'The Origin Of Species' Summary of the book Darwin opens by saying that while on board the HMS Beagle as a naturalist in South America he made observations about the animals and the land which formed the foundation for what would become his theory of natural selection. He hopes this theory, which he will develop in this book sheds light on “the mystery of mysteries”, the origin of species. Darwin tells how, when he returned home in 1837, he thought that he may have something worth investigating so he spends the next years accumulating and reflecting on information. In 1844 he writes a sketch of the conclusions that his research is pointing towards but he holds off expanding his ideas, instead researching further, for another 15 years. He calls his work an abstract for a larger book which will take many more years to complete. He notes that he felt compelled to publish his work now after reading the manuscript of Alfred Russel Wallace, who had arrived at similar conclusions as Darwin and was about to publish his findings. As an abstract he notes that it may be incomplete, imperfect and at times lacking references, but that any questions which arise will be answered when he publishes his findings in full. Darwin acknowledges that other naturalists have observed the relations between similar species but have attributed the cause of these changes exclusively to external conditions such as climate and food. He sees these causes as insufficient to account for the great variation in nature. In order to research what other forces could be at work he will look first at his research with domesticated plants and animals even though this was not a common practice of other naturalists. The introduction closes with Darwin laying out in the arguments that each of the following chapters will explore in more detail. In particular he explains that traits may pass from one generation to the next, that into each generation more individuals will be born than can possibly survive and the ones that do survive will do so because of slight competitive advantages that they inherit and consequently pass on to their offspring. This natural selection is what, over time, causes some species to evolve, others to diverge and become their own unique species and others to become extinct. This being true, all species are in some manner related to each other and not independently created. (gradesaver.com)
Charles Robert Darwin, FRS FRGS FLS FZS ( 12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. His proposition that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors is now widely accepted, and considered a foundational concept in science. In a joint publication with Alfred Russel Wallace, he introduced his scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection, in which the struggle for existence has a similar effect to the artificial selection involved in selective breeding. Darwin has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history, and he was honoured by burial in Westminster Abbey. Darwin published his theory of evolution with compelling evidence in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species. By the 1870s, the scientific community and a majority of the educated public had accepted evolution as a fact. However, many favoured competing explanations which gave only a minor role to natural selection, and it was not until the emergence of the modern evolutionary synthesis from the 1930s to the 1950s that a broad consensus developed in which natural selection was the basic mechanism of evolution. Darwin's scientific discovery is the unifying theory of the life sciences, explaining the diversity of life. Darwin's early interest in nature led him to neglect his medical education at the University of Edinburgh; instead, he helped to investigate marine invertebrates. Studies at the University of Cambridge (Christ's College) encouraged his passion for natural science. His five-year voyage on HMS Beagle established him as an eminent geologist whose observations and theories supported Charles Lyell's conception of gradual geological change, and publication of his journal of the voyage made him famous as a popular author. Puzzled by the geographical distribution of wildlife and fossils he collected on the voyage, Darwin began detailed investigations, and in 1838 conceived his theory of natural selection. Although he discussed his ideas with several naturalists, he needed time for extensive research and his geological work had priority. He was writing up his theory in 1858 when Alfred Russel Wallace sent him an essay that described the same idea, prompting immediate joint publication of both of their theories. Darwin's work established evolutionary descent with modification as the dominant scientific explanation of diversification in nature. In 1871 he examined human evolution and sexual selection in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, followed by The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). His research on plants was published in a series of books, and in his final book, The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Actions of Worms (1881), he examined earthworms and their effect on soil.