Charles Darwin never forgot his father’s words. ………
“You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat-catching,
and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family”,
his father had once yelled at him when he was a boy.

(from the book “A Modest Genius”)
The young Charles Darwin was more of a 19th-century
Indiana Jones: tall, slim, athletic, always ready to climb
a mountain or trek on horseback day after day. He happily
hunted and shot his own game for dinner, cooked
it on a campfire, and then slept out under the stars. He
wrote home with satisfaction: “I am become quite a
Gaucho, drink my Mattee & smoke my cigar, & then lie
down & sleep as comfortably with the Heavens for a
Canopy as in a feather bed”.

(from the book “A Modest Genius”)
Hanne Strager’s marvellous book brings us an engaging summary
of Darwin’s work, weaving together stories and glimpses from
his private life and his discoveries with more recent developments
in science and conservation. A Modest Genius provides a
contemporary perspective on Darwin’s work that helps us
understand our place on the planet.

(from Sarah Darwin's foreword to "A Modest Genius")

Rarely—if ever—have I read such a compelling, fact-filled, entertaining and in all ways wonderful book on science. The book is popular science at its very best.
Michael Stoltze, Kristeligt Dagblad
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…an important and extraordinarily entertaining book about Darwin and his theories.
Inge Søborg, Arbejderen


Hanne Strager is a formidable interpreter of the theory of evolution wound around compelling anecdotes of Darwin’s life and experiences.
Dennis Nørremark, Jyllandsposten

About the Book

Part biography, part popular science, A Modest Genius provides a lively, engaging account of Darwin’s life and the events that inspired his groundbreaking theory. Science writer and biologist Hanne Strager brings Darwin to life while offering the essential elements of evolution and how they affect us today

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Much has been written on Darwin’s life, his groundbreaking work, and the influence he has had on modern scientific thought and advancements, but most books assume a certain level of scientific knowledge. A Modest Genius changes that, offering an accessible, easy-to-understand discussion of Darwin’s work.

Readers follow Darwin from his early years through his travels. Hanne Strager explains how Darwin assembled the pieces of a fascinating puzzle while also describing the fundamental principles of evolution.

Darwin’s theory, by necessity, was incomplete when he proposed it. He lacked modern knowledge of the fossil record, DNA and genetics. Strager explains how advances in these and other scientific areas expanded on Darwin’s original work. She also discusses the ongoing conflict between religion and evolution, including the famous Scopes Monkey Trial and the battle Darwin himself fought between faith and intellect.

Bold, exciting, and easily understood, A Modest Genius offers an opportunity to understand one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of the modern age.


Three good books with knowledge and depth.


Tales of Discovery in an East African Rainforest is a beautiful and lavishly illustrated book containing 23 personal stories about Africa’s hidden rainforests – the Udzungwa Mountains and the other Eastern Arc Mountains in East Africa, a lush area teeming with extraordinary wildlife, in a mountain range surrounded by vast, dry savannah. From ancient bird species to newly discovered primates and other mammals, the Udzungwa Mountains are among the most important rainforests in Africa. UDZUNGWA will immerse you in a lush and etraordinary landscape, surround you with amazing creatures and put the Udzungwa Mountains on the global conservation map. The book is written by 23 different writers. Hanne Strager was director of production.



Stories of discovery, exploration and the wonders of nature from all continents lead the reader into worlds of sea monsters and stranded whales, stones falling from the sky and prehistoric animals emerging from the ground. Hanne Strager tells of ancient human skulls found in Brazilian caves, traces the travels of a Dodo skull and the sad story of the very last pair of great auks in this world; and about a unique gift from Darwin that was first lost and forgotten but recently rediscovered. The stories of natural history, science and discovery are woven together in a fascinating tale of how we use objects in nature to interprete and understand the world we live in.


Charles Darwin’s work is well known to the public, but not well understood. Books on the theory of evolution tend to be dry, complicated affairs and to assume a scientific audience. In A Modest Genius biologist and science writer Hanne Strager offers an accessible and lively account of Darwin’ s life and his discoveries and introduces the reader to the science of evolution – what it is, how it works, and its implications for modern science and our daily lives. The narrative interweaves modern discoveries and cutting-edge science together with the story of how Darwin worked out the theory of evolution.


About the author

Hailing from Denmark, Hanne Strager is a biologist and science writer. After graduating from the Aarhus University, Denmark, she studied at the University of California, Santa Cruz, as a Fulbright Scholar.

Strager cofounded a whale center in northern Norway and remains involved in cetacean research and conservation. She has served as the director of exhibitions at the Natural History Museum of Denmark and has twenty years’ experience making science and natural history accessible to the general public. She has been awarded the Copenhagen University Natural Sciences Faculty’s prize for science communication.

Hanne Strager is also a member of SeaLegacy’s braintrust. Sealegacy is an international organization founded by Paul Nicklen and Christina Mittermeier. SeaLegacy is committed to the conservation of the sea and marine life and works to create awareness of climate change and the plight of our oceans .

In addition to A Modest Genius, Strager is the author of Precious Things, a book revealing the many treasures within the Natural History Museum of Denmark.


As Director of Exhibitions and Public Engagement at The Natural History Museum of Denmark Hanne Strager has curated and produced a wide range af exhibitions and galleries.

The Natural History Museum of Denmark Curator: Hanne Strager and Joakim Engel A gallery featuring the treasures of The Natural History Museum of Denmark including the oldest evidence of life on Earth, the skull of a Dodo, the remains of last great auks in the World, the fossil of a Diplodocus and the newly found collection of 77 barnacles, a gift from Darwin to the museum in 1854. (Top: Graverede nautilus-skaller fra Det Kongelige Kunstkammer.. Bottom: The gift from Darwin. Rigth: The diplodocus skeleton)
Treasures from the Past

The Natural History Museum of Denmark Curator: Jakob Danneskiold Samsoe A gallery featuring objects from our oldest collections: Ole Worm’s 17th Century Museum Wormianum catalogue and the Royal Kunstkammer. The exhibition showcases American artist Rosamond Purcell’s installation, One Room, which is a reconstruction of Olaus Worm’s Cabinet of Curiosities (1655) (right)— The precursor to the oldest museums in the world.
Hall of Evolution

The Natural History Museum of Denmark
Curator: Hanne Strager

This is the story of Darwin’s discoveries and the theory of evolution. The exhibition includes a reconstruction of the cabin aboard Beagle, a diorama from Punta Alta with skeletons of Megatherium and Glyptodont, a diorama from Galapagos, a reconstruction of Darwin’s study at his house in Downe, and an innovative 3-D interpretation of TheTree of Life. The exhibition was developed in collaboration with Professor Peter Kjærgaard, University of Aarhus, English Heritage, and The Darwin Natural History Museum, Monte Hermoso, Argentina as well as numerous scientists from the Natural History Museum of Denmark. (Top: Hanne Strager hosting the Crown Prince of Denmark, Secretaries of State for Science and Education, Helge Sander and Bertel Haarder respectively, and Museum Director Morten Meldgaard. Bottom: Reconstruction of Darwin’s cabin, aboard Beagle. Right: Megatherium skeleton.)
Birds and Feathers

The Natural History Museum of Denmark
Curator: Hanne Strager

The evolution and many variable functions of feathers, featuring fossils and reconstructed feathered dinosaurs and birds. The exhibition is free of glass-case scenography and instead features birds flying in the air, sitting in trees, and walking on podiums. Reviewed by a leading national paper, Weekendavisen, as “. . .informative, relevant, creative and beautiful.” This exhibition was developed in consultation with Professor Jon Fjeldså and Associate Professor Per Christiansen, University of Copenhagen.

Mammoths -The Giants From Russia

The Natural History Museum of Denmark and Borissiak Paleontological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Curator: Joakim Engel and Hanne Strager

The extinct Eurasian megafauna, the mammoth, the steppe bison and the wholly rhoinocerous were the high lights of the exhibition Mammoths. The exhibition was made possible through a loan from the Russian Academy of Sciences and aimed at shedding light on what caused the extinction af the meagafauna. The exhibition also shows the stunning photographs of the Russian photographer Evgenia Arbugaeva from Sibiria. She has followed modern treasure hunters, local men who excavate the muddy river banks in Siberia for the bones and tusks of long dead giants. Top: Hanne Strager showing the exhibition to journalists just prior to the opeing. Bottom Rigth: Photo by Evgenia Arbugaeva. Bottom left: A young guest studying the bones of one of the extinct species
Spiders. Alive!

The Natural History Museum of Denmark
Curator: Joakim Engel and Hanne Strager

Featuring spiders from all over the world, including more than 25 live species. Also glass spider sculptures by English artist Neil Wilkins (right, black widow) and a magnificent gold scarf made from spider silk in Madagascar. The exhibition was developed in collaboration with The National Museum of Denmark, artists Guillaume Lehoux, Neil Wilkins and Nina Katchadourian, numerous photographers and filmmakers from all over the world, British art historian Nicholas Godley,and New York fashion designer Simon Peers, and with scientific assistance and inspiration from Associate Professor Nikolaj Scharff and Post. Doc. Hannah Wood. For this exhibition the museum developed a new educational tool—“The Museum Box” that allowed teachers and students to investigate the life of spiders using instruments and materials in the box.
Flora Danica

The Natural History Museum of Denmark
Curator: Birgitte Rubæk

The exhibition shows the story of the Flora Danica. It started with a cloudberry plant. Later followed thousands of flowers, algea, and fungi which were sketched and printed for a magnificent work on wild plants native to Denmark: Flora Danica - a genuine 18th Century product of the Enlightenment, which came into being through collaboration among scientists, engravers, and artist during a period of 123 years

The exhibition was done in collaboration with some of Denmark’s finest contemporary artists, who each picked one or more of the original copper engravings and used them to create new interpretations.
Caption Text1 2011

The Natural History Museum of Denmark
Curator: Hanne Strager

Few things are more fascinating than the giants of the sea. Their relationship with humans—mythology, hunting, and stranding— is documented in this exhibition.

We showcase a selection of the museum’s whale skeletons and specimens preserved in spirit—including a real heart from a bowhead whale—as well as scientific drawings, logs and journals from whaling ships, and photographs and paintings from the early 17th century to present day.

The exhibition features a hands-on area and teaching program that allows teachers to take students on an exploratory selfguided trail through the exhibit. Top: Heart of a bowhead whale. Bottom: Whale skull and vintage pictures of strandings. 2011
Biodiversity is Life, Biodiversity

is Our Life
The Natural History Museum of Denmark
Curator: UNESCO

This travelling exhibition was made possible by a partnership between the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, The European Environment Agency, The French Embassy, the Natural History Museum of Denmark and the Danish National Commission for UNESCO. Right: Her Royal Highness Princess Marie of Denmark with Museum Director Morten Meldgaard.

Climate Change: The Threat to Life and A New
Energy Future

The Natural History Museum of Denmark
Curator: Ed Mathez, American Museum of Natural History

A travelling exhibition developed by the AMNH in collaboration with eight other museums (including the Natural History Museum of Denmark). The exhibition illustrated the science of climate change as well as possible solutions to its consequences. For the Danish version we developed partnerships with Siemens, Shell, Velux and many other companies and included a Danish angle on energy solutions. We also developed an educational programme for primary and secondary schools that included a board game on energy economy and politics, which is currently being adapted to an e-learning format.

The Natural History Museum of Denmark
Curator: Hanne Strager

An exhibition about the history of Danish oceanographic exploration, starting out with the Galathea Expedition in 1845 to 2007. The exhibition featured a highly popular interactive display where visitors could engage in dialogue with ten scientists and ask questions about their fascination with science. Right: 3-D laser engravings of microscopic marine animals.

The Natural History Museum of Denmark
Curator: Hanne Strager

Engineering, architecture, and design find Inspiration and innovative solutions from nature. Biomimicry is a fast developing branch of research and technology that finds solutions to design and engineering problems. The exhibition was featured in a range of high-profile media and attracted an exceptionally wide range of visitors (engineers, design and architecture students, and corporate groups requesting guided tours).

Bionic was developed in collaboration with numerous other institutions, including the biomimetic labs at Bath and Reading Universities, the Technical University of Denmark, University of Tokyo, CF Moeller Architects, and University of Oxford. (Above: An artificial hand Right: A Mars-lander inspired by a spider).

The Natural History Museum of Denmark
Curator: Hanne Strager

Celebrating the diversity of life, this exhibition showed not only all the different life forms on earth but also raised the question of how and where to protect them. The exhibition was developed in collaboration with the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and Professor Jon Fjeldså provided scientific input and review. A part of the exhibition is integrated in the biodiversity wall of the new Hall of Evolution. Right: A selection of bird skulls.


The Oceanographic Institute,
Nha Trang, Vietnam
Curator: Hanne Strager

An exhibition made for The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO to celebrate 10 years of capacity building and science collaboration with the Vietnamese Government. Vietnamese experts assisted in the curation and production. Advanced 3-D scanning and laser techniques were used to illustrate microscopic life.
The Ancient Sea

Denmark’s Aquarium
Curator: Hanne Strager

An exhibition about the evolution of life in the ancient sea, from Precambrian to the age of mosasaurs and plesiosaurs. The exhibition showed a combination of “living fossils” in aquaria tanks as well as fossils and reconstructions. The exhibition was developed in collaboration with the Natural History Museum of Denmark, the Natural History Museum of London and University of Copenhagen.


The Tycho Brahe Planetarium, Copenhagen
Curator: Hanne Strager

An exhibition about dolphins and threats to marine mammals in connection with an IMAX movie about dolphins. The exhibition was developed in cooperation with the Natural History Museum of Denmark. Right: Bottlenose dolphin skull.
Drawing Nature:
Scientific Illustrations

Denmark’s Aquarium
Curator: Hanne Strager

Six different artists demonstrate various techniques and subjects from birds and flowers to rocks and landscapes. Top: Drawing by Anne Hviid Nicolaisen


Denmark’s Aquarium
Curator: Hanne Strager

Coral from all over the world, featuring the use of coral in jewelry, the destruction of coral reefs, and live corals in aquaria. The exhibition included a selection of the famous “fish herbarium” (right) collected by Linnaeus’ student, Peder Forsskål, in Yemen in 1761- 1762.
Inge Lehmann

The Natural History Museum of Denmark
Curator: Lotte Boesen Toftgaard

Seven artists celebrated the famous Danish geologist, Inge Lehmann, who discovered that the core of the Earth is solid.

Poetry in the Garden

The Natural History Museum of Denmark and the Botanical Gardens
Curator: Lars Green Dahl
Forty poems from three centuries. This exhibition was featured in a national high school essay competition and in a workshop for 90 high school teachers of Danish literature.

Britt Smelvær’s Floating Bowls

The Natural History Museum of Denmark and the Botanical Gardens
Curator: Birgitte Rubæk

The beautiful and poetic bowl sculptures (left) are acrylic with embedded dried leaves and flowers. The bowls were an instant hit with visitors and were sorely missed when they moved to a new location.

The Wall by Rasmus Bregnhøi

Denmark’s Aquarium
Curator: Hanne Strager

A participatory art project for children. Artist Rasmus Bregnhøi used children’s paintings to create a 15m-long mural of a whale. The concept later developed into a traditionrunning for many years with a new artist directing hundreds of children and adapting their work into murals.

Shackleton in Antarctica

Denmark’s Aquarium
Curator: Hanne Strager

Shackleton’s epic journey on the ship Endurance. Frank Hurley’s incredible photographs were accompanied by quotes from letters and diaries telling the fantastic story of survival, leadership, friendship, and heroism. Exhibition developed in cooperation with the Royal Geographical Society, London. Right: Frank Wild, Shackleton’s righthand- man with one of his dogs Far right: The Endurance locked in ice.
Art for Nature

Andenes Whale Center, Norway
Curator: Hanne Strager

A participatory art project for international students. The art work was a 75 m2 sail hoisted up the local lighthouse.
Nicaragua, mi amor

Various places
Curator and photographer: Hanne Strager

Photos and lyrics around the theme of nature and conservation in Nicaragua.

Hanne Strager is a member of the Steering Committee for ”The Whale”, an ambitious project that plans to establish a new attraction in Andenes, Norway. The projects combines arts and science and aims to establish a new facility, where visitors can explore the wonders of whales through evocative and innovative exhibitions and galleries.


Hanne is also involved in research on population structure, movements and migration of killer whales in Norway. Killer whales are found year round in Norway, but are most common in winter time, when they follow migrating herring close to the shore.


Please contact Hanne Strager here.