The Cycle of Life:
An History of Experimental Ecology

Sterling Memorial
Kline Sciences
Medical Historical
Exhibit Map

Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 1859

In 1859, Erasmus Darwin’s famous grandson, Charles, published one of the world's most influential books. In the Origin, he introduced the concept of evolution of new species by the process he called natural selection. Standard historical accounts attribute the rise of a formal science of ecology in part to Darwin’s vision of a dynamic competition between organisms for survival. It is rarely acknowledged that this vision emerged from the grander view of nature as an economical circulation of matter. Darwin’s depiction of nature as a plenum of life in which species filled every possible niche reflects the ideas of his grandfather’s generation. Thus, Charles Darwin’s influence on the rise of ecology is two-fold: he did propose a dynamic method for evolution, but also this method is another formulation of contemporary views of the thermodynamics of life.

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Lloyd Ackert
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