Anniversary of Darwin’s first Treatise on the Origin of Species

With preparations well under way to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin in 2009, we could not let today pass without putting together a little comment on the significance of July 1st 2008.

It was on this day 150 years ago that Darwin’s outline theory on natural selection was first put formerly to fellow scientists.  Under pressure to publish his theories as other learned gentleman of the Victorian age were already working on mechanisms to explain evolution, Darwin was persuaded to submit a joint paper to the Linnean Society.  The Linnean Society is based in London, founded in 1788, the society is dedicated to advancing knowledge of natural history and taxonomy.  The society is named after Carolus Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist who laid the foundations for the classification of organisms.

Fearing that his work could be overshadowed by other scientists, including the British naturalist and explorer Alfred Russel Wallace, it was agreed that Darwin and Wallace would present joint papers on their theories of natural selection to the Linnean Society.

Thus it was on this day in history that the world officially got to hear Darwin’s theory for evolution.  The book for which Darwin is most famous for “The Origin of Species” was published  a year later.  Ironically, the papers did not create a great deal of interest amongst Society members at the time, although the work of Darwin and his peers have had a huge impact on science as we know it today.

With typical Victorian grandeur, Darwin’s book when it was first published was entitled “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”, it was only in a very much later edition did the title change to the slightly snappier “The Origin of Species”.  Indeed phrases such as “survival of the fittest” do not appear in the early editions, these terms now synonymous with Darwin, were not originated by him. The term “survival of the fittest” along with considerable changes, edits and re-writes were made in subsequent print runs.

Still, July 1st is a special date in the history of natural science.

On a lighter note, now that the European Football Championships are over we can reflect on our experiment to try to guess the performance of national football teams by comparing the diversity of fossil records and mentions in our own web log.

To read the full article and see our predictions: Football champions based on Prehistoric Genera

We forecasted that Germany would win, they made the final but lost to Spain, a team that we had picked for the semi-finals and rated third by our parameters.  We could say that our choices of Germany and Spain (ranked 1st and 3rd by our criteria), showed remarkable consistencies with football performance, but no, statistically a random selection would have yielded potentially similar results.  After all, using our methodology we had calculated that France would be runners up and look what happened to them.

Never mind, perhaps we can revise our formulae in time for the 8th of August and the start of the Olympics.

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