Charles Darwin is widely known for his theory of evolution, which was first introduced in his book “On the Origin of Species,” published in 1859. But did you know that Darwin worked on his theory for over two decades before finally publishing it? In this article, we will explore how long Charles Darwin kept silent about his theory of evolution and the reasons behind it.

The Early Years

Charles Darwin was born in 1809 and grew up in England. He showed an early interest in nature and science, which led him to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh. However, he soon realized that medicine was not his passion and dropped out of school.

In 1831, Darwin embarked on a five-year journey aboard the HMS Beagle as a naturalist. During this voyage, he collected specimens and made observations that would later contribute to his theory of evolution. However, it wasn’t until several years later that he began to develop his ideas more fully.

The Development of the Theory

After returning from his voyage on the Beagle, Darwin spent many years studying and experimenting with various species. He observed that there were variations within species that allowed some individuals to survive better than others in their environment.

He also read works by other naturalists, including Thomas Malthus, who wrote about population growth and competition for resources. This led Darwin to develop his theory of natural selection – the idea that individuals with advantageous traits are more likely to survive and pass on those traits to their offspring.

Despite having developed this groundbreaking theory, Darwin was hesitant to publish it right away. He knew that his ideas would be controversial and could potentially damage his reputation as a scientist.

Keeping Quiet

For over two decades, Charles Darwin worked on refining and gathering evidence to support his theory of evolution through natural selection. However, he did not publish any papers or books about it during this time.

Instead, he continued to study and experiment, gathering evidence to support his theory. He also corresponded with other scientists, sharing his ideas and receiving feedback. This helped him to refine his theory further.

It wasn’t until 1858 that Darwin’s silence was broken. That year, he received a letter from Alfred Russel Wallace, another naturalist who had independently developed a similar theory of evolution through natural selection. This prompted Darwin to finally publish his own work on the subject.

The Publication of “On the Origin of Species”

In 1859, Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of Species,” which presented his theory of evolution through natural selection in detail. The book was met with both praise and criticism, but it ultimately transformed the field of biology.

Darwin’s work continues to be studied and debated today, over 160 years after its initial publication. His willingness to take risks and challenge established ideas has inspired countless scientists and thinkers throughout history.


Charles Darwin kept silent about his theory of evolution for over two decades before finally publishing it in “On the Origin of Species.” Despite facing potential backlash from the scientific community, he continued to refine his ideas and gather evidence to support them.

His work has had a profound impact on our understanding of biology and natural history. By studying variation within species and the effects of natural selection, Darwin discovered a fundamental principle that continues to shape our understanding of life on Earth today.