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Charles Darwin

In honor of the contributions made by Charles Darwin, the National Academy of Sciences commissioned a bronze replica of a bust of Darwin created by Virginia sculptor William Couper (1853-1942). The original bronze was commissioned by the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) in 1909 and was given to the American Museum of Natural History to inaugurate its Darwin Hall of Invertebrate Zoology. The bust of Darwin has since been returned to the offices of the NYAS, where it resides today. The March 1909 issue of The American Museum Journal reported that “The bust is pronounced by those who knew Darwin personally and by his sons in England… the best portrait in the round of the great naturalist ever made.”

The process used to reproduce the statue for the NAS combined traditional techniques with innovative digital technology. A virtual model was created by scanning the original sculpture in situ at the NYAS. Using a rapid prototype process, a form was created from which the bronze was cast. This process reduces potential damage to the original and gives artisans more flexibility in refining the details of the final work.