The Evolution of ‘The Origin’

This beautifully artistic chart is well worth watching. It shows how Darwin’s theory of evolution changed and, well, evolved over time as he went through editions of his book, On the Origin of Species.

The Origin is one of the most important books ever written (and re-written, and re-written)– and, as illustrated so well here, one of the most important ideas ever developed. The first edition being about 150,000 words long (and this was meant to only be an ‘essay’ version of his ‘great work,’) it still was not one quick thought that Mr. Darwin simply jotted down in the midst of admiring pigeons.

Darwin used fancy pigeons as an example of selection by humans.
Darwin used fancy pigeons as an example of selection by humans.

Thinking of the many editions of The Origin helps undo that myth of what Richard Holmes (author of the most excellent book, ‘The Age of Wonder’) calls the ‘Eureka’ moment, or the romanticized ‘solitary genius,’ working away alone in a dimly-lit room, coming up with one amazing idea. The Newton-hit-on-the-head-with-an-apple moment (though ‘Eureka’ sums it up more succinctly).

Darwin did not have a ‘Eureka’ moment. He had a lifetime of fascination, of good teachers, of unique opportunity. (He also had equal amounts of sea-sickness, mourning for dead children, and bowel problems.)

Interestingly, Wallace might be said to have had a ‘Eureka’ moment, for he came up with almost the same theory of evolution by natural selection from a malarial fever. Go figure. The important bit, though, is that Darwin had the credibility and the years of notes and research (or, the Science,) to back up his theory, and Wallace did not.

Last night I was awakened by my four-year-old cat landing next to my head and belching softly in my ear. She must have been welcoming me home. The day before we left on holiday, she sat on my chest drooling onto my face. Her favourite general passtime seems to be tap-dancing on my head at six in the morning, or perhaps it is begging loudly for food every time I enter the kitchen. Then there are the times when it seems she is attempting to eat my hair.

To all of this, my husband complains, ‘she gives you all the attention.’

I iz on yer head, droolin on yer dreemz.
I iz on yer head, droolin on yer dreemz.

And this, dear readers, is the problem. Remy is a cat, and therefore because Dani desperately wants to cuddle her, she struggles to get away from him. And because I (though I love her dearly) want her to stop drooling on my face, she tries to sleep in my armpit. I usually interpret this as undying love, but sometimes I wonder if she’s not plotting to take over the world (or at least my lasagne).

Remy is currently on my lap attempting to get at my lasagne. I’m not sure she appreciates her celebrity status…