Happy Birthday Dear Darwin!

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By | From the Collections

He’s the man you cannot escape this year, and although we’ve already drawn attention to the images we hold of him and also of the launch of the ‘Tree of Life’ website, we could not go through the 12th February 2009 without a post about Charles Darwin.

It was 200 years ago today that Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, but how best to celebrate? Well, perhaps unsurprisingly given the Wellcome Library has many editions of all of his books, how about reading some of them?

And for those who don’t have any of his works at hand – or who have yet to access Darwin online – here’s the last paragraph from the first edition of “On the Origin of species by means of natural selection…”(1859):

It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Happy Birthday!

Ross Macfarlane

Ross Macfarlane is the Research Engagement Officer at the Wellcome Library.

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