Artefact of the month - July 2008
On the tendency of species to form varieties; and on the perpetuation of varieties and species by means of natural selection by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace [read 1 July 1858], published in Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society, Vol. 3, pp. 45-62
It is 150 years since these landmark papers were first read at the Linnean Society – we have chosen these as the July artefact to celebrate the anniversary of this event in 1858.
Neither Darwin or Wallace were present at the meeting, instead the papers were communicated by Sir Charles Lyell and Sir Joseph Hooker at the Linnean Society on 1 July 1858. Darwin was absent suffering from grief as one of his children, Charles Waring, had recently died from scarlet fever. Wallace was in Malaysia.
A scheduled meeting of the Linnean Society was postponed following the death of Robert Brown, the Council decided to hold an extra meeting on 1 July. Hooker and Lyell inserted the Darwin-Wallace papers onto the agenda. They were read by the Secretary to 30 Fellows. The papers consisted of extracts from Darwin’s 1844 essay; part of his letter to Asa Gray; Wallace’s paper. These were followed by six scheduled papers from the postponed meeting.
For the first time Darwin had made public his theory on means of evolution via natural selection. The papers were subsequently published in the Journal of the Linnean Society but there was little interest and a lack of response. The papers by Darwin were a short version of the manuscript he had been writing for many years, it struck most observers as a mixture of familiar old facts and new speculation. Hence it was a surprise to Darwin when there was such outrage and astonishment with the publication of On origin of species in November 1859.
All ZSL Library’s holdings of published books by and about Charles Darwin are listed in our online catalogue: ZSL library catalogue
Darwin Online is the largest repository of the works of Charles Darwin. It contains a collection of his writings both unpublished and published, including the papers featured above: Darwin & Wallace papers
Wallace collection online
Celebrations for Darwin 200 were launched in June 2008 and will continue through 2008 and 2009.