Today, February 12, is the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. He holds a unique position in biology as one of two founders of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Although his book The Origin of Species also holds an anniversary, the 150th, this year, its ideas are still surprisingly fresh and up-to-date.
I have written in earlier entries (2006) about Darwin and his travels on the Beagle, and over land on the Isla grande de Chiloë, and also about his theory. The travels were crucial in the devlopment of his theories. It took him many years to arrive at the publishing of the ideas he knew would arouse a lot of debate – not until the young Alfred Russell Wallace (another extensive, but more unlucky, traveller) approached him with the same conclusions.
However most people did not actually grasp the mechanisms for evolution that they proposed, and still today I find that it is not so easy for biology students, let alone the general public, to understand the seemingly simple but quite intricate idea of evolution by natural selection. It is probably the combination of different prerequisites that is the difficult thing – the more or less random variation in inherited traits, and the (sometimes) directed force of natural selection.
On the Swedish Radio webb there is now available a lot of material about Darwin.