Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin, a humble British Naturalist, brought the theory of evolution to common acceptance through his concept of “natural selection”.

Charles Darwin

I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term Natural Selection.

Charles Darwin, 1873-1882

The often miscredited term “survival of the fittest” was coined by Herbert Spencer and it”s use was encouraged by Alfred Russel Wallace, whos theory of evolution incorporated the removal of the unfit in the process of the struggle of existence.

In the preface to The Origin of the Species, 1859, Darwin explains: “Until recently the great majority of naturalists believed that species were immutable productions, and had been separately created. This view has been ably maintained by many authors. Some few naturalists, on the other hand, have believed that species undergo modification, and that the existing forms of life are the descendants by true generation of pre-existing forms.”

In Darwin”s final book, The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, published in 1881, the year before his death, he returns to a subject first explored in his 1840 publication on the actions and importance of worms.

Darwin writes: “Worms prepare the ground in an excellent manner for the growth of… plants and for seedlings of all kinds. They periodically expose the mould to the air… They mingle the whole intimately together, like a gardener who prepares fine soil for his choicest plants. In this state it is well fitted to retain moisture and to absorb all soluble substances, as well as for the process of nitrification….The leaves which are dragged into the burrows as food … partially digested, and saturated … are commingled with much earth. This earth forms the dark coloured, rich humus”

Initially published for specialists, The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms has gained popular appeal due it”s emphasis on the significance that the cumulative effect of seemingly small things have over time.