When Was the Theory of Evolution Created?


Martha Robinson

The theory of evolution is a widely accepted scientific explanation for the development of life on earth. It posits that species evolve over time through a process of natural selection, with those better adapted to their environment surviving and reproducing more successfully. But when was this theory first introduced?

The Origins of Evolutionary Thought

The idea that species change over time can be traced back thousands of years to ancient Greek philosophers such as Anaximander and Empedocles. However, it wasn’t until the 19th century that the modern theory of evolution began to take shape.

Charles Darwin’s Contribution

English biologist Charles Darwin is perhaps the most famous figure associated with the theory of evolution. In 1859, he published his seminal work “On the Origin of Species,” in which he laid out his ideas about natural selection and how it drives evolutionary change.

Darwin’s work was controversial at the time, as it challenged prevailing religious beliefs about the creation of life on earth. Nonetheless, it quickly gained widespread acceptance among scientists as evidence supporting his ideas began to accumulate.

Other Influential Figures

While Darwin is often viewed as the father of evolutionary theory, he was far from alone in his thinking. Other important figures in its development include:

  • Alfred Russel Wallace – A contemporary of Darwin who independently arrived at many similar conclusions about natural selection.
  • Thomas Henry Huxley – A biologist who became known as “Darwin’s bulldog” for his passionate defense of evolutionary theory.
  • Jean-Baptiste Lamarck – An early proponent of transmutation (the idea that species change over time), though his specific ideas about how this occurred were ultimately proven incorrect.

The Continued Evolution of Evolutionary Theory

Since its inception, the theory of evolution has continued to evolve (pun intended) as new evidence and ideas have emerged. Notable developments include:

The Modern Synthesis

In the mid-20th century, a group of scientists known as the “modern synthesis” sought to reconcile Darwin’s ideas about natural selection with genetics, which was then a rapidly advancing field. This led to a more comprehensive understanding of how evolution works at the molecular level.

The Neutral Theory of Evolution

Proposed in the 1960s by Japanese biologist Motoo Kimura, the neutral theory posits that much of the genetic variation seen in populations is due to random mutations that have no effect on an organism’s fitness. This challenged earlier notions that all genetic variation must confer some selective advantage.


The theory of evolution has come a long way since its earliest beginnings in ancient Greece. While it continues to be refined and expanded upon by scientists today, it remains one of the most foundational and important concepts in all of biology.