Celebrating 19 Years on the Web
TODAY IN SCIENCE HISTORY ®
Find science on or your birthday

Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, ... finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell ... whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
more quiz questions >>
Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index D > Charles Darwin Quotes > Origin Of Species

Thumbnail of Charles Darwin (source)
Charles Darwin
(12 Feb 1809 - 19 Apr 1882)

English naturalist who presented facts to support his theory of the mode of evolution whereby favourable variations would survive which he called 'Natural Selection' or 'Survival of the Fittest.'



About weak points [of the Origin] I agree. The eye to this day gives me a cold shudder, but when I think of the fine known gradations, my reason tells me I ought to conquer the cold shudder.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to Asa Gray, 8 or 9 February 1860. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1860 (1993), Vol. 8, 75.
Science quotes on:  |  Cold (112)  |  Conquer (37)  |  Eye (419)  |  Gradation (17)  |  Known (454)  |  Origin (239)  |  Origin Of Species (42)  |  Point (580)  |  Reason (744)  |  Tell (340)  |  Think (1086)  |  Weak (71)

All that we can do, is to keep steadily in mind that each organic being is striving to increase at a geometrical ratio; that each at some period of its life, during some season of the year, during each generation or at intervals, has to struggle for life, and to suffer great destruction. When we reflect on this struggle, we may console ourselves with the full belief, that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply.
— Charles Darwin
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 76.
Science quotes on:  |  All (4108)  |  Being (1278)  |  Belief (578)  |  Death (388)  |  Destruction (125)  |  Do (1908)  |  Fear (197)  |  Generation (242)  |  Great (1574)  |  Happy (105)  |  Healthy (68)  |  Increase (210)  |  Life (1795)  |  Mind (1338)  |  Multiply (37)  |  Natural Selection (96)  |  Nature (1926)  |  Organic (158)  |  Origin Of Species (42)  |  Ourselves (245)  |  Period (198)  |  Prompt (14)  |  Ratio (39)  |  Season (47)  |  Struggle (105)  |  Survive (79)  |  War (225)  |  Year (933)

As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all sides many a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever branching and beautiful ramifications.
— Charles Darwin
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 119.
Science quotes on:  |  All (4108)  |  Beautiful (258)  |  Branch (150)  |  Branching (10)  |  Broken (56)  |  Crust (38)  |  Earth (996)  |  Fresh (67)  |  Generation (242)  |  Great (1574)  |  Growth (187)  |  Life (1795)  |  Natural Selection (96)  |  Origin Of Species (42)  |  Ramification (7)  |  Rise (166)  |  Side (233)  |  Surface (209)  |  Tree (246)  |  Tree Of Life (10)

At last gleams of light have come, and I am almost convinced (quite contrary to opinion I started with) that species are not (it is like confessing a murder) immutable. Heaven forfend me from Lamarck nonsense of a “tendency to progression”, “adaptations from the slow willing of animals”, &c! But the conclusions I am led to are not widely different from his; though the means of change are wholly so. I think I have found out (here’s presumption!) the simple way by which species become exquisitely adapted to various ends.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to Sir Joseph Hooker (11 Jan 1844). In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters (1892), 173-174.
Science quotes on:  |  Adapt (66)  |  Adaptation (58)  |  Animal (617)  |  Become (815)  |  Change (593)  |  Conclusion (254)  |  Contrary (141)  |  Different (577)  |  End (590)  |  Heaven (258)  |  Immutable (22)  |  Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (24)  |  Last (426)  |  Light (607)  |  Mean (809)  |  Means (579)  |  Nonsense (48)  |  Opinion (281)  |  Origin Of Species (42)  |  Presumption (15)  |  Progression (23)  |  Simple (406)  |  Slow (101)  |  Species (401)  |  Start (221)  |  Tendency (99)  |  Think (1086)  |  Various (200)  |  Way (1217)  |  Wholly (88)  |  Willing (44)

But as my conclusions have lately been much misrepresented, and it has been stated that I attribute the modification of species exclusively to natural selection, I may be permitted to remark that in the first edition of this work, and subsequently, I placed in a most conspicuous position—namely, at the close of the Introduction—the following words: “I am convinced that natural selection has been the main but not the exclusive means of modification.” This has been of no avail. Great is the power of steady misrepresentation; but the history of science shows that fortunately this power does not long endure.
— Charles Darwin
In The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection with additions and corrections from sixth and last English edition (1899), Vol. 2, 293.
Science quotes on:  |  Attribute (61)  |  Conclusion (254)  |  Conspicuous (12)  |  Edition (5)  |  Endure (20)  |  Exclusive (29)  |  First (1283)  |  Great (1574)  |  History (673)  |  History Of Science (63)  |  Introduction (35)  |  Long (790)  |  Mean (809)  |  Means (579)  |  Misrepresentation (5)  |  Modification (55)  |  Most (1731)  |  Natural (796)  |  Natural Selection (96)  |  Origin Of Species (42)  |  Power (746)  |  Remark (28)  |  Science (3879)  |  Selection (128)  |  Show (346)  |  Species (401)  |  State (491)  |  Steady (44)  |  Word (619)  |  Work (1351)

I have heard by round about channel that Herschel says my book “is the law of higgledy-pigglety.”
— Charles Darwin
Letter to C. Lyell, 10 December 1859. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1858-1859 (1991), Vol. 7, 423.
Science quotes on:  |  Book (392)  |  Law (894)  |  Origin Of Species (42)  |  Say (984)

I have just finished my sketch of my species theory. If as I believe that my theory is true & if it be accepted even by one competent judge, it will be a considerable step in science. I therefore write this, in case of my sudden death, as my most solemn & last request, which I am sure you will consider the same as if legally entered in my will, that you will devote 400£ to its publication & further will yourself, or through Hensleigh [Wedgwood], take trouble in promoting it.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to Emma Darwin, 5 July 1844. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1844-1846 (1987), Vol. 3, 43.
Science quotes on:  |  Accept (191)  |  Book (392)  |  Consider (416)  |  Considerable (75)  |  Death (388)  |  Enter (141)  |  Finish (59)  |  Judge (108)  |  Last (426)  |  Most (1731)  |  Origin Of Species (42)  |  Publication (101)  |  Science (3879)  |  Solemn (20)  |  Species (401)  |  Step (231)  |  Sudden (67)  |  Theory (970)  |  Through (849)  |  Trouble (107)  |  Will (2355)  |  Write (230)

I hope you have not murdered too completely your own and my child.
Referring to their independently conceived ideas on the origin of species.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to A. R. Wallace, March 1869. In J. Marchant, Alfred Russel Wallace: Letters and Reminiscences (1916), Vol. 1, 240.
Science quotes on:  |  Child (307)  |  Completely (135)  |  Hope (299)  |  Idea (843)  |  Independently (24)  |  Origin (239)  |  Origin Of Species (42)  |  Species (401)  |  Alfred Russel Wallace (40)

I see no good reason why the views given this volume [The Origin of Species] should shock the religious feelings of any one. It is satisfactory, as showing how transient such impressions are, to remember that the greatest discovery ever made by man, namely, the law of attraction of gravity, was also attacked by Leibnitz, “as subversive of natural, and inferentially of revealed, religion.”
— Charles Darwin
The Origin of Species (1909), 520.
Science quotes on:  |  Attack (84)  |  Attraction (56)  |  Discovery (780)  |  Feeling (250)  |  Feelings (52)  |  Good (889)  |  Gravity (132)  |  Greatest (328)  |  Impression (114)  |  Law (894)  |  Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (49)  |  Man (2251)  |  Natural (796)  |  Origin (239)  |  Origin Of Species (42)  |  Reason (744)  |  Religion (361)  |  Religious (126)  |  Remember (179)  |  Reveal (148)  |  Revealed (60)  |  See (1081)  |  Shock (37)  |  Species (401)  |  Transient (12)  |  View (488)  |  Why (491)

In July [1837] opened first note-book on Transmutation of Species. Had been greatly struck from about the month of previous March on character of South American fossils, and species on Galapagos Archipelago. These facts (especially latter), origin of all my views.
— Charles Darwin
In Francis Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Including an Autobiographical Chapter (1888), Vol. 1, 276.
Science quotes on:  |  All (4108)  |  Archipelago (7)  |  Beagle (13)  |  Book (392)  |  Character (243)  |  Fact (1210)  |  Facts (553)  |  First (1283)  |  Fossil (136)  |  Galapagos (5)  |  March (46)  |  Month (88)  |  Open (274)  |  Origin (239)  |  Origin Of Species (42)  |  South (38)  |  Species (401)  |  Transmutation (22)  |  View (488)

It has sometimes been said that the success of the Origin proved “that the subject was in the air,” or “that men's minds were prepared for it.” I do not think that this is strictly true, for I occasionally sounded not a few naturalists, and never happened to come across a single one who seemed to doubt about the permanence of species.
— Charles Darwin
In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters (1892), 42.
Science quotes on:  |  Air (347)  |  Do (1908)  |  Doubt (304)  |  Happen (274)  |  Happened (88)  |  Mind (1338)  |  Naturalist (70)  |  Never (1087)  |  Origin (239)  |  Origin Of Species (42)  |  Permanence (24)  |  Preparation (58)  |  Single (353)  |  Sound (183)  |  Species (401)  |  Subject (521)  |  Success (302)  |  Think (1086)  |  Truth (1057)

It may metaphorically be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, the slightest variations; rejecting those that are bad, preserving and adding up all that are good; silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being in relation to its organic and inorganic conditions of life. We see nothing of these slow changes in progress, until the hand of time has marked the lapse of ages...
— Charles Darwin
The Origin of Species (1870), 80.
Science quotes on:  |  Age (499)  |  All (4108)  |  Bad (180)  |  Being (1278)  |  Change (593)  |  Condition (356)  |  Daily (87)  |  Good (889)  |  Improvement (108)  |  Life (1795)  |  Marked (55)  |  Natural (796)  |  Natural Selection (96)  |  Nothing (966)  |  Offer (141)  |  Opportunity (87)  |  Organic (158)  |  Origin Of Species (42)  |  Preserving (18)  |  Progress (465)  |  See (1081)  |  Selection (128)  |  Slow (101)  |  Throughout (98)  |  Time (1877)  |  Variation (90)  |  Whenever (81)  |  Wherever (51)  |  World (1774)

On the theory of natural selection we can clearly understand the full meaning of that old canon in natural history, “Natura non facit saltum.” This canon, if we look only to the present inhabitants of the world, is not strictly correct, but if we include all those of past times, it must by my theory be strictly true.
— Charles Darwin
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 183.
Science quotes on:  |  All (4108)  |  History (673)  |  Include (90)  |  Inhabitant (49)  |  Look (582)  |  Meaning (233)  |  Must (1526)  |  Natura Non Facit Saltum (3)  |  Natural (796)  |  Natural History (70)  |  Natural Selection (96)  |  Old (481)  |  Origin Of Species (42)  |  Past (337)  |  Present (619)  |  Selection (128)  |  Theory (970)  |  Time (1877)  |  Understand (606)  |  World (1774)

The Struggle for Existence amongst all organic beings throughout the world, which inevitably follows from their high geometrical powers of increase ... This is the doctrine of Malthus, applied to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms. As many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive; and as, consequently, there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, it follows that any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected. From the strong principle of inheritance, any selected variety will tend to propagate its new and modified form.
— Charles Darwin
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 12.
Science quotes on:  |  All (4108)  |  Animal (617)  |  Applied (177)  |  Being (1278)  |  Better (486)  |  Chance (239)  |  Complex (188)  |  Condition (356)  |  Existence (456)  |  Follow (378)  |  Form (959)  |  High (362)  |  Increase (210)  |  Individual (404)  |  Inheritance (34)  |  Kingdom (78)  |  Life (1795)  |  Thomas Robert Malthus (13)  |  More (2559)  |  Natural Selection (96)  |  New (1216)  |  Organic (158)  |  Origin Of Species (42)  |  Possibly (111)  |  Power (746)  |  Principle (507)  |  Profitable (28)  |  Recurring (12)  |  Select (44)  |  Species (401)  |  Strong (174)  |  Struggle (105)  |  Survive (79)  |  Tend (124)  |  Throughout (98)  |  Variety (132)  |  Vegetable (46)  |  Whole (738)  |  Will (2355)  |  World (1774)

To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree. When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist; if further, the eye does vary ever so slightly, and the variations be inherited, which is certainly the case; and if any variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real.
— Charles Darwin
On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859, 1882), 143-144.
Science quotes on:  |  Aberration (8)  |  Absurd (59)  |  All (4108)  |  Amount (151)  |  Animal (617)  |  Being (1278)  |  Certainly (185)  |  Chromatic (4)  |  Common (436)  |  Common Sense (130)  |  Complex (188)  |  Condition (356)  |  Confess (42)  |  Consider (416)  |  Correction (40)  |  Declared (24)  |  Degree (276)  |  Different (577)  |  Difficulty (196)  |  Distance (161)  |  Exist (443)  |  Eye (419)  |  First (1283)  |  Focus (35)  |  Form (959)  |  Gradation (17)  |  Imagination (328)  |  Imperfect (45)  |  Inherit (33)  |  Inherited (21)  |  Inimitable (6)  |  Know (1518)  |  Life (1795)  |  Light (607)  |  Mankind (339)  |  Modification (55)  |  Natural (796)  |  Natural Selection (96)  |  Numerous (68)  |  Old (481)  |  Organ (115)  |  Origin Of Species (42)  |  Perfect (216)  |  Philosopher (258)  |  Possible (552)  |  Reason (744)  |  Science (3879)  |  Selection (128)  |  Sense (770)  |  Simple (406)  |  Still (613)  |  Sun (385)  |  Suppose (156)  |  Tell (340)  |  Trust (66)  |  Turn (447)  |  Useful (250)  |  Variation (90)  |  World (1774)

When the views entertained in this volume on the origin of species, or when analogous views are generally admitted, we can dimly forsee that there will be a considerable revolution in natural history.
— Charles Darwin
The Origin of Species (1859), Penguin edn , J. W. Burrow (ed.) (1968), 455.
Science quotes on:  |  Considerable (75)  |  Entertain (24)  |  History (673)  |  Natural (796)  |  Natural History (70)  |  Origin (239)  |  Origin Of Species (42)  |  Revolution (129)  |  Species (401)  |  View (488)  |  Will (2355)


See also:
  • 12 Feb - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Darwin's birth.
  • Charles Darwin - Earthquake observation on 20 Feb 1835, during the voyage of the Beagle.
  • Charles Darwin - context of quote “If the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature…” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Charles Darwin - context of quote “If the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature…” - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Charles Darwin - context of quote “Improving…a young naturalist” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Charles Darwin - context of quote “Improving…a young naturalist” - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Charles Darwin - context of quote “Great is the power of steady misrepresentation” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Charles Darwin - context of quote “Great is the power of steady misrepresentation” - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Charles Darwin - context of quote “This…I call Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Charles Darwin - context of quote “This…I call Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest” - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Letter to Asa Gray - from Charles Darwin (5 Sep 1857).
  • From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin's Four Great Books, by Charles Darwin, Edward O. Wilson. - book suggestion.
  • Booklist for Charles Darwin.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
Quotations by:Albert EinsteinIsaac NewtonLord KelvinCharles DarwinSrinivasa RamanujanCarl SaganFlorence NightingaleThomas EdisonAristotleMarie CurieBenjamin FranklinWinston ChurchillGalileo GalileiSigmund FreudRobert BunsenLouis PasteurTheodore RooseveltAbraham LincolnRonald ReaganLeonardo DaVinciMichio KakuKarl PopperJohann GoetheRobert OppenheimerCharles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about:Atomic  BombBiologyChemistryDeforestationEngineeringAnatomyAstronomyBacteriaBiochemistryBotanyConservationDinosaurEnvironmentFractalGeneticsGeologyHistory of ScienceInventionJupiterKnowledgeLoveMathematicsMeasurementMedicineNatural ResourceOrganic ChemistryPhysicsPhysicianQuantum TheoryResearchScience and ArtTeacherTechnologyUniverseVolcanoVirusWind PowerWomen ScientistsX-RaysYouthZoology  ... (more topics)
Sitewide search within all Today In Science History pages:
Visit our Science and Scientist Quotations index for more Science Quotes from archaeologists, biologists, chemists, geologists, inventors and inventions, mathematicians, physicists, pioneers in medicine, science events and technology.

Names index: | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

Categories index: | 1 | 2 | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



who invites your feedback
Thank you for sharing.
Today in Science History
Sign up for Newsletter
with quiz, quotes and more.