In honor of Charles Darwin’s 207th birthday today, here’s Asa Gray’s review of The Original of Species, published by The Atlantic in July 1860. It begins:
Novelties are enticing to most people: to us they are simply annoying. We cling to a long-accepted theory, just as we cling to an old suit of clothes. A new theory, like a new pair of breeches, (“The Atlantic” still affects the older type of nether garment,) is sure to have hardfitting places; or even when no particular fault can be found with the article, it oppresses with a sense of general discomfort. New notions and new styles worry us, till we get well used to them, which is only by slow degrees.
When we posted that review in 2011, a reader wrote:
Some historian noted that it is easy to forget that the past was once the future. So what now seems settled history and fact was once speculation and argumentation. What was settled fact then was the Biblical story of creation. Darwin had to argue his way past that, carefully, to build the case for “deep time.” It’s worthwhile reading him to watch the effort.
Another reader looked into the man behind the book review: