When Evolution Became Conversation:

Vestiges of Creation, Its Readers, and Its Respondents in Victorian Britain

By Ryan C. MacPherson

Journal of the History of Biology 34 (2001): 565–79.


Abstract: This article evaluates two recent historical studies of Robert Chambers’s Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (1844). Fifteen years before Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859), Chambers’s Vestiges brought a comprehensive vision of evolution—cosmic, organic, and human—to mass readership. James Secord’s Victorian Sensation (2000) analyses an impressively diverse array of reactions to Vestiges and contributes to the new “history of the book” methodology by tracing readers’ experiences through diaries and correspondence. John Lynch’s Vestiges and the Debates before Darwin (7 vols., 2000) reprints and provides editorial introductions to significant published reactions to Vestiges from 1844 to 1861.



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