On this day November 24, 1859

On the Origin of Species by British naturalist Charles Darwin was first published, and sold out its initial print run on the first day.

1859 edition

1859 edition

On the Origin of Species is a seminal work in scientific literature and arguably the pivotal work in evolutionary biology. The book’s full title is On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, while for the 6th edition of 1872 the title was changed to The Origin of Species.

It introduced the theory that populations evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection. Darwin’s book was the culmination of evidence he had accumulated on the voyage of the Beagle in the 1830s and expanded through continuing investigations and experiments after his return.

The book is readable even for the non-specialist and attracted widespread interest on publication. The book was controversial because it contradicted religious beliefs that underlay the then current theories of biology, and it generated much discussion on scientific, philosophical, and religious grounds.

The scientific theory of evolution has itself evolved since Darwin’s contributions, but natural selection remains the most widely accepted scientific model of how species evolve. Nonetheless, the creation-evolution controversy continues to this day in some countries.

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