ARTICLE: Inspiration in the Harness of Daily Labor: Darwin, Botany, and the Triumph of Evolution, 1859–1868

From the journal Isis (September 2011):

Inspiration in the Harness of Daily Labor: Darwin, Botany, and the Triumph of Evolution, 1859–1868

Richard Bellon

Abstract Charles Darwin hoped that a large body of working naturalists would embrace evolution after the Origin of Species appeared in late 1859. He was disappointed. His evolutionary ideas at first made painfully little progress in the scientific community. But by 1863 the tide had turned dramatically, and within five years evolution became scientific orthodoxy in Britain. The Origin‘s reception followed this peculiar trajectory because Darwin had not initially tied its theory to productive original scientific investigation, which left him vulnerable to charges of reckless speculation. The debate changed with his successful application of evolution to original problems, most notably orchid fertilization, the subject of a well‐received book in 1862. Most of Darwin’s colleagues found the argument of the Origin convincing when they realized that it functioned productively in the day‐to‐day work of science—and not before. The conceptual force of the Origin, however outwardly persuasive, acquired full scientific legitimacy only when placed “in the harness of daily labour.”

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