Darwin Day is a recently instituted celebration intended to commemorate the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin on February 12, 1809. The day is used to highlight Darwin's contribution to science and to promote science in general.
The celebration of Darwin's work and tributes to his life have been organized sporadically since his death on April 19, 1882, at age 73. Events took place at Down House, in Downe on the southern outskirts of London where Darwin and members of his family lived from 1842 until the death of Emma Darwin in 1896.
In 1909, more than 400 scientists and dignitaries from 167 countries met in Cambridge to honour Darwin's contributions and to discuss vigorously the recent discoveries and related theories contesting for acceptance. This was a widely reported event of public interest. Also in 1909, on February 12, the 100th birth anniversary of Darwin and the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species were celebrated by the New York Academy of Sciences at the American Museum of Natural History. A bronze bust of Darwin was unveiled. On June 2, 1909 the Royal Society of New Zealand held a "Darwin Celebration". "There was a very large attendance."
On November 24–28, 1959, The University of Chicago held a major, well publicized, celebration of Darwin and the publication of On the Origin of Species.
Scientists and academics sometimes celebrated February 12 with "Phylum Feast" events—a meal with foods from as many different phyla as they could manage, at least as early as 1972, 1974, and 1989 in Canada.
In the United States, Salem State College in Massachusetts has held a "Darwin Festival" annually since 1980, and in 2005, registered "Darwin Festival" as a service mark with the US Patent and Trademark Office.
The Humanist Community of Palo Alto, California, was motivated by Dr. Robert Stephens in late 1993 to begin planning for an annual "Darwin Day" celebration. Its first public Darwin Day event was a lecture by Dr. Donald Johanson (discoverer of the early hominid "Lucy"), sponsored by the Stanford Humanists student group and the Humanist Community on April 22, 1995. The Humanist Community continues its annual celebration of Darwin, science, and humanity, on February 12.
Independently, in 1997, Professor Massimo Pigliucci initiated an annual "Darwin Day" event with students and colleagues at the University of Tennessee. The event included several public lectures and activities as well as a teachers' workshop meant to help elementary and secondary school teachers better understand evolution and how to communicate it to their students, as well as how to deal with the pressures often placed on them by the creationism movement.