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Aristotle's Ladder, Darwin's TreeThe Evolution of Visual Metaphors for Biological Order$
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J. Archibald

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231164122

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231164122.001.0001

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date: 24 September 2017

Deciphering Darwin’s Trees

Deciphering Darwin’s Trees

Chapter:
(p.80) Chapter Four Deciphering Darwin’s Trees
Source:
Aristotle's Ladder, Darwin's Tree
Author(s):

J. David Archibald

Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231164122.003.0004

This chapter examines Charles Darwin's various evolutionary trees, which deal more with his attempts to understand the process of evolution than its pattern. The idea of “descent with modification,” or simply evolution, was a hotly debated topic by the early nineteenth century. The debate lacked what Darwin provided, along with Alfred Russel Wallace: a mechanism, and the mechanism was natural selection. After the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species in 1859, no one would ever look at a tree of life in the same way. This chapter looks at Darwin's tree sketches done during the 1840s and 1850s, as well as his “Big Book” that deals with evolution by means of natural selection. It also analyzes a pair of Darwin's trees with competing views on the origin of placental and marsupial mammals and another tree that reflects how Darwin saw man's place in nature.

Keywords:   evolutionary trees, Charles Darwin, evolution, natural selection, On the Origin of Species, tree of life, Big Book, mammals, nature

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