The Struggle for Life
By: Michael Fouts
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) (Photo: Bettmann/Corbis)
On April 5, 1859, English naturalist and biologist Charles Darwin sent the first three chapters of his long-labored work to his publisher in London. The work, titled On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, was published in November of the same year and was met with much enthusiasm and curiosity from the public. The first 1250 copies sold out almost immediately for 15 schillings apiece. On the Origin of Species, for short, was full of revolutionary ideas and included the extraordinary theory that all life on earth evolved through a process Darwin described as natural selection.
Natural selection is the theory that certain unusual traits or mutations, such as the color of an insect’s body or the size of a bird’s beak, can help that specific organism live a longer and better life compared to other members of the same species without that unusual trait or mutation. The organism that lives a longer and better life has the opportunity to make more offspring with the same traits that helped the parent thrive. This cycle would cause a species of animal to evolve over time. Fossil records and other studies, such as his study on the Galapagos Islands finches, were used as evidence to support this theory.
During his visit to the Galapagos Islands in 1832, Charles Darwin noted several species of finches on the islands possessed different styles of beak, depending on thier food source. He used this study on finches to help develop his theory of natural selection. (Photo: Granger Collection, New York).
When Darwin published his findings in 1859 he was already a well-respected biologist, so his theories on natural selection and evolution were taken very seriously with the scientific community. In the public, though, his findings were met with some criticism and reluctance since they contained many scientific theories that had religious implications. These criticisms, however, would not stop the work from gaining relevance, and by 1872 On the Origin of Species had six editions published and would eventually set the ground work for the field of evolutionary biology.
Learn more about Charles Darwin and his famous work at:
You can read, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life at:
Classroom Research question:
What about Darwin’s work, especially his assertions about natural selection, had religious implications?