20 August 2016
Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution through natural selection on 20 August 1858
On this day in history, 1858: Charles Darwin publishes his theory of evolution through natural selection in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London. The following year he published his book On the Origin of Species.
By the 1870s his theory was generally accepted in the scientific community and wider society too. In fact, this newspaper clipping, from the Brighton Gazette, dating from June 1860, shows that Darwin’s book got off to a flying start – being listed in the ‘latest and most popular works of the season’.
It’s fascinating to see which other publications were capturing our Victorian ancestors’ imagination that summer. There’s George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss, recently published that year, and Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, for instance. (Tennyson’s Idylls were at that stage still a work-in-progress, which weren’t complete until 1885.) There’s also the surprisingly modern sounding Self-Help by Samuel Smiles. Summing up our Victorian ancestors’ pride in thriftiness and hard work, it’s truly reflective of the moral vibe of the reign.
Pictured: While Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution challenged contemporary religious views, it was evidently a popular read hot off the press, as this 1860s newspaper clipping shows – listing it with the favourite reads that summer.