Darwin's Kids Doodled All Over His "Origin of Species" Manuscript
Today, February 12, is Darwin Day, the 206th anniversary of the famed naturalist’s birth!
Surprisingly, we may have Charles Darwin’s children to thank for the surviving handwritten pages of the naturalist’s “On the Origin of Species” manuscript. Most of the original 600 pages are lost, and of the 45 pages that exist today, many were repurposed by Darwin’s brood of 10 children as art supplies.
Today is the birthday of Charles Darwin! Darwin was a naturalist best known for his work identifying natural selection as a mechanism of evolution. Darwin made sense of the incredible diversity that we see today and was instrumental in establishing evolution as a fact in the scientific and public community (A scientific theory is absolutely in no way similar to an idea an individual has that they colloquially refer to as a ‘theory’. By definition, a scientific theory is well-tested and supported by evidence and accurately explains a range of observations). Evolution is not 'some’ idea of biology; it is the idea of biology.
Evolution is the central tenet of biology and allows us to make sense of natural relationships and patterns. It is also profoundly beautiful to think about when considering our own place in the tree of life and the common evolutionary history of all life that we know. If you want to discuss evolution further or perhaps are unfamiliar with it in a biological context feel free to contact me but I’ll conclude this post with a passage from the Origin of Species that captures my feelings about this very well.
“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.”
#OTD we celebrate the publication anniversary of Charles Darwin’s ‘On The Origin of Species’, November 24, 1859.
As advocates of #freescience through the democratization of scientific research, open source/accessible data, gender diversity/equality in STEM, and the public dissemination of good science, we recommend the above copy of Darwin’s great work.
‘The Origin of Species and The Voyage of the Beagle’ (featuring an introduction by world renown biologist Richard Dawkins) presents side by side the young scientist’s meticulous research from Charles Darwin’s preparation before his near-fatal expedition to the eventual realization of what his findings brought forth: the collective biological diversity of organisms on Earth is the result of a process explained as the theory of Descent with Modification, revealing how as organisms reproduce, slight changes create variation, which could lead to new species over time.
156 years later, and the ‘voyage’ that started it all - or revealed how evolutionary biological development diversified life on this planet - is still making strides toward the matured understanding of how tenacious and versatile life on our biosphere is amidst a universe rich with biological potential.
“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.” ― Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species
Did you know that the word ‘evolution’ does not appear in Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species once? Or that evolution simply refers to change and not to progress, which is a common misconception.
There was a time when people who wanted to read Charles Darwin’s scientific papers—the portfolios of notes, observations, essays, and more that would help the great naturalist articulate his radical idea of natural selection in On the Origin of Species—had to travel to England and visit a reading room at Cambridge University.
Since 2006, a wealth of primary materials has been digitized and brought online, available to anyone with an interest and an internet connection. The Museum’s Darwin Manuscripts Project, working closely with Cambridge University Library, has made available some 26,000 pages written between 1835 and 1882 at darwin.amnh.org. The documents, posted as high-resolution, full-color images, form a record of a scientist at work.
And then there are the more intimate items, which offer a glimpse into Darwin’s daily life: for example, the Darwin Manuscripts Project includes dozens of colorful drawings made by Darwin’s children on the backs of loose leaf pages, some with their father’s writing on the other side.
The sketches, which range from fanciful battles between vegetables to an imagined family crest, likely helped preserve manuscript pages for posterity, says Kohn. “You also see in these drawings how thin the line of separation was between Darwin at work and home and family,” says Kohn.