April 5

This Day in History


Apr 5, 1859:

Darwin sends first three chapters of The Origin of Species to his publisher

Naturalist Charles Darwin sends his publishers the first three chapters of Origin of Species, which will become one of the most influential books ever published.

Knowing the fates of scientists who had published radical theories and been ostracized or worse, Darwin held off publishing his theory of natural selection for years. He secretly developed his theory during two decades of surreptitious research following his return from a five-year voyage to South America on the HMS Beagle as the ship's unpaid botanist.

Darwin, the privileged and well-connected son of a successful English doctor, had been interested in botany and natural sciences since his boyhood, despite the discouragement of his early teachers. At Cambridge, he found professors and scientists with similar interests and with their help began participating in scientific voyages, including the HMS Beagle's trip. By the time Darwin returned, he had developed an outstanding reputation as a field researcher and scientific writer, based on his many papers and letters dispatched from South America and the Galapagos Islands, which were read at meetings of prominent scientific societies in London.

Darwin began publishing studies of zoology and geology as soon as he returned from his voyage, while secretly working on his radical theory of evolution. Meanwhile, he married and had seven children. He finally published The Origin of Species after another scientist began publishing papers with similar ideas. When the book appeared in November 1859, it sold out immediately. By 1872, six editions had been published. It laid the groundwork for modern botany, cellular biology, and genetics. Darwin died in 1882.

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