The development and events surrounding the theory of evolution can be as interesting as the progress of evolution itself. From the life of Charles Darwin to the various legal battles in America over teaching evolution in public schools, few scientific theories have been associated with as much controversy as the theory of evolution and the idea of common descent. Understanding the timeline of background events is important to understanding evolutionary theory itself.
August 01: Jean-Baptiste Lamarck was born. Lamark advocated a theory of evolution which included the idea that traits could be acquired and then passed along to offspring.
November 14: Geologist Sir Charles Lyell was born.
February 12: Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England.
January 08: Alfred Russel Wallace was born.
December 28: Jean-Baptiste Lamarck died. Lamark advocated a theory of evolution which included the idea that traits could be acquired and then passed along to offspring.
April 26: Charles Darwin graduated from Christ's College, Cambridge with a B.A. degree.
August 30: Charles Darwin was asked to travel on the HMS Beagle.
September 01: Charles Darwin's father finally gave permission for him to sail on the Beagle.
September 05: Charles Darwin had his first interview with Fitzroy, Captain of the HMS Beagle, in hopes of becoming the ship's naturalist. Fitzroy very nearly rejected Darwin - because of the shape of his nose.
December 27: Employed as ship's naturalist, Charles Darwin left England aboard The Beagle.
September 15: The HMS Beagle, with Charles Darwin aboard, finally reaches Galapagos Islands.
October 02: Darwin returned to England after a five-year voyage on the Beagle.
April 18: Clarence Darrow was born.
June 18: Charles Darwin received a monograph from Alfred Russel Wallace which essentially summarized Darwin's own theories on evolution, thus inspiring him to publish his work sooner than he planned.
July 20: Charles Darwin began writing his seminal book, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.
November 24: Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was first published. All 1,250 copies of the first printing were sold out on the very first day.
January 07: Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection went into its second edition , 3,000 copies.
February 22: Geologist Sir Charles Lyell died.
November 19: Charles Darwin published a book about his grandfather, entitled Life of Erasmus Darwin.
April 19: Charles Darwin died at Down House.
April 26: Charles Darwin was buried in Westminster Abbey.
June 29: Thomas Henry Huxley died.
January 25: Theodosius Dobzhansky was born.
August 03: John T. Scopes was born. Scopes became famous in a trial which challenged Tennessee's law against teaching evolution.
March 13: Tennessee Governor Austin Peay signed into law a prohibition against the teaching of evolution in public schools. Later that year John Scopes would violate the law, leading to the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial.
July 10: The infamous Scopes Monkey Trial began in Dayton, Tennessee.
July 26: American politician and fundamentalist religious leader William Jennings Bryan died.
March 13: Clarence Darrow died.
September 10: Stephen Jay Gould, American paleontologist, was born.
August 12: Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical Humani Generis, condeming ideologies which threatened Roman Catholic faith but allowing that evolution did not necesarily conflict with Christianity.
November 12: Decided: Epperson v. Arkansas
The Supreme Court found that Arkansas' law prohibiting the teaching of evolution was unconstitutional because the motivation was based on a literal reading of Genesis, not science.
October 21: John T. Scopes died at the age of 70.
December 18: Evolutionary biologist and neo-Darwinian Theodosius Dobzhansky died.
January 05: Decided: McClean v. Arkansas
A federal judge found that Arkansas' "blanced treatment" law mandating equal treatment of creation science with evolution was unconstitutional.
June 19: Decided: Edwards v. Aguillard
In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court invalidated Louisiana's "Creationism Act" because it violated the Establishment Clause.
November 06: Decided: Webster v. New Lenox
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that school boards have the right to prohibit teaching creationism because such lessons would constitute religious advocacy.