Origin of species
The Origin of species is one of the most important and influential works in the history of science. First published on 24 November 1859, it aroused a great deal of controversy particularly in scientific and religious circles. The Library's copy, purchased in 1935, is one of 1250 produced in the first print run.
The full title of this work is On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. It is divided into 14 chapters, with a brief introduction, recapitulation and conclusion. In successive editions, up to the 1872 final sixth edition, Darwin revised his work to deal with the numerous criticisms of his theory.
Darwin's concept of evolution proposed that species change through natural selection, and that variations amongst species favoured their survival. Darwin's theory revolutionised our understanding of the natural world, firmly establishing the idea that constant change is the order of the universe. The basic ideas contained in this work subsequently became incorporated into the study of modern biology.
Charles Darwin (1809–82) initially studied medicine but switched to theology at Cambridge University with the intention of taking orders. While at Cambridge, Darwin became interested in natural history. On 27 December 1831, Darwin joined the Admiralty survey ship HMS Beagle as an unpaid naturalist, and began a five-year voyage around the world. Initially focusing mainly on geology and inspired by Charles Lyell’s Principles of geology, over the course of his journey Darwin began to question the accepted view that living species were fixed at creation and developed his theory of evolution based on the principle of natural selection.
A number of Darwin's later publications also made a significant impact in many fields of science. His The expression of the emotions in man and animals (1872) founded the study of ethnology and communication theory. The effects of cross and self fertilization in the vegetable kingdom (1876) demonstrated Darwin’s discovery of hybrid vigour, and Climbing plants (1875) and Power and movement in plants (1880) influenced the development of the science of growth hormones in plants.