Though the year 2009 was a gloomy one in terms of the deep recession that
gripped the globe and the H1N1 flu pandemic that infected hundreds of
thousands, the year also offered a chance to reflect upon the 200th anniversary
of the births of two historical giants—Abraham Lincoln and
Charles Darwin—who were born on the same day in 1809, as well as the
40th anniversary of the musical experience that became known as Woodstock.
Though Mexico grappled with ferocious drug wars, Pakistan battled
Islamist extremists, and the recruitment of child soldiers remained a scourge, the future
looked promising in some respects. China prospered; electric cars geared up; and unmanned
aerial vehicles helped fight wars and defend borders. In the sciences, autism
therapies were tailored for youngsters, primate research became a key to understanding
what it means to be human, and “Ardi,” a possible ancestor older than the hominin skeleton
Lucy, captured headlines. All of these topics are featured in Special Reports.