Lane Newsted

The Idea of Evolution

I’m sure all of us have heard of the term “evolution” at one time or another, and a good reason behind that word’s meaning originates from Charles Darwin’s research on the Galápagos Islands. I personally had only heard of Charles Darwin due to his Galápagos tortoise Harriet who lived 175 years! On these islands, Darwin would provide proof of natural selection, as the finches found on the separate islands in the Galápagos would differ from one another, Darwin realizing it was due to the birds evolving to fit their different environments (O’Neil).

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The finches found on the separate islands of the Galápagos showed the perfect proof for Darwin’s theory of evolution, as the birds differed among islands were proven to have been selected by nature to suitably live there (O’Neil). The finches that had beaks suitable to thrive in the environment (for example beaks suited to eat cacti on some islands, some suited to eat nuts, others evolved to receive nectar from flowers) were able to survive on that certain island and reproduce, passing down their traits for their offspring to survive and therefore continue on (O’Neil).

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Darwin’s research gathered on the Beagle Expedition in the five years at sea, twenty years prior to the publication of his book, ultimately would prove that populations of life evolve over the course of generations, due to natural selection or according to “survival of the fittest” environment (term not coined until the 5th edition of his book) (Darwin Online).

Printing of Origin of Species

On November 24, 1859, what would later become the groundwork of evolutionary biology was published in book form. Priced at fifteen shillings a piece, with 1250 copies being printed in the first run, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life would sell out faster than it was made (Darwin Online). You’re probably thinking that is an insane number of books! Well, the first print run of the book would give us a real example of how important and impactful this book was. Evolutionary biology would stem from Darwin’s publication, with his theory and research still being viable today!

In 1860, 3000 copies of the second edition were printed, with this and all subsequent editions making revisions to counter new arguments towards the viability of the text (Darwin Online). By 1872, the book had run through six editions, and it became one of the most influential books of modern times (Darwin Online). Only a year later, the third edition would release adding an introductory appendix, and the fourth edition in 1866 having sentences rewritten and revised (Darwin Online). As mentioned above, the fifth edition added the well-known phrase “survival of the fittest” in 1869. While the 1-5th editions sold well, and as such more were improved upon and made, the sixth edition of Darwin’s book released in 1872 would bring sales from 60 to 250 a month (Darwin Online). By printing in a smaller font, Darwin’s publisher was able to sell copies for half of its initial price, even including a glossary (Darwin Online)! On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life would become one of the most important publications in history, Charles Darwin’s theory and push for his own original voice to be heard becoming a groundwork of evolutionary biology.


Works Cited

“1859: Darwin Published On the Origin of Species, Proposing Continual Evolution of Species.” National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI),

O’Neil, Dennis. Evolution of Modern Humans:  Early Modern Human Culture,

“On the Origin of Species.” Darwin Online,