November 24, 1859: Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species
Charles Darwin is one of the most well-known names in the scientific realm, up there with Albert Einstein and Nikola Tesla. Of his many works, the most notable is almost certainly his piece On The Origin Of Species, published on the 24th of November, 1859.
The theory of evolution
Evolutionary biology is the branch of science built off of the concepts put forth in Darwin’s book. The field explores how species arose and evolved through subtle changes that ultimately made them more fit to survive in their environment. The process through which these changes take place is called natural selection.
Natural selection states that, through organic processes of mate-selection, desirable traits will persist down the line while undesirable ones will phase out with time. One of the examples Darwin focused on was the diversity of beak types in finches on an isolated set of islands. Over time, they adapted to their environment’s food sources and became distinct species from the original.
The man himself
Although Charles Darwin wrote an entire book on breeding and evolution, he ended up marrying his first cousin. He and his wife Emma had ten children, seven of whom survived into adulthood. Darwin is renowned for his contributions to the field of biology, but the only degrees he held were and bachelor’s and a master’s degree in the Arts. For a time, he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh Medical School.
Throughout his life, Darwin received five different awards for his discoveries and work in various scientific fields. One of his accolades includes an honorary Doctor of Law degree from Cambridge.
Much of modern biology is built on Darwin’s original conjecture, which posits a branching evolutionary tree. According to his and the current running theory, life evolved from common ancestors and divided into individual species and creatures as their habitats changed. Predator and prey developed, and while the hunters evolved to be more cunning, agile, or dangerous, the hunted became adept at evading that which would eat them.
Evolution is ongoing. It can sometimes be observed over generations of short-lived animals to see how they adapt to changing environments. For longer-lived creatures like humans, the effects of evolution are much more challenging to study, but some scientists say that there are traces of development visible throughout the human race since the industrial revolution.