On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: By Charles Darwin - Illustrated

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9781521179017: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: By Charles Darwin - Illustrated
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About On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection by Charles Darwin

On the Origin of Species (or more completely, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life), published on 24 November 1859, is a work of scientific literature by Charles Darwin which is considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology. Darwin's book introduced the scientific theory that populations evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection. It presented a body of evidence that the diversity of life arose by common descent through a branching pattern of evolution. Darwin included evidence that he had gathered on the Beagle expedition in the 1830s and his subsequent findings from research, correspondence, and experimentation. Various evolutionary ideas had already been proposed to explain new findings in biology. There was growing support for such ideas among dissident anatomists and the general public, but during the first half of the 19th century the English scientific establishment was closely tied to the Church of England, while science was part of natural theology. Ideas about the transmutation of species were controversial as they conflicted with the beliefs that species were unchanging parts of a designed hierarchy and that humans were unique, unrelated to other animals. The political and theological implications were intensely debated, but transmutation was not accepted by the scientific mainstream.

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Review:

It's hard to talk about The Origin of Species without making statements that seem overwrought and fulsome. But it's true: this is indeed one of the most important and influential books ever written, and it is one of the very few groundbreaking works of science that is truly readable.

To a certain extent it suffers from the Hamlet problem--it's full of clichés! Or what are now clichés, but which Darwin was the first to pen. Natural selection, variation, the struggle for existence, survival of the fittest: it's all in here.

Darwin's friend and "bulldog" T.H. Huxley said upon reading the Origin, "How extremely stupid of me not to have thought of that." Alfred Russel Wallace had thought of the same theory of evolution Darwin did, but it was Darwin who gathered the mass of supporting evidence--on domestic animals and plants, on variability, on sexual selection, on dispersal--that swept most scientists before it. It's hardly necessary to mention that the book is still controversial: Darwin's remark in his conclusion that "Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history" is surely the pinnacle of British understatement. --Mary Ellen Curtin

Book Description:

Jim Endersby's major new scholarly edition debunks some of the myths that surround Darwin's book, and expores how it was originally written, published and read. Endersby provides a new, up-to-date and very readable introduction to this classic text and a level of scholarly apparatus unmatched by any other edition.

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