Thomas Huxley. Evidence as to Man’s Place in Nature. London & Edinburgh: Williams and Norgate, 1863. Purchased through the Culotta Fund.

Charles Lyell. The Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man; with Remarks on Theories of the Origin of Species by Variation. 2nd edition. London: J. Murray, 1863. Gift of Helen Kingsbury Zirkle ’20.

Alfred Russel Wallace. Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection: a Series of Essays. 2nd edition. London: Macmillan & Co., 1875. Anthony R. Michaelis Collection, gift of J. Philip Gibbs, Jr. 






Darwin shied away from public confrontations over evolution, but he had many close friends and colleagues who became vigorous campaigners on behalf of his ideas.  Among the most prominent were Thomas Huxley, his old mentor Charles Lyell, and the younger man whose essay propelled him to write the Origin of Species, Alfred Russel Wallace. Huxley was the most pugnacious of the group, not only on behalf of Darwin’s ideas, but more broadly in support of science against the power of religion. In his review of Origin of Species in the April 1860 issue of Westminster Review, Huxley left no doubt about where he stood in the debate between science and religion:

Extinguished theologians lie about the cradle of every science as the strangled snakes beside that of Hercules; and history records that whenever science and orthodoxy have been fairly opposed, the latter has been forced to retire from the lists, bleeding and crushed if not annihilated; scotched, if not slain.
Huxley was also the first to extend Darwin’s ideas about the development of species to an explanation of the origins of humanity, first in a series of lectures, then published in the book Evidence as to Man’s Place in Nature, with the plate showing primate skeletons leading up to man, an image that would become iconic in the debate over evolution.

Lyell also added the weight of his considerable scientific reputation to the debate by summarizing the increasing evidence that humans had a very deep past, not a recent one dating back only a few thousand years to the Garden of Eden.  Unlike Darwin and Huxley, though, Lyell was not prepared to sever all ties with religion.  At the end of the book, he argued that the differences between humans and animals are immense and a “profound mystery.”

Alfred Russel Wallace also continued to write in support of natural selection, although he too had qualms about applying evolutionary ideas to people.  His essays in support of evolution were brought together in this volume, first published in 1870. 


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