On the 210th birth anniversary of the Father of Evolution Charles Darwin, we look at the theory that shook the scientific coomunity in 1859.
The theory of evolution by natural selection explained the origin of astonishingly diverse living things and how they adapted to their particular environments.
How was the theory formulated?
One of the most important events in the formulation of the evolution theory was Darwin’s 5-year voyage aboard HMS Beagle.
Darwin was astonished to see a world so different from the one he knew. He encountered birds with bright blue feet, sharks with T-shaped heads and giant tortoises.
On his travels, Darwin collected plants, animals, and fossils, and took copious field notes. These collections and records provided the evidence he needed to develop his remarkable theory. He spent many years comparing and analyzing specimens before finally declaring that evolution occurs by a process of natural selection.
What is the theory of evolution?
- Survival of the fittest- The theory proposes that the ‘fittest’ organisms – those with the characteristics best suited to their environment – will more likely survive and reproduce. They pass on these desirable characteristics to their offspring. Gradually these features become more common, so species change over time. If the changes are great enough they could produce a new species altogether.
- Natural selection– Darwin also claimed that the environment might naturally manipulate species, causing them to change over time.
- Origin of Species– Charles Darwin used the concept of a tree of life to illustrate that all species on Earth are related and evolved from a common ancestor. For example, humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans are all great apes, so they all belong to the same branch of the tree of life.
Why is the theory widely challenged?
Darwin is celebrated as one the greatest British scientists, but in his time his radical theories brought him into conflict with members of the Church of England. Many people believed that Darwin’s proposed descent of humans from apes was an attack on society’s moral foundations.
Where does the theory stand today?
Despite the attacks, Darwin’s conviction in the scientific explanation remained unshaken.
In a poll that took place in 2015 on the Academic Book Week website Charles Darwin’s book ‘On the Origin of Species’ has been overwhelmingly voted the most influential academic book ever written.
‘Darwin used meticulous observation of the world around us, combined with protracted and profound reflection, to create a book which has changed the way we think about everything – not only the natural world, but religion, history, and society,’ said Professor Andrew Prescott of the University of Glasgow.
Charles Darwin died aged 73 on April 19, 1882, of heart failure. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, London.
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