In On the Origin of Species (1859), Charles Darwin presented his evidence for evolution and natural selection as its mechanism. He drew upon his earliest data gathered during his voyage on the HMS Beagle, which included collecting mammalian fossils in South America clearly related to living forms, tracing the geographical distributions of living species across South America, and sampling the peculiar fauna of the geologically young Galápagos Archipelago that showed evident affinities to South American forms. By the end of the voyage, he came to the realization that instead of various centers of creation, species evolved in different regions throughout the world. However, except for some personal ponderings, he did not express this revelation explicitly in his notebooks until shortly after his return. Over the years, he collected more evidence supporting evolution, but his early work remained paramount: it became the first paragraph of On the Origin of Species and encompassed three separate chapters, as well as later appearing in his autobiography.
Many discussions of Darwin's landmark book give scant attention to this wealth of evidence and today we still do not fully appreciate its significance in Darwin's thinking. In Origins of Darwin's Evolution, J. David Archibald explores this lapse. He also shows that Darwin's other early passion, geology, proved a more elusive corroboration of evolution. On the Origin of Species dedicated only one chapter to the rock and fossil record, as it appeared too incomplete for Darwin's evidentiary standards. Carefully retracing Darwin's gathering of evidence and the evolution of his thinking, Origins of Darwin's Evolution achieves a new understanding of how Darwin crafted his transformative theory.
1. Establishing the Fact of Evolution
2. Darwin’s Geological Education
3. The Gravest Objection
4. Marking Time
5. The Immutablists
6. Discovering the Long Dead
7. Relating the Long Dead and Collecting the Recently Living
8. Describing the Long Dead and the Recently Living
9. Private Musings then Shared Sketches
10. Darwin’s Historical Biogeography
Epilogue: What Many Reviewers Missed
J. David Archibald is professor emeritus of biology at San Diego State University as well as curator of mammals in the SDSU Vertebrate Collections. His books include Dinosaur Extinction and the End of an Era: What the Fossils Say (1996) and Aristotle’s Ladder, Darwin’s Tree: The Evolution of Visual Metaphors for Biological Order (2014), both from Columbia University Press.
"Charles Darwin begins On the Origin of Species by saying that while on HMS Beagle he was struck by two classes of facts: the strange distributions of plants and animals on Earth, and the progression of forms in the fossil record from the oldest rocks to the youngest. These, and not variations in populations, first led him to doubt theories of special creation and the fixity of species. In this book, J. David Archibald shows how the facts of paleontology and biogeography led Darwin to suspect that organisms changed through time, and eventually to develop the central theory of all of biology. A very nice read that will open the perspectives of a great number of readers."
– Kevin Padian, Museum of Paleontology, University of California, Berkeley
"This is a fresh and stimulating reevaluation of the nature of Darwin's argumentation behind his theory of evolution through natural selection. Particularly important is the focus on the evidence Darwin himself thought most important: the geographical distribution of organisms around the globe. This is a book that should be read both by Darwin scholars and by today's practicing evolutionists."
– Michael Ruse, author of Defining Darwin: Essays on the History and Philosophy of Evolutionary Biology
"In this thoughtful and carefully researched book, Archibald makes it abundantly clear that it was biogeography, not geology or the fossil record, that provided Darwin and his supporters with the earliest compelling evidence for evolution. Origins of Darwin's Evolution fills a significant gap in the literature on Darwin's research methods and the birth of the modern theory of evolution."
– Michael Ghiselin, author of The Triumph of the Darwinian Method
"[In Archibald's book,] Darwin's argumentative structure is illuminated, his process in developing the theory is detailed, and the otherwise difficult to interpret roles and relationships of his South American finds become beautifully clear."
– Charles H. Pence, Louisiana State University, The Quarterly Review of Biology
"Appealing and concise."
"This carefully researched book will appeal to both naturalists and historians of science."