200th Anniversary of the Birth of Charles Darwin

Today, February 12th marks the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, the English naturalist and scientist who influenced scientific thinking through his theories on natural selection and evolution.

Darwin’s theories although not universally accepted, are the cornerstone of palaeontological research.  Although he is credited with coming up with the theory of natural selection, other researchers, scientists and thinkers had expressed similar ideas before Darwin.   In the early 19th Century, how animals changed from one species to another was not properly understood but it was referred to as “transmutation”.

Indeed, Darwin was eventually forced into publishing his theory as a second English scientist, A. R. Wallace who had been working in the Far East; was about to publish a similar paper on the origins of species.  Darwin being the meticulous man he was had gathered together a vast amount of evidence to support his theory, so much so that when the book “The Origin of Species” was published, he described it as briefing paper as he had to leave out so much of the evidence to support his theory on natural selection.  A modern edition of the book still has over 450 pages.

The Elderly Charles Darwin

Picture Credit: Getty Images

With the publication of his revolutionary and ground breaking work in 1859, Charles Darwin established a view of the world that challenged the long held beliefs about Divine Creation and the development of life.  He challenged the notion that all animals were created at the same time and that they remain fixed, not changing over time.  His work has far reaching implications for humanity and remains one of the most hotly contended issues in science today.  Ironically, Darwin had no knowledge of genetics or DNA so the mechanism for evolution could not be explained.  It was to be another 30 years after his death before the work of the likes of Gregor Mendel came to be recognised and another 70 years or so before the nature of DNA began to be understood.

To read more about the publication of the “Origin of Species”:

Anniversary of the Publication of the “Origin of Species”

The work and insight of Charles Darwin has made a lasting contribution to science and philosophy, a number of events are planned this year to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth.  The events are grouped under the collective term “Darwin 200” and include documentaries on television, a season of radio programmes exploring the impact of his work, as well as events, presentations and fossil festivals.

Happy Birthday Charles Darwin.

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