Darwin's Living Legacy--Evolutionary Theory 150 Years Later
A Victorian amateur undertook a lifetime pursuit of slow, meticulous observation and thought about the natural world, producing a theory 150 years ago that still drives the contemporary scientific agenda
Doug Alves (illustration); Granger Collection (Darwin)
2009: Darwin Day marks the naturalist's birthday on February 12 and will be observed with dozens of events in at least 10 countries. Stay abreast of what's happening at www.darwinday.org
Courtesy of Càtedra de Divulgació de la Ciència Universitat de València
Mid-2000s: Genetic analyses have shown evidence of relatively recent
human evolution--dating back several thousand years.
1953: James D. Watson and Francis Crick discover the structure of DNA, making it possible to study the molecular biology of evolution.
A. Barrington Brown Photo Researchers, Inc.
1936-1947: The modern synthesis combines Darwin's (
right) evolutionary theory with Mendelian genetics. BETTMANN / Corbis (Mendal); Julia Margaret Cameron (Darwin) Advertisement
1925: The Scopes Monkey trial
in Tennessee tries a teacher based on a law that made it illegal
to teach any theory that denies divine creation.
In The Descent of Man, Darwin ties the human lineage
to primate ancestors, provoking outrage in some quarters and the caricaturing of his image. GALLERY COLLECTION / Corbis
1865: Czech monk Gregor Mendel publishes his research on inheritance, but the importance of his work is not recognized for 35 more years.
BETTMANN / Corbis
1838: Charles Darwin formulates the theory of natural selection, which is not published for more than 20 years. When printed in 1858
On the Origin of Species sells out as soon as it is published. BETTMANN / Corbis Advertisement
1831: Darwin leaves on
a five-year around-the-world journey on the HMS
Beagle. BETTMANN / Corbis
1830: Charles Lyell publishes Principles of Geology, a formative influence on Darwin's thinking about the gradualism of natural processes as can be witnessed in the Grand Canyon.
Rosanne Olson / Getty Images
1809: Darwin (
shown opposite his younger sister) is born in Shrewsbury, England, into the comfort of a wealthy family. Granger collection
1735: Carl Linnaeus publishes
the first volume of
Systema Naturae, which laid the foundations for taxonomy. Later he suggested that plants descend from a common ancestor. Advertisement
610-546 B.C.: Greek philosopher Anaximander suggests that all life-forms evolved from fish in the seas and went through a process of modification once they were established
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