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Tree of life

Darwin’s ‘Tree of Life’ is one of the most famous drawings in the history of science. Ross MacFarlane explores the deep roots of the concept of the tree as a visual metaphor, and how it became entangled with eugenic thinking.

Words by Ross MacFarlane

  • In pictures

About the author

Black and white photograph of Ross MacFarlane, a white man with glasses, wearing a shirt and a dark jumper.

Ross MacFarlane


Ross MacFarlane is a research development specialist at Wellcome Collection. He has researched, written and lectured on the collections and other topics at the intersection of death, folklore and medicine.