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Evolution: History

  1. Peter J Bowler

Published Online: 15 SEP 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001517.pub2



How to Cite

Bowler, P. J. 2010. Evolution: History. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. The Queen's University of Belfast, Belfast, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2010


The modern theory of evolution was founded by Charles Darwin, but an overview of the history of evolutionism shows that ideas of the transformation of species predated the publication of his Origin of Species in 1859. Various theories of progressive and purposeful change in the organic world had begun to circulate even before Darwin's more radical theory was injected into the debate. Natural selection was regarded as a materialistic idea, and through the late nineteenth century naturalists searched for alternatives that would allow them to believe that the history of life had an ultimate purpose. A complex series of developments in the early twentieth century was needed to create the genetical theory of natural selection accepted by most biologists today.


  • evolution;
  • Darwin;
  • darwinism;
  • lamarckism