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Evolution Revolution


The idea of evolution did not begin with Charles Darwin, yet he was its greatest champion. The arguments he laid out in On the Origin of Species made evolution mainstream science soon after the work was published in 1859. By the latter part of the 19th century, even many theologians accepted the fact of evolution and saw ways to reconcile evolutionary science and religion.

Yet, Darwin's revolution -- perhaps the greatest in the history of science -- inspired a counter-revolution that continues today.

"Evolution Revolution" is a timeline charting both the rise of evolutionary science and the social controversies surrounding its acceptance. The events on the timeline fall under the following themes:

Rise of Evolution: A radical theory becomes the bedrock of biology

Evolution Challenged: The rise of creationism and other obstacles

Battle in the Schools: The hottest debate in American education

Reconciliation: Efforts to find harmony between science and religion


Intro | 1635 | 1700 | 1800 | 1825 | 1850 | 1860 | 1875 | 1900
1910 | 1925 | 1930 | 1950 | 1960 | 1970 | 1980 | 1990 | 2000


c. 1635: First Public School
(Battle in the Schools)

First public school promotes Christianity. Massachusetts Puritans found the first "free grammar school" in North America explicitly to teach religion. Puritan schools reflect the religious faith and values of a homogeneous community. Puritan minister John Cotton stresses "zeale is but a wilde-fire without knowledge." The Puritans' goal is to have a devout and well-educated community. Even in the 19th and early 20th century, U.S. public schools will remain de facto Christian institutions.

c. 1650: Bishop Ussher
(Evolution Challenged)

Bishop Ussher pinpoints Creation at 4004 B.C. Using biblical chronology, Archbishop James Ussher of Ireland calculates that the creation of Heaven and Earth took place in 4004 B.C. Biblical passages provide Ussher with clues to the number of human generations -- and hence years --since Adam and Eve. This date of 4004 B.C. is then used for 200 years in English editions of the Bible. Some biblical literalists of the 20th century will use similar methods to assert that life first appeared on Earth less than 10,000 years ago.

c. 1660: Spontaneous Generation
(Rise of Evolution)

A close-up view of "spontaneous generation." New instruments of magnification, including elegantly crafted microscopes, are fueling scientific research. The ancient question of whether life can arise from non-living matter now can be tackled in a new way. Jesuit-trained physician Francesco Redi, for instance, shows why fly maggots often crop up in putrefied meat. They are not the result of "spontaneous generation," but rather born from eggs too tiny for the naked eye to see.

-> Go to 1700


Intro | 1635 | 1700 | 1800 | 1825 | 1850 | 1860 | 1875 | 1900
1910 | 1925 | 1930 | 1950 | 1960 | 1970 | 1980 | 1990 | 2000

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