Field of Science

24 November, 1859: New book discusses The Origin of Species

"It is no doubt the chief work of my life. It was from the first highly successful."
Darwin in his autobiography, 1876

The book On the Origin of Species, published on November 24, 1859, is an "abstract" without references, compiled by Charles Darwin from various preliminary copies.
In July 1837, only 1 year after his 5-year long voyage on the H.M.S.Beagle, the 28-year-old Darwin begun to write his first notebook on the Transmutation of Species. In October 1838 he read the book by book of Robert Malthus (1766-1834), which gave him an insight on the fierce competition acting in nature, and that slight differences along individuals could influence their destiny, and by accumulation trough time, such benevolent modifications would tend to generate new species.
In 1842 Darwin wrote out a sketch of his species theory in 35 pages, which in summer 1844 was enlarged to a work of 230 pages, both manuscripts were never finished and published posthumous. In the same year a popular book was anonymous published Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (by the journalist Robert Chambers 1802-1871), which affirmed by observing the paleontological record that species could change over time. However the book contained wild speculations and various errors, and it was severely criticised by leading British naturalists.
This example enforced in Darwin the necessity to work on his naturalistic reputation (by studying barnacles) and also gave him the opportunity to work out review his theory and prepare to the possible criticism. He reassumed his work on the origin of species in September 1854, this time with a manuscript entitled Natural Selection-1854, it was later in the same year that a letter was delivered, coming from the distant island of Ternate in the Malay Archipelago.
Darwin realized that the sender, A.R. Wallace, who he had contacted in the past for information about animals and plants of South America, had developed a theory similar, if not identical to his own about the origin of species. Wallace's Ternate Essay and fragments from Darwin's private species manuscripts were read at the next meeting of the Linnaean Society of London and published in volume 3 of the Proceedings on August 20, 1858.
Darwin became urged to publish his theory; and so on November 24, 1859 On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life, bound in simple, green publishers´ cloth was published in 1250 copies.


BROWNE. J. (2007): Darwin's Origin of Species: Books That Changed the World. Atlantic Monthly Press: 320

KUTSCHERA, U. (2009): Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, directional selection, and the evolutionary sciences today. Naturwissenschaften 96:1247-1263 DOI 10.1007/s00114-009-0603-0

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