Feb 6th, 2009 by houghtonmodern
English naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882) is best remembered for his work on the evolution of plants and animals, including his theory of natural selection. 2009 marks not only the bicentennial anniversary of Darwin’s birth, but also the sesquicentennial anniversary of the publication of his most famous work, On the Origin of Species. “There is grandeur in this view of life,” a new exhibition at Houghton, celebrates the two anniversaries.
Origin first appeared in 1859 and went through six heavily revised editions in Darwin’s lifetime. Literary in style, it appealed to readers of all types in its simple explanations and conversational tone. Although Darwin had no knowledge of how variations in species occurred, the work is mainly a demonstration that they do occur. The work stresses a natural, as opposed to a divine, presence in this process, and it provoked intense debate in both the public and private circles of a very religious society. It remains a highly-regarded and popular work of scientific research, and Darwin’s theories are debated just as heavily today as when they were first published.
The exhibition, on display in Houghtons’ Amy Lowell Room, includes a page from Darwin’s original manuscript, correspondence with friend and Harvard professor of zoology and geology Louis Agassiz, the first and several early editions of the book itself, and a few contemporary reactions to Darwin’s theories.
The exhibition is free and open to the public. More information can be found on Houghton’s website.
For information on Darwin-related events at Harvard, visit the Darwin Day 200 at Harvard website.
Image: Darwin photographed around 1874 by Leonard Darwin. Portrait File. May not be reproduced without permission.
The “There is grandeur in this view of life”: The Origin of Species at 150 by Modern Books and Manuscripts, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Terms and conditions beyond the scope of this license may be available at blogs.law.harvard.edu.