Theory of evolution published: Aug. 20, 1858
The theory of evolution gets published for the first time when the _Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London_prints two papers that had been read at the Society’s meeting the previous month.
One is an abstract written by Charles Darwin, who had been developing his theory of natural selection since his now-famous five-year voyage on the _H.M.S Beagle_25 years earlier. Another is an essay by a naturalist named Alfred Russel Wallace. Independently of each other, they had outlined the process of how living things evolve.
Earlier that summer, Darwin had received the essay from Wallace who was doing research in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Darwin’s own ideas about natural selection were hardly a secret—he had discussed it in letters to friends and colleagues. But he hadn’t yet published a scientific paper on the subject.
When Wallace’s letter had arrived, however, Darwin was dealing with the serious illness of his son, who would soon die of scarlet fever. So he had turned Wallace’s essay over to Charles Lyell, a scientist friend, with a note saying that he thought it should be published. Lyell had decided that the fair thing to do was to present Wallace’s paper on natural selection jointly with a private essay and letter Darwin had written on the subject.
Neither had much impact at first. In fact, the head of the Linnean Society, the most prestigious natural history organization in the world at the time, would later note that the group had not had any major discoveries that year.
But the following year, Darwin published his landmark book, On the Origin of Species. It had an immediate impact. All 1,250 copies of the first printing were sold on the very first day, and evolution quickly became accepted in scientific circles as a valid explanation for how species develop.
Wallace benefitted from the connection to Darwin, who was of a considerably higher social and scientific status, and he was happy to let Darwin get more of the spotlight. Wallace even titled a book that he later wrote, _Darwinism. _
But the two scientists were not in total agreement on evolution. Darwin, for instance, believed that natural selection was a process that allowed an individual within a species to adapt and survive, while Wallace thought it acted on whole groups or species of living things. And Wallace never liked the term “natural selection.” In fact, in his copy of On the Origin of Species, he crossed out the words wherever he saw them and replaced them with the phrase “survival of the fittest.”
They remained friends, however, until Darwin’s death in 1882, after which Wallace became one of more famous scientists in Great Britain, even being awarded the Order of Merit, the highest honor that a British citizen can be given by the king or queen.
But in the late 19th century and early 20th century, the theory of natural selection fell out of favor. By the time it started to regain acceptance again in the 1930s, Wallace’s role in its development had faded. Darwin, as the scientist who had written the acclaimed book on the subject, became synonymous with evolution.
Darwin is buried in Westminster Abbey and has hundreds of statues honoring him around the world. This November, Wallace will finally get his own statue in London’s Museum of Natural History. It will be dedicated 100 years, to the day, after his death.
More Slices of History
Siamese twins come to America: Aug. 16, 1829
Aspirin created: Aug. 10, 1897
Medicare is born: July 30, 1965
First “test-tube” baby: July 25, 1978
Kissing banned: July 16, 1439
Seat belt patented: July 10, 1962Birth of SPAM: July 5, 1937
Dancing hysteria: June 24, 1374
First kidney transplant: June 17, 1950
Alcoholics Anonymous born: June 10, 1935
Bizarre stomach experiment: June 6, 1822
Heimlich maneuver born: June 1, 1974
Toothpaste in tubes: May 22, 1892
The First Vaccination: May 14, 1786
The Pill Arrives: May 9, 1960
Hello, Cheerios: May 1, 1941
Chronic pain affects spouse's sleep
Chronic pain obviously can cause a lot of disruptions in a patient’s life. But, according to new research from Penn State University, it also can have a significant negative impact on spouses, affecting their sleep and increasing their risks of physical and psychiatric problems.
Using knee pain as a test condition, the researchers had 138 knee osteoarthritis patients and their spouses complete interviews and keep diaries for 22 days. The subjects were all at least 50 years old and were either in long-term relationships or were married. The results showed that the greater a person’s knee pain at the end of the day, the worse quality of sleep their spouse got that night. However, the reverse was not true – those in pain were not affected by their partner’s lack of sleep.
The results of the study also show that the detrimental effects on a spouse reach beyond just disturbances in the patient’s sleep. It seems that those whose sleep was compromised also became less able to respond empathetically to their partners.
Insomnia helped by exercise ... eventually
When you’re not getting enough sleep, exercising every day is not likely to rank very high on the to-do list. However, insomniacs are often recommended to undertake such a program of exercise, as it has been shown to improve sleep quality. That said, a new study from Northwestern University has found that the benefits of daily exercise may not really be seen for up to four months. According to the researchers, exercise for insomnia is a long-term treatment option, and patients are warned not to become discouraged if they don’t see quick results.
While previous exercise-sleep studies have focused on healthy sleepers, the Northwestern study sought to investigate how exercise affects insomniacs in the long-term. After analyzing 11 study participants over a 16-week period, the researchers found that hitting the treadmill or lifting some weights won’t necessarily help improve sleep that night, as had once been thought. Instead, while the person may have felt more physically tired, the true benefits weren’t likely be seen right away.
Of course, there is still the issue of exercising when poorly rested. The study found a vicious cycle takes place: poor sleep leads to less exercise, which blocks the long-term benefits of working out. The takeaway from this study was that people need to stick with their exercise programs, as it takes time to re-establish a normal level of brain activity that can facilitate sleep.
Baldness drug may protect against prostate cancer
New research has found that medications used for male-pattern baldness could also be useful in reducing a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer. According to a study from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio, taking finasteride – sold as Propecia and Proscar – for a period of seven years helped to reduce, among middle aged or older men, the risk of developing cancer by one-third.
This study tracked 19,000 men – with an average age of 62 – for a period of seven years. The researchers found that finasteride primarily prevents low-grade cancers, reducing risk by 43 percent. Previous studies have indicated that the drug could raise prostate cancer mortality rates, but this research found that 83 percent of men who took finasteride and had low-grade prostate cancers survived 10 years after diagnosis, compared to 81 percent survival among men who took a placebo. For men with high-grade cancers, the 10-year survival rates were nearly identical as well.
More than 200,000 men in the U.S. are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year.