Friday, September 07, 2007

Entomological Reactions to Darwin's Theory in the 19th Century

Annual Review of Entomology
Vol. 53 (Volume publication date January 2008)

Charles Darwin first became interested in entomology during his childhood, and this interest grew into a beetle-collecting obsession during his college days. Following the voyage of the Beagle, his focus on insects shifted from collecting specimens to searching for insect observations that supported his theory of natural selection as proposed in On the Origin of Species. Initially, Darwin believed that entomologists were opposed to his views. Using Darwin's correspondence, I will show that his perception was based, in part, on three reviews, including one that he erroneously attributed to an entomological critic, and that not all entomologists were opposed to his ideas. Henry Bates, discoverer of Batesian mimicry, voiced his support of Darwin in his papers and during meetings of the Entomological Society. In America, entomologist Benjamin D. Walsh wrote Darwin in 1864, expressing his support and promising to counter any anti-Darwinian attack, and by 1868, Darwin was enjoying significant entomological support on both sides of the Atlantic. After his death in 1882, Darwin's supporters gained influence in Britain and the United States, completing entomology's shift to a Darwinian perspective.

Author: Gene Kritsky, Department of Biology, College of Mount St. Joseph, Concinnati, OH 45233-1670

Expected online publication date for the Annual Review of Entomology Volume 53 is December 3, 2007. Please see for revised estimates.

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