How Did Victorians React to the Theory of Evolution?


Jane Flores

The theory of evolution, proposed by Charles Darwin, had a significant impact on the scientific community and the world as a whole. However, it was not received well by everyone, particularly in Victorian England. In this article, we will explore how Victorians reacted to the theory of evolution.

The Initial Response

When Darwin first introduced his theory of evolution in 1859 with his book ‘On the Origin of Species’, it was met with mixed reactions from the public. Some were excited about this new scientific discovery while others were skeptical and outright opposed it. The religious community was particularly critical of Darwin’s theory as they believed that God created everything in the world.

Religious Opposition

Many religious leaders felt that the idea of evolution contradicts what is written in the Bible. They believed that God created humans in his image and did not approve of humans being classified as just another species among many. This led to many religious leaders speaking out against evolution and even calling for its suppression.

Thomas Huxley and The Debate

Despite opposition from some members of the scientific community and religious leaders, there were those who supported Darwin’s theories. Thomas Huxley, a prominent biologist at the time, became one of Darwin’s most vocal supporters. He believed that Darwin’s work provided a scientific explanation for how humans came to exist on Earth.

Huxley also became involved in public debates defending Darwin’s theories against those who opposed them. One famous debate occurred at Oxford University in 1860 between Huxley and Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford. The debate was heated and drew a large audience interested in hearing both sides argue their points.

The Impact on Society

Despite opposition from some members of society, Darwin’s theories had a significant impact on Victorian England. It challenged people’s beliefs about their place in society and their relationship with God. It also sparked debates about the role of science in society and how scientific discoveries should be received.

Ultimately, the theory of evolution became widely accepted in Victorian England and continues to be a fundamental part of our understanding of how life on Earth came to be.


In conclusion, the initial reception to Darwin’s theory of evolution was mixed, particularly in the religious community. However, prominent supporters like Thomas Huxley defended the theory and sparked public debates. Despite opposition from some members of society, Darwin’s theories had a significant impact on Victorian England and continue to influence our understanding of life on Earth today.