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Page from 'Hypnerotomachia poliphili' Photo of a group of gold rush-era diggers Double-spread from 'Fables choisies' Photo from Edna Walling's manuscript Double page spread of 'Diary of a Welsh swagman' The top section of the Bendigo goldfields petition Double-spread of 'De musica' by Boethius Detail from 'Cyclorama of Melbourne' Image of 'Black Thursday' Detail from 'Birds of America' Detail from 'Panorama of Melbourne', 1855 Cover of 'The hut that Jack built' 'Princes Bridge', by Clarice Beckett, c1923 Peter Lalor's pistol Title page of Darwin's 'Origin of species' Cover page of Newton's 'Principia' The full armour Ned Kelly wore Double-spread of 'Myrrour of the worlde' Front view of the press dress Page of handwritten text from Charles Evans' diary Cover of Lady Loch's photo album

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Origin of species

Books, Science & technology
Date: 1859
Author: Charles Darwin

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.