Plants, People and the Environment
Lecture 21. Onward and upward: Natural selection.
Today's lecture sets the stage for the series of evolution lectures by providing a historical overview of the development of evolution theory. The idea that species change through time was not an original idea of Charles Darwin. Several other naturalists had proposed this idea before Darwin was even born, including Erasmus Darwin and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. You can read about the history of evolution theory by following the links provided at the History of Evolution website.
The reason Charles Darwin is given credit for the idea that species change through time is because he was the first one to synthesize many different facts about nature into a mechanism that explains how species change through time. Here are some biographical sketches of Charles Darwin: Charles Darwin (Lucid Cafe), Science Hero: Charles Darwin, and Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882), a brief chronology.
I also recommend you check out two excellent biographies of Darwin:
Browne, Janet. Charles Darwin voyaging. Vol. 1. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995 (covers the time period up to publication of The Origin of Species, and it offers a nice overview of the family dynamics and psyche of Darwin).
Desmond, Adrian, and James Moore. Darwin. New York: Warner Books, 1992 (in addition to a good biography, this book also offers some insight into the society of the time).
This next link offers a very thorough overview of the information I will present in class this week: Introduction to Evolutionary Biology. This web page is from "Talk Origins" -- a website devoted to evolution theory. You might find an exploration of this site interesting as well.
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