November 24, 1859 — Today, Charles Darwin published, “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.”
Considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology, the book introduced the scientific theory that populations evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection. It presented a body of evidence that the diversity of life arose by common descent through a branching pattern of evolution. Darwin included evidence that he had gathered on the Beagle expedition in the 1830s and his subsequent findings from research, correspondence, and experimentation.
Written for non-specialist readers, it attracted widespread interest upon its publication. The debate over the book contributed to the campaign by T. H. Huxley and his fellow members of the X Club to secularise science by promoting scientific naturalism.
Within two decades there was widespread scientific agreement that evolution, with a branching pattern of common descent, had occurred, but scientists were slow to give natural selection the significance that Darwin thought appropriate. During “the eclipse of Darwinism” from the 1880s to the 1930s, various other mechanisms of evolution were given more credit.
With the development of the modern evolutionary synthesis in the 1930s and 1940s, Darwin’s concept of evolutionary adaptation through natural selection became central to modern evolutionary theory, and it has now become the unifying concept of the life sciences.
Words of Wisdom
A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.