Graziano and Raulin (8th ed)Graziano & Raulin
Research Methods (8th edition)

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was an English naturalist, who along with Alfred Russel Wallace is credited with having developed modern evolutionary theory. 

Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859), is arguably the most influential book in science. The Darwin-Wallace model influenced, not only science, but also religion, politics, social policy, education, industrialism, and even everyday discussion. In psychology, it was enormously influential in the development of American Functional Psychology. The Darwin-Wallace model helped to establish both animal and comparative psychology, established a focus on the function, rather than the structure, of consciousness, set the precedent for accepting and using data from many fields, and stimulated the measurement of individual differences.

After completing his famous journeys as the naturalist on the globe-circling scientific expedition of the H.M.S. Beagle, Darwin spent the next 21 years (1838–1859) in England, refining his ideas for publication. In June, 1858, when his book was still far from completion, Darwin received a manuscript in the mail in which his own thesis had already been written.  Another naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, preempted Darwin.

According to Arthur Keith (1954), Wallace traveled in the Amazon and the South Pacific as Darwin had done many years before. Wallace was impressed by the diversity of life he found there, and he followed, completely independently, the same line of reasoning as Darwin in making sense out of the observed data. The result was Wallace’s manuscript on the biological operation of natural selection in the origins of new species. Wallace mailed his discovery to Darwin for comment.

Who was to be the first to present this momentous discovery to the world? Darwin’s associates arranged to have the two men’s work presented simultaneously at a meeting of the Linnean Society of London on July 1, 1858. Thus, Wallace and Darwin are credited equally with the discovery. 

The Greeks had developed a concept of evolution over 2000 years earlier. However, it was Wallace and Darwin who gathered the mass of data and created the concept of natural selection that made their evolutionary theory so important. During the following year, Darwin completed On the Origin of Species and soon became the acknowledged originator of the idea of natural selection and the model that derived from it. Wallace, apparently content with this, made no great efforts to share in the subsequent acclaim, and the two men remained lifelong friends. 

Wallace outlived Darwin by 31 years and died in 1913. Wallace made important contributions to science and is recognized by biologists as an eminent naturalist. However, it is Darwin who is remembered for the great biological discovery.

The Darwin-Wallace theory of evolution has had enormous impact on science and on society. For an extended discussion of its impact on philosophy and society, see our discussion elsewhere on this website

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