How Did Thomas Malthus Contribute to the Theory of Evolution?


Martha Robinson

Thomas Malthus and his contribution to the Theory of Evolution

Thomas Malthus was an English economist who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries. He is famous for his work “An Essay on the Principle of Population,” which proposed that population growth would eventually outstrip food supply, leading to widespread famine and disease. This theory became known as Malthusianism and had a significant impact on the fields of economics, sociology, and biology.


Malthus argued that population growth was geometric (exponential), while food production was only arithmetical (linear). Therefore, as the population increased, there would be more people than food available, resulting in famine and death. He believed that this was an inevitable consequence of human reproduction, and that it could only be prevented through moral restraint or disasters such as war or disease.

This theory had a profound impact on economics, as it challenged the Enlightenment-era belief in progress and unlimited growth. It also influenced social movements such as socialism and feminism, which saw population control as a means of achieving greater equality.

The Impact on Biology

Malthus’s ideas also had a significant impact on biology, particularly in relation to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Darwin was heavily influenced by Malthus’s theory when he developed his ideas about natural selection.

He saw that just as populations were limited by resources such as food supply, so too were species limited by their environment. The ones that were best adapted to their environment would survive and reproduce, passing their advantageous traits onto future generations.

Malthus’s ideas helped Darwin to understand why some individuals within a species survived while others did not. They formed a crucial part of Darwin’s work “The Origin of Species,” which proposed that evolution occurred through natural selection.


In conclusion, Thomas Malthus’s theory of population growth and its impact on resources had a profound impact on many fields, including economics, sociology, and biology. His ideas challenged the Enlightenment-era belief in progress and unlimited growth, leading to greater awareness of the need for population control.

In biology, his ideas helped Charles Darwin to develop his theory of evolution through natural selection. Malthus’s work continues to be influential today and is a reminder of the importance of considering the impact of human activity on the environment.