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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: August 2010
  • First published in: 1863

CHAPTER XXI - ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES BY VARIATION AND NATURAL SELECTION

Summary

FOR many years after the promulgation of Lamarck's doctrine of progressive development, geologists were much occupied with the question whether the past changes in the animate and inanimate world were brought about by sudden and paroxysmal action, or gradually and continuously, by causes differing neither in kind nor degree from those now in operation.

The anonymous author of ‘The Vestiges of Creation’ published in 1844 a treatise, written in a clear and attractive style, which made the English public familiar with the leading views of Lamarck on transmutation and progression, but brought no new facts or original line of argument to support those views, or to combat the principal objections which the scientific world entertained against them.

No decided step in this direction was made until the publication in 1858 of two papers, one by Mr. Darwin and another by Mr. Wallace, followed in 1859 by Mr. Darwin's celebrated work on ‘The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, the Preservation of favoured Kaces in the Struggle for Life.’ The author of this treatise had for twenty previous years strongly inclined to believe that variation and the ordinary laws of reproduction were among the secondary causes always employed by the Author of nature, in the introduction from time to time of new species into the world, and he had devoted himself patiently to the collecting of facts, and making of experiments in zoology and botany, with a view of testing the soundness of the theory of transmutation.

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