John Ray was born. He established the modern concept of a species, noting that organisms of one species do not interbreed with members of another, using it as the basic unit of taxonomy.
Carl Linnaeus (1707 - 1778)
Linnaeus catalogued the diversity of living things in a cohesive and logical manner - the now-familiar hierarchical way of arranging organisms. Linnaeus also included humans in his system, believing that humans and the apes were closely related and that they should be placed in the same genus.
Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707 - 1788)
Buffon proposed that species could change This was a major break from earlier concepts that species were created by a perfect creator and therefore could not change because they were perfect. Buffon provided evidence of descent with modification and speculated on various causative mechanisms, mentioning several factors could influence evolutionary change.
Erasmus Darwin (1731 - 1802)
He was aware that modern species were different to fossil types, and saw how plant and animal breeders used artificial selection to enhance their products, suggested the possibility of common descent based on changes undergone by animals during development, artificial selection by humans, and the presence of vestigial organs.
Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744 - 1829)
Lamarck developed one of the first theories on how species changed. His model of evolution proposed that individuals were able to pass to their offspring characteristics acquired during their own lifetimes. In 1809, he concluded that organisms of higher complexity had evolved from preexisting, less complex organisms. He proposed the inheritance of acquired characteristics to explain, among other things, the length of the giraffe neck.
Georges Cuvier (1769 - 1832)
Cuvier proposed that there had been several creations that occurred after catastrophies.
Charles Lyell (1797 - 1875)
Lyell believed in the special creation of all species now in existence, he also recognised that many species had become extinct and been replaced by others.
Charles Robert Darwin (1809 - 1882)
Darwin began to develop his theory of evolution by natural selection as a coherent explanation for his observations on the form and distribution of species, tying it into the concepts developed by other thinkers such as Lyell, Lamarck and Malthus. While he quickly produced an outline of this theory, Darwin was to spend the next 25 years refining it and amassing still more supporting evidence.
Alfred Russel Wallace (1823 - 1913)
Wallace came up with the idea that the best-adapted organisms in a population would survive to breed, passing on their adaptations to their offspring.
Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species
Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was first published. All 1,250 copies of the first printing were sold out on the very first day.
Thomas Henry Huxley and Bishop Samuel Wilberforce of the Church of England engaged in their famous debate on Darwin's theory of evolution.