It was more than 20 years after his epic voyage on HMS Beagle, before Darwin finally published his classic, On the Origin of Species. Yet, Darwin would have liked to spend even longer on his research. The fact was, he brought publication forward because of the presentation by another, younger scientist named Alfred Russell Wallace, of his own dissertation on a similar theme. There are also suggestions that Darwin was reluctant to publish On the Origin of Species, because he anticipated the furor it would cause. In the event, his worries were proved well-founded; his theory of evolution was condemned by the Church. His fellow scientists, on the other hand, were generally full of praise.
Darwin, with his high ethical standards and his devotion to his work, set a fine example for younger scientists. It is to his great credit that he was prepared to treat younger scientists working in his own field, not as rivals but as colleagues.
Darwin owed a huge debt to his loving wife, Emma. She was a great support to him throughout the writing and publication of On the Origin of Species. The book, when it was published, was an instant success – much to Darwin’s surprise.
Darwin's theory of evolution presented a major challenge to accepted religious beliefs. Because of this, his work was initially greeted with widespread opposition, led by the Church. Even so, Darwin had his supporters, among them such influential figures as Karl Marx and Thomas Huxley. The question was: Would the public at large accept his revolutionary theory? In our next programme, we’ll hear all about a famous debate at Oxford, which brought Darwin’s supporters into sharp confrontation with the adherents to the traditional religious belief of humans being created by a God.