‘Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.’
‘a mountain is an island on the land; and the intertropical mountains before the glacial period must have been completely isolated; and I believe that the productions of these islands on the land yielded to those produced within the larger areas of the north just in the same way as the productions of real islands have everywhere lately yielded to continental forms, naturalized by man’s agency.’
‘I look at the natural geological record as a history of the world imperfectly kept, and written in a changing dialect; of this history we possess the last volume alone, relating to only one or two countries. Of this volume, only here and there a short chapter has been preserved; and of each page, only here and there a few lines.’
'to my imagination it is far more satisfactory to look at such instincts as the young cuckoo ejecting its foster-brothers, - ants making slaves, - the larvae of ichneumonidae feeding within the live bodies of caterpillars, - not as specially endowed or created instincts, but as small consequences of one general law, leading to the advancement of all organic beings…’
'Given the power of human selection to change domestic animals and plants, it is surely of little surprise that the vast array of wild forms we see in nature might have been developed over many thousands of generations through the action of Natural Selection.'
‘The face of Nature may be compared to a yielding surface, with ten thousand sharp wedges packed close together and driven inwards by incessant blows, sometimes one wedge being struck, and then another with greater force.’
Darwin was born on the 12th February in 1809. His most famous work, On the Origin of Species laid out his theory of evolution by natural selection and it is still one of the finest scientific books ever written. In honour of Darwin's birthday, I'll publish an excerpt from my distilled version each day. If you have never read the Origin, and wish you had, this will hopefully show you why you should!