25 June 2005

July 1st: a day to celebrate evolution

On 1 July 1858, Charles Darwin’s and Alfred Russel Wallace’s ideas on evolution by natural selection were made public for the first time before the Linnean Society in London.

Darwin had been developing his ideas for 20 years, but before that day he had revealed them only to a few close friends and correspondents, including the American botanist Asa Gray. Wallace, on the other hand, had come up with his version of natural selection, very much similar to that of Darwin's, a few months earlier while doing fieldwork in the Malay Archipelago and communicated it to Darwin in a letter.

The presentation at the Linnean Society was initiated with a letter of introduction by Darwin’s close friends Charles Lyell and Joseph D. Hooker, opening with the words:

My Dear Sir, -- The accompanying papers, which we have the honour of communicating to the Linnean Society, and which all relate to the same subject, viz. the Laws which affect the Production of Varieties, Races, and Species, contain the results of the investigations of two indefatigable naturalists, Mr. Charles Darwin and Mr. Alfred Wallace.

This was followed by the reading of extracts from an unpublished essay Darwin had written in 1844, part of his 1857 letter explaining his ideas to Gray and the manuscript Wallace had sent to Darwin.

What better thing is there to do on July 1st than learning about evolution? Read a book on evolution, teach someone about evolution, visit a natural history museum or take a hike in the woods. And don’t forget to remember Darwin and Wallace, for, after all these years, their idea remains indefatigable.



afarensis said...

Thanks for the Reminder!

catherine said...

What an excellent thing to do. Thanks, will send to my Darwin's Bulldogs list. I also plan to do a daily post for our group starting on July 10 about what was going on in court in Tennessee on that day of the trial 80 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Aydin - this is a wonderful reason to celebrate!

I'm also celebrating the discovery of your website which I'm enjoying very much. Your posts have reminded me of something I read some time ago. Have you read David Quammen's "The Song of the Dodo"? Quammen clearly feels Wallace earned a much larger role in developing the theory of evolution than he was initially given credit for. I'm looking forward to my summer reading which will include "The Reluctant Mr. Darwin"; I don't know if he's changed his mind or not. What do you think about Quammen's suppositions?


I haven't read the Song of the Dodo. Maybe I should.