National Geographic : 2009 Feb
KICKER ROCK, OFF SAN CRISTÓBAL, GALÁPAGOS ISLANDS "The archipelago is a little world within itself...both in space and time, we seem to be brought somewhat near to that great fact---that mystery of mysteries---the first appearance of new beings on this earth." OCTOBER 8, 1835 ENGLISH HERITAGE PHOTO LIBRARY/DARWIN HEIRLOOMS TRUST Charles Darwin, circa 1831 THIS YEAR MARKS THE 150TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MOST incendiary book in the history of science, and, coincidentally, the 200th birthday of the mild-mannered Englishman who wrote it. Charles Darwin did not invent the idea of evolution, any more than Abraham Lincoln, who happens to share his birthday on February 12, invented the idea of freedom. What Darwin provided in e Origin of Species was a powerful theory for how evolution could occur through purely natural forces, liberating scientists to explore the glorious complexity of life, rather than merely accept it as an impenetrable mystery. "Nothing in biol- ogy makes sense, except in the light of evolution," the geneticist eodosius Dobzhansky wrote 36 years ago. at light, which began as a glimmer in the mind of a young naturalist aboard H.M.S. Beagle, today casts a beam so bright we can read the very text of life by it. Darwin would be overjoyed to see how much he did not know, and how much we have yet to learn.