Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Darwin, Charles Robert

British naturalist; author of On the Origin of Species (1859), an early version of evolution known as Darwinism (or the one long argument contained in the Darwinian theory of evolution). His work caused a change in the world view of many contemporary biologists (see the Darwinian revolution). Darwin proposed the gradual transmutation of species based upon descent with modification and driven by a struggle for existence and survival of the fittest, i.e. natural selection. Darwin’s originality was in his recognition of the role of heritable variation in nature. He later defined a second force, sexual selection, in The Descent of Man (1871), and there first suggested the original hominid homeland idea and the tool-feedback hypothesis. These, and others of his views such as gradualism, have been revisited; some have been rejected outright, such as pangenesis (cf. punctuated equilibrium and Mendelism). Many of his most important ideas, however, have been incorporated and expanded into mainline biological theory, especially those portions concerned with microevolution (see neoDarwinism). Some of his central ideas have been co-opted and used for other purposes (e.g. social Darwinism). Darwin left other biological issues recognized but unsolved, such as the issue of selfsacrifice (altruism, cf. the second Darwinian revolution). Although frequently incapacitated (see Chagas’ disease), Darwin was the author of more than 220 publications and thousands of professional letters; these endeavors have resulted in a large body of secondary literature, or Darwiniana.

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