Darwinian Timeline

  • John Ray

    John Ray
    The concept of genus and species was actually developed in the late 1600's by John Ray(1627-1705), an English naturalist and ordained minister. However, it was Linnaeus who used this system to name us Homo sapiens
  • Francesco Redi

    Francesco Redi
    Francesco Redi was one of the first to disprove spontaneous generation. An Italian doctor who proved maggots came from flies. (Italian 1668)
  • Montesquieu

    The modern theory of biological evolution probably was first developed by Charles De Secondat Montesquieu (1689–1755), who concluded that ‘in the beginning there were very few (kinds of) species, and they have multiplied since.
  • Spontaneous generation (1700's-1900's)

    Spontaneous generation (1700's-1900's)
    Spontaneous generation is the hypothesis that some vital force contained in or given to organic matter can create living organisms from inanimate objects.
  • Carolus Linnaeus

    Carolus Linnaeus
    Carolus Linnaeus, or Carl Linné (1707-1778), is considered the father of modern taxonomy for his work in hierarchical classification of various organisms. At first, he believed in the fixed nature of species, but he was later swayed by hybridization experiments in plants, which could produce new species. He was a devoted Christian and throughout his ideas and stuck to his christianity
  • Immanuel Kant

    Immanuel Kant
    German philosopher Immanuel Kant developed a concept of descent that is relatively close to modern and Darwinian thinking. Based on similarities between organisms, Kant speculated that they may have come from a single ancestral source. In a thoroughly modern speculation, he mused that "a chimpanzee may develop the organs which serve for walking, grasping objects, that lie may evolve the structure of man.
  • Erasmus Darwin

    Erasmus Darwin
    Charles Darwin's grandfather Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) was also a distinguished naturalist with his own intriguing ideas about evolution. While he never thought of natural selection, he did argue that all life could a have a single common ancestor.
  • Jean-Baptiste Lamarck

    Jean-Baptiste Lamarck
    Lamarck(1744-1829)believed that evolution occurs when an organism uses a body part in such a way that it is altered during its lifetime and this change is then inherited by its offspring. For example, Lamarck thought that giraffes evolved their long necks by each generation stretching further to get leaves in trees and that this change in body shape was then inherited.
  • John Needham

    John Needham
    In 1745, John Needham, an English clergyman, proposed what he considered the definitive experiment. Everyone knew that boiling killed microorganisms, so he proposed to test whether or not microorganisms appeared spontaneously after boiling.
  • Benoit de Maillet

    Benoit de Maillet
    An important evolutionist was Benoit de Maillet (1656–1738), whose book on evolution was published in 1748. In his book, de Maillet taught that fish were the forefathers of birds, mammals and men.
  • Comte de Buffon

    Comte de Buffon
    Comte de Buffon, a French naturalist, developed the modern definition of a species; a group of organisms which can breed and produce fertile offspring. He thought that all organisms were created by god and arranged in a hierarchy with mankind at the top of creation.
  • Lazzaro Spallanzani

    Lazzaro Spallanzani
    An Italian priest, Lazzaro Spallanzani, was not convinced, and changed Needham's experiment. After the changes proponents of spontaneous generation argued that Spallanzani had only proven that spontaneous generation could not occur without air.
  • Thomas Malthus

    Thomas Malthus
    Thomas Malthus' (1766-1834) theory of population growth was in the end what inspired Darwin to develop the theory of natural selection. According to Malthus, populations produce many more offspring than can possibly survive on the limited resources generally available. According to Malthus, poverty, famine, and disease that resulted from overpopulation. However, Malthus believed that divine forces were ultimately responsible for such outcomes, which, though natural, were designed by God.
  • Georges Cuvier(1769-1832)

    Georges Cuvier(1769-1832)
    A french scientist who was the first paleontologist to recognize that species can go extinct.
  • William Smith

    William Smith
    William "Strata" Smith (1769-1839), employed by the English coal mining industry, developed the first accurate geologic map of England. He also, from his extensive travels, developed that Principle of Biological Succession. This idea states that each period of earth history has its own unique assemblages of fossils. In essence Smith fathered the science of stratigraphy, the correlation of rock layers based on (among other things) their fossil contents.
  • James Hutton

    James Hutton
    Hutton based the theory of uniformitarianism on the slow, natural processes that he observed on the landscape. He realized that, if given enough time, a stream could carve a valley, ice could erode rock, sediment could accumulate and form new landforms.
  • Catastrophe(1800's)

    Abraham Gottlob Werner and Baron Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) were among the foremost proponents of catastrophism, the theory that the earth and geological events had formed suddenly, as a result of some great catastrophe (such as Noah's flood). This view was a comfortable one for the times and thus was widely accepted. Cuvier eventually proposed that there had been several creations that occurred after catastrophies. Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) proposed 50-80 catastrophies and creations.
  • Charles Lyell

    Charles Lyell
    Charles Lyell was another important man in the development of the modern evolution theory. Charles Lyell successfully disputed previous innacurate theories and provided conclusive evidence for the theory of uniformitarianism.
  • Richard Owen(1840's)

    Richard Owen(1840's)
    Richard Owen (1804-1892) was an English anatomist noted for his 1840s evolution theory that life had an “organizing energy”, divinely designed, that controlled its development and evolution, operating in such a way that each species, e.g. horse, humans, spiders, belonged to an “immutable archetype”, such that evolution within an archetype was possible, but not between archetypes.
  • Louis Pasteur

    Louis Pasteur
    The theory of spontaneous generation was finally laid to rest in 1859 by the young French chemist, Louis Pasteur. The French Academy of Sciences sponsored a contest for the best experiment either proving or disproving spontaneous generation. Pasteur's winning experiment was a variation of the methods of Needham and Spallanzani.