In late January, New York-based internet consultant Phil Terry made a pitch on Facebook for members to post a Happy Birthday Darwin message. By 12 February, more than 200,000 members had signed on, far exceeding his expectations, he said. Since then, he's been shooting to make an even bigger splash. The goal is to have 1 million Facebook members by 24 November celebrating the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's seminal book, On the Origin of Species.
Within a week of setting up the Facebook campaign, Terry started a Web site, Darwin150, complete with Tweets. Self-described as a "grassroots and scrappy" initiative "with a sense of humor," the project is run by volunteers with no funding other than in-kind contributions from organizations such as National Geographic. Yet it has set up a lecture series that will be webcast live. The series begins 16 September and runs through 24 November, with speakers that include Harvard University's E.O. Wilson and other biology luminaries.
"This series is unique in both the medium and the audience," says evolutionary biologist and author Sean Carroll of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who has been active in Darwin celebrations across the globe and is involved in making a TV documentary on evolution. "It will be interesting to see its reach and the make-up of the audience."
Right now, the Facebook campaign is 750,000 members short. But, says So Young Park, head of the volunteer marketing team, "We are confident that we'll make our goal" and are expecting exponential growth in the days leading up to the anniversary. Go here to join.
Image: The Darwin 150 Project