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Origin of Species is Published

Updated: Jul 23, 2023

#05 Science in History

What an infinite number of generations, which the mind cannot grasp, must have succeeded each other in the long roll of years! Now turn to our richest geological museums, and what a paltry display we behold! Charles Darwin

'On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection of the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life' is published on this day in 1859.


The naturalist Charles Darwin was already famous following his voyage on The Beagle and the subsequent publication of 'Journal and Remarks' in 1839. In the following twenty or so years since, he had collected and organised a wealth of material which he was to use in 'Origin of the Species'.

Through inductive reasoning based on evidence, Darwin proposed that species result from a gradual evolution where species best suited to their environments propagate through natural selection.

Alfred Russel Wallace, at the time on an expedition to Indonesia, had produced scientific journals with Darwin the year before. Wallace was an admirer of Darwin and they regularly exchanged letters. During one such correspondence, Wallace enclosed an essay containing his own theory of evolution. Realising that Wallace was about to publish similar ideas, Darwin sent the essay to his friends - the geologist Charles Lyle and biologist Joseph Hooker - who advised him to publish first and establish priority.

At the Linnean Society meeting, on July 1, 1858, Darwin and Wallace's papers were read with Darwin gaining priority by having his read first.


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