The Development of Darwin's Theory: Natural History, Natural Theology, and Natural Selection, 1838-1859 / Edition 1

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Dov Ospovat's book, originally published in 1981, has become generally accepted as one of the most influential books about Darwin published in recent years. Ospovat examines the period of 1838-1859, two decades preceding the publication of On the Origin of Species, in detail and shows that Darwin's views changed quite radically from initially believing that animals and plants were perfectly adapted to their environments, and that evolution only occurred when the environment changed, to believing that living things were not perfectly adapted, were in constant competition with each other, and hence were continually evolving. By placing Darwin within the other biological developments of the day, he is able to show that he was not the scientific recluse of popular myth. He also shows that there was a theological basis for much of Darwin's original 1838-1844 theory, and his later principle of divergence was influenced by his belief in evolutionary progress.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...a landmark in Darwinian studies..." Stephen Jay Gould

" important advance in our understanding of how Darwinism was created." Peter J. Bowler, Science

"...opens an area of study that will prove to be almost as interesting to evolutionary biologists as to historians of science." Stan Rachootin, American Scientist

"...a classic....Ospovat's book remains an outstanding contribution to our understanding of the formation of Darwin's theory in his 20 years of work and reading after returning from the Beagle." C.U.M. Smith, Annals of Human Biology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521469401
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1995
  • Edition description: First Paperback Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Table of Contents

List of illustrations; Preface; Acknowledgements; Note on manuscript citations; Introduction: Darwin and his fellow naturalists; 1. Darwin and the biology of the 1830s: some parallels; 2. Darwin before Malthus; 3. Natural selection and perfect adaptation, 1838–1844; 4. Part II of Darwin's work on species; 5. Natural history after Cuvier: the branching conception of nature; 6. Darwin and the branching conception; 7. Classification and the 'principle of divergence'; 8. The principle of divergence and the transformation of Darwin's theory; 9. Natural selection and 'natural improvement'; Conclusion: the development of Darwin's theory as a social progress; Notes; Bibliography; Index.

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