|THE FIRST PRESENTATION OF THE THEORY OF NATURAL SELECTION|
I Have been honored by receiving from the council of our society a request that I would take up a little of your time and attention with a brief address. No theme or subject was vouchsafed to me by the council, but, having gratefully accepted the honor, I was bound to find one for myself. It soon dawned upon me that the object sought by my selection might have been that, considering the intimate terms upon which Mr. Darwin extended to me his friendship, I could from my memory contribute to the knowledge of some important event in his career. It having been intimated to me that this was in a measure true, I have selected as such an event one germane to this celebration and also engraven on my memory, namely, the considerations which determined Mr. Darwin to assent to the course which Sir Charles Lyell and I had suggested to him, that of our presenting to the society, in one communication, his own and Mr. Wallace's theories on the effect of variation and the struggle for existence on the evolution of species.
You have all read Francis Darwin's fascinating work as Editor of his father's "Life and Letters," where you will find a letter addressed, on June 18, 1858, to Sir Charles Lyell by Mr. Darwin, who states that he had on that day received a communication from Mr. Wallace written from the Celebes Islands requesting that it might be sent to him (Sir Charles).
In a covering letter Dr. Darwin pointed out that the enclosure contained a sketch of a theory of natural selection as depending on the struggle for existence so identical with one he himself entertained and fully described in manuscript in 1843, that he never saw a more striking coincidence: had Mr. Wallace seen his sketch he could not have made a better short abstract, even his terms standing "as heads of my chapters." He goes on to say that he would at once write to Mr. Wallace offering to send his manuscript to any journal; and concludes: So my originality is smashed, though my book (the forthcoming "Origin of Species"), if it will have any value will not be deteriorated, as all know the labor consists in the application of the theory.
- Reply on receiving the Darwin-Wallace medal of the Linnean Society of London on July 1, 1908.
- See Jour. Linn. Soc., III. (1859), pp. 45-61.
- Vol. II., p. 116.