Subscribe to Make Magazine Today!

Pt 2133
the preservation of favoured traces | ben fry via Waxy.

We often think of scientific ideas, such as Darwin’s theory of evolution, as fixed notions that are accepted as finished. In fact, Darwin’s On the Origin of Species evolved over the course of several editions he wrote, edited, and updated during his lifetime. The first English edition was approximately 150,000 words and the sixth is a much larger 190,000 words. In the changes are refinements and shifts in ideas — whether increasing the weight of a statement, adding details, or even a change in the idea itself.

The second edition, for instance, adds a notable “by the Creator” to the closing paragraph, giving greater attribution to a higher power. In another example, the phrase “survival of the fittest” — usually considered central to the theory and often attributed to Darwin — instead came from British philosopher Herbert Spencer, and didn’t appear until the fifth edition of the text. Using the six editions as a guide, we can see the unfolding and clarification of Darwin’s ideas as he sought to further develop his theory during his lifetime.

Made with processing (Arduino IDE’s mutant cousin)….

  • Drifter Smith

    I find it strange that so much attention is devoted to Darwin and his ideas – which are so YESTERDAY.

    Evolutionary thinking, paleontological evidence, and biological understanding have come a long, long way in the past 150 years.

    Don’t get me wrong – Darwin and his ideas are important.

    But evolutionary theory today is way past anything Darwin had in mind…

    – Drifter

  • Phillip Torrone

    it’s not just darwin, i think in this example it’s the first and only visualization of changes for such a historic “series” in science. i’d love to see “track changes” on newton’s principia or einstein’s “the foundation of the general theory of relativity”…

  • Dane Summers

    Its an interesting/lovely idea – but I notice that it only tracks ‘additions’ to the original text. What about subtractions?

Related Supplies at Maker Shed