"What does the Origin of Species mean to you today?"
As a scientist, the sheer impact of The Origin on science is unquestionable to me, and others have already commented on this here as well as, probably better than, I could. As an editor (especially of the book Charles Darwin: After the Origin, by Sheila Ann Dean, published by PRI in February of this year), I am awestruck by the story of how Darwin “rushed to publish” what he considered only an “abstract” of his ideas, in order to join Alfred Russel Wallace in a joint publication on the theory of natural selection (but also to avoid being “scooped” by Wallace). This 500-page “abstract” was incomplete in Darwin’s view, and he spent the rest of his life generating and publishing evidence to support it, as author Dean so elegantly explains in her book. One might respond, "Now that's focus in research!" but alas, because almost everything biological on the planet could be observed as evidence, Darwin was free to explore many avenues, and indeed, he did. As a “gentleman scholar,” Darwin had no administrative pressure levied on him to publish, and one can only wonder when, in how many volumes, or in fact IF, The Origin would have been published if he hadn’t been forced to finish. Leonardo da Vinci said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Paul Valery said the same for poems, as did George Lucas for movies. The same goes for books – Darwin's Origin is a perfect example. Thank you, Mr. Wallace.
Dr. Paula Mikkelsen
Associate Director for Science
and Director of Publications
Paleontological Research Institution