Chapter Twenty-five — Darwin’s Singular Notion
A Short History of Nearly Everything – by Bill Bryson
Chapter 25 — Darwin’s Singular Notion
- Charles Darwin, during his famous Beagle voyage, accumulated a hoard of specimens sufficient to make his reputation and keep him occupied for years. He found a magnificent trove of giant ancient fossils.
- Darwin postulated that coral atolls could not form in less than a million years. This was the first hint of his long-standing attachment to the extreme antiquity of earth’s processes. Ironically, considering that Darwin called his subsequent book On The Origin of Species, the one thing he couldn’t explain was how species originated.
- Gregor Mendel was born in 1822 in the Austrian empire. He never coined the word gene – it wasn’t used until 1913, in an English dictionary. He converted his predictable patterns of inheritance into precise mathematical formulae. Altogether, Mendel spent 8 years on his experiments, then confirmed his results with similar experiments on flowers, corn, and other plants.
- Darwin and Mendel laid the groundwork for all of life sciences in the 20th century. Darwin saw that all living things were connected, and that they “trace their ancestry to a single, common source.” Mendel’s work provided the mechanism to explain how that could happen.
- Darwin eventually made his belief in our kinship with the apes explicit in The Descent of Man in 1871. It was a bold pronouncement because the fossil records did not support such a theory.
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