November 24, 1859 Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, a work of scientific literature that would transform the field of biology and influence how human beings view themselves like no other book since The Bible. Theories that species had evolved over time were not new but were considered by many as radical and even heretical. But Darwin’s arguments and evidence, and the respect he commanded in scientific circles, gave evolutionary theory legitimacy. His theories came largely from research gathered during exhibitions on board the HMS Beagle in the Galapagos Islands, South America and Australasia in the 1830s but, perhaps in part due to concerns over upsetting the religious, creationist establishment, the book was decades in the making. His most influential and ground-breaking argument was that species, including humans, evolve as a result of natural selection whereby individuals with genetic variations that are more suited to their environment pass on those variations through reproduction. The term natural selection has been expressed as ‘survival of the fittest’, where ‘fittest’ means ‘best-adapted to the local environment’. Darwin’s theories have themselves evolved since the mid-1800s but remain central to modern biological science.
Also on November 24: English and Scottish soldiers fight the Battle of Solway Moss (1542); The FBI opens its ‘Crime Lab’ in Washington DC (1932); Jack Ruby shoots Lee Harvey Oswald, the main suspect in the assassination of John F. Kennedy (1963).
Born on November 24: William Webb Ellis (1806), Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864), Lucky Luciano (1897), Emir Kusturica (1954), Ian Botham (1955), Alain Chabat (1958).