Darwin–Wallace Paradigm Shift

Ten days that never shook the world
  • Ricardo GuerreroEmail author
  • Lynn Margulis†
Part of the Social and Ecological Interactions in the Galapagos Islands book series (SESGI, volume 2)


The last days of June 1858, a series of events occurred in London with consequences not only for the history of science, but for human history worldwide. On June 18 Darwin received a letter that Wallace had written in the South Seas in February. Wallace asked Darwin to publish his “essay” called: On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type. Wallace put forward essentially the same hypothesis on the origin of species that Darwin had sketched as early as the beginning of the 1840s. Ayala (2007), Mayr (1964) Darwin, recognizing the validity of his ideas on natural selection decided immediately to publish Wallace’s essay. Beforehand he consulted his two great mentors and friends: geologist Lyell and botanist Hooker. Both of them urged Darwin to present his and Wallace’s papers simultaneously at the forthcoming meeting of the Linnean Society, on Thursday, July 1st. None of the botanists or zoologists present in the large meeting room perceived the genesis of a new biology. The theory of “species evolution by natural selection” flew right by them. President Bell did not call for commentary and the interminable session terminated late “without anything special to mention,” as Bell wrote almost one year later in the Annual Report to the Society. He could not have been more mistaken. The July 1st, 1858 presentation impelled Darwin to complete his book “On the Origin of Species,” finally published on November 24, 1859 by John Murray. Darwin’s revolutionary book was a sudden success; the whole edition sold out the day of its release. In few years, people from many scientific disciplines were “impregnated” by “Darwin’s dangerous idea”. But no one realized that the commotion had begun seventeen months before the book was born, during ten frantic days in late June 1858, ten days that “did not shake the world.”


Natural Selection Scientific Revolution Meeting Room Linnean Society Original Type 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MicrobiologyUniversity of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.University of Massachusetts-AmherstAmherstUSA
  3. 3.Department of GeosciencesUniversity of Massachusetts-AmherstAmherstUSA
  4. 4.Balliol College, Oxford UniversityOxfordUK

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