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Evolution Revolution
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c. 1735: Linnaeus
(Rise of Evolution) (Reconciliation)

Linnaeus's Systema Naturae charts life. Swedish botanist Carl von Linne, writing under the Latin name Linnaeus, attempts to classify all life on Earth. He publishes the first edition of Systema Naturae while in his late twenties, and continues refining the details throughout his life. His system divides life into kingdoms, classes, orders, genera, and species. It is a landmark in science that will greatly influence future naturalists, including Charles Darwin. It also is an act of religious devotion. Unlike Darwin's "tree of life," Linnaeus's system does not imply that different species are related through evolution. Each species is a distinct "archetype" and a reflection of God's intent.


c. 1749: Comte de Buffon
(Rise of Evolution)

Comte de Buffon proposes radical ideas. Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon is one of the most respected naturalists of his era. Yet, in his Natural History, he makes a speculation that raises eyebrows; he writes that living creatures evolve according to natural laws. Buffon even dares suggest that humans and apes are related, and that all life has descended from a single ancestor. His heretical ideas are later recanted under pressure: "I abandon everything in my book ... contrary to the narrative of Moses."


1794: Zoonomia
(Rise of Evolution)

Erasmus Darwin's Zoonomia heralds evolution. Charles Darwin's grandfather, a flamboyant physician, botanist, and poet, may be the first figure in history to merit the title "evolutionist." In Zoonomia, written almost entirely in rhymed couplets, he asks, "Would it be too bold to imagine ... that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one-living fillament?" Unlike his grandson Charles, though, Erasmus Darwin never works out a coherent and convincing theory for how evolution works. Evolution (then called "transmutation") is not widely accepted by British intellectuals in the late 18th century, but it is widely discussed.

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