20-Jul-1858: Darwin puts pen to paper

On 20th July 1858, while staying at The King’s Head Hotel in Sandown on the Isle of Wight, Charles Darwin began an ‘abstract’ of his planned major work on evolution.

The following day, he wrote to his cousin William Darwin Fox:

I am now beginning to prepare an abstract of my Species Theory. By an odd coincidence, Mr Wallace in the Malay Archipelago sent to me an Essay containing my exact theory; & asking me to show it to Lyell. The latter & Hooker have taken on themselves to publish it in Linnean Journal, together some notes of mine written very many years ago; & both of them have urged me so strongly to publish a fuller abstract, that I have resolved to do it, & shall do nothing till completed: it will be published, probably, in Journal of Linn. Socy. & I shall have separate copies & will send you one.— It is impossible in abstract to do justice to subject.—

True to form, Darwin’s abstract quickly grew in size. It was published the following year under the rather snappy title On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

The world never looked quite the same again.

Writer and photographer Richard Carter, FCD is the founder of the Friends of Charles Darwin. He lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteFacebookTwitterNewsletterBooks
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