"some of the new ideas in his scientific books"
Caricature of Charles Darwin as a monkey on the cover of La Petite Lune, a Parisian satirical magazine published in the 1880s
Public DomainCaricature of Charles Darwin as a monkey on the cover of La Petite Lune, a Parisian satirical magazine published in the 1880s - Credit: Andre Gill

In the late 19th Century, natural science was expanding its frontiers in ways that we can’t even imagine today. Modern biology wouldn’t exist were it not for the scientists that had to stand up to the conservative and critical audience of this era. The most heralded natural scientist associated with this evolution of thought is Charles Darwin. Together with Alfred Wallace, Darwin described the theory of natural selection. Darwin published his “The Origin of Species” in 1858 sparking much scientific debate.

 

The Oxford Debate
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumThe Oxford Debate - Credit: Shannon Hampton
Darwin suffered from illness throughout his adult life and was not able to attend many of the public debates that erupted from these new ideas. The greatest debate occurred in Oxford at the British Association for Advancement of Science in the building that is now the Natural History Museum. Joseph Hooker and Thomas Huxley defended the theory against strong opposition by the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce. Huxley earned himself the reputation of being Darwin’s Bulldog. Darwin’s “The Descent of Man”, published in 1871 generated much less controversy. The book sold quickly and had to be reprinted - a new generation of scientific thought was evolving.