Darwin and the origin of species

On this day in 1859, Charles Darwin published a 500-page volume titled On the Origin of Species, a book that became one of the most important scientific literature, which laid the foundation for our understanding of evolutionary biology. The book compiled Darwin’s research and evidence gathered over two decades, and introduced the theory that species change and evolve over the course of generations.

Dr John van Wyhe from NUS Biological Sciences and Tembusu College is a historian of science whose expertise is on evolutionists Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. He noted that while On the Origin of Species was one of the most revolutionary books in the history of science, there are still widely held misconceptions about what happened when the book debuted 158 years ago.

“The research of historians of science has shown that there was no great clash of science versus religion. Darwin’s book was not banned by the Pope and it was not burned in the streets”, said Dr van Wyhe.

It was quite the contrary, he explained, as Christian geologists had already determine the world to be ancient and had uncovered fossils of extinct creatures even before Darwin’s book appeared. Thus, in just 10 to 15 years after On the Origin of Species was published, Darwin’s theory of evolution had been accepted, and till this day shapes our understanding of the world and continues to inform the work that scientists do.  

Read more of Dr van Wyhe’s views, as well as examples of discoveries by NUS Biological Sciences researchers on various flora and fauna that build upon Darwin’s seminal work.

Dr van Wyhe is also the founder and director of Darwin Online, a comprehensive online archive of historical writings and materials related to Darwin, including On the Origin of Species.


Dr van Wyhe, historian of science