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Evolution in Darwin´s Lifetime: Robert Chambers

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Robert Chambers (1802-1871)

Robert Chambers was a Scottish bookseller, journalist, geologist, who owned the firm W. & R. Chambers Publishers, a well known publishing company that still exists today. He was a very prominent figure in the upper and middle classes of the time, and aware that by the mid-nineteenth century, the classical view of human history with a divine origin was beginning to fall apart. The notion of slow changes producing evolution had started to permeate into the atmosphere. In 1844, Chambers authored an anonymous publication titled Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. His intention was to answer big questions. How and when did the Earth begin? How has it changed? How did life start?

The book was widely criticized for suggesting that the planet had started from a cloud of gas, that life had emerged spontaneously, and fossils had transmuted from aquatic creatures to reptiles to birds, producing apes and then humans. It was until after Chambers death that his authorship was confirmed. Though the book was very controversial, his proposal lacked the explanation of the mechanism that would account for the changes that he described.

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