Samuel Butler and Evolution

Copy of 1890 edition owned by Butler, containing pressed flowers

Samuel Butler's copy of 'Life and Habit', with pressed flowers (BII LIF 1890.2)

In 1859 the naturalist Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, changing forever the way in which scientists and natural historians understand the physical world. Although many people (scientists included) resisted Darwin’s explanation for the variety and complexity of life on earth, his insights fuelled discussions and prompted new research that brought the truth of evolution into the public consciousness.

In the midst of this intense period of debate and investigation, Samuel Butler published four books on evolution: Life and Habit (1878), Evolution, Old and New (1879), Unconscious Memory (1880) and Luck, or Cunning? (1887). This online exhibition explores Butler’s contribution to the subject and his relationship to the prominent evolutionists of the later nineteenth century.

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