What is evolution in science

The Early Evolution of Humans: Scientific Discussion and Popular Representations (1859-1900)

The question of the origin of all life on earth is probably as old as humanity itself. If mythical and religious ideas used to offer simple answers, from the late 18th century onwards more and more complex scientific explanations took place, based on pure belief were based on observation and analysis. One of the most important of these scientific theories in the modern sense is the evolution through natural selection presented by Charles Darwin in 1859, which was soon discussed as the 'evolutionary dispute' not only in scientific circles but also in an ever-increasing public.

Darwin's theory was by no means developed in a vacuum. Important fundamentals such as the old age of the earth had already been worked out in the decades before Darwin's most important publication. In addition, Darwin spent around two decades collecting as much and clear evidence as possible for his theory, be it purely for scientific thoroughness or to better counter a public criticism of his theses. It was clear to Darwin that his theory would arouse questions and criticism from many quarters. This applied not only to resistance from the church, but also from the scientific side, since in the middle of the 19th century there were different theories about the fascinating question of how life on earth might have developed.

The pros and cons of Darwin's theory of evolution apart from pure science were debated mainly in the media. The photography technique, which was still quite young at the time, played the important role of helping to support the theory with visual evidence as a means of supposedly incorruptible documentation, which Darwin himself demonstrated in his writing about the emotions in humans and animals made use of.

In addition to photography, all other forms of visualization were an essential pillar in the spread of Darwin's theory in a wide area. Material stagings were added, such as the ideas of early humans. These were presented to an astonished public in the form of remains such as bone finds or equipment such as in reconstructions based on the finds. Some images of the 'wild man' still exist today. In the 19th century, such views as information about evolution were further reinforced by the exhibition of people from overseas in zoological gardens in Europe and North America and their staging as the missing link in the history of human development.

Contents of the section in the book:

  • Evolutionary Concepts in Transition: Debates in the Pre-Darwinian Era
    Marianne Klemun

  • Darwin's 'Journey to Knowledge' and the origin of a debate
    Matthias Glaubrecht

  • Evolution: A Public Dispute Since 1859
    Peter J. Bowler

  • Darwin and Photography: Influences on Visual Culture
    Monika Pietrzak-Franger

  • Darwinism as the struggle of all against all?
    Origin and Consequences of a Misunderstanding
    Dirk Solies

  • Evolution in the zoo: the illustration of a theory on the living object
    Rebecca Bishop

  • The Early Evolution of Humans: Scientific Discussion and
    popular representations (1859-1900)
    Chris Manias

  • Of wild men and women: reconstructions of the
    prehistoric people in the museum
    Bärbel Auffermann and Gerd-Christian Less

Source: Louis Figuier: La Terre avant le Déluge, 5th edition, Paris 1866, p. 427.