1859 – On the Origin of Species

As part of our trip through significant events over the last 200 years, we have paused this week, in 1859 when Charles Darwin publishes arguably one of the most important works in scientific history.

After originally trying his hand at being a doctor; considering a career in the church and taking a five year around the world trip, it was in November 1859 that Charles Darwin published ‘On the origin of species by means of natural selection’. This is still considered to be one of the most important books ever written and it was in this book the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ was coined, in one of the later editions.

Darwin gathered evidence from his voyages as well as other experiments and research and concluded that “populations evolve over generations by means of natural selection”.

He wrote his book for an audience of non-specialists and as a result it appealed to a much wider audience making it a very popular read.

20 years in the making

Darwin had developed his basic theory by 1838 meaning it took more than 20 years for him to actually publish his findings.

Some have suggested the delay was due to the church having so much control that he was nervous he would be disgraced and was conscious of upsetting family and friends. It is also suggested that a previous paper he released, which was proved to be incorrect, haunted him so he wanted to be absolutely confident and certain in his findings to avoid further embarrassment.

By the time Darwin began to publish his work the idea of natural selection and evolution started to become more widespread amongst scientists but he still felt that these theories were not taken as seriously or viewed as important as they should have been.

International Darwin Day

Charles Darwin had no reason to be concerned as today his theories still stand strong as the foundation of what we know and have learned about evolution. So much so that 100 years after his death International Darwin Day began and is celebrated every year with people coming together to remember and celebrate his amazing achievements.

Why not join us next week when we will be standing clear of the doors en route to 1863 when the first section of the London Underground opens – be sure to mind the gap.