for the slow processes of evolution to have occurred. Previous estimates of the age of the Earth had been wildly short of the mark. Judges were unanimous in praise of the team’s interesting, professional, and highly effective account of one of Rutherford’s many great contributions to science. Rutherford was a former pupil of Nelson College, making their choice of topic an easy one.

The students will be farewelled on Friday 25 July at a special function at the Auckland Museum, hosted by Royal Society Chief Executive, Dr Di McCarthy. The function will include a screening of ‘Lessons from a Melting Icecap’, a documentary on climate change effects in Greenland, produced by young filmmaker Jinty McTavish. Jinty was part of the Royal Society’s expedition last year, together with three students from Otago Girls High who won the DVD competition.

Said Dr McCarthy “This year’s trip is a wonderful opportunity for the students to both take part in an exciting overseas experience, as well as learn more about the life and work of Charles Darwin, one of the world’s true scientific heroes. I congratulate them on their inventive and enjoyable DVD, and wish them all the best for their journey.”

The Royal Society, which organises the competition, is grateful to Freemasons New Zealand for their support over the last five years, as well as The Royal New Zealand Navy, British Airways, and the University of Otago.

All the winning and short-listed DVDs can be viewed online at


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