Origin of Species Was Not the First Book on Evolution
Originally published in 1859, Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species stands as one of the greatest scientific works in history. In it, he proposed a mechanism for species to evolve, or change, over time: natural selection. Darwin theorized that inherited traits become more or less prevalent depending upon the reproductive success of the organism. Today, natural selection serves as the foundation of biology.
Darwin's revolutionary theory did not arrive in a vacuum, however. Before Origin of Species, other scientists and thinkers had published works expounding on evolution and proposing ways for it to occur. Though not quite correct in their explanations, these books steered society to a more receptive stance on evolution and ultimately helped Darwin shape his theory. According to author Christopher Lane:
"When we grasp that Darwin's contribution, clearly remarkable, also built on decades of already existing argument and discovery, the notion that evolutionary theory more or less rests on the shoulders of one biologist quickly and helpfully crumbles, replaced by the knowledge that large numbers of 19th-century Americans and Britons embraced evolution as a concept and principle."
Here are four important books on evolution published before The Origin of Species.