c. darwin – the origin of the species


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Charles Darwin
, the famous naturalist, was born in England on 11th February 1809. He published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859 after returning from a journey on board of H.M. S. Beagle as a naturalist. He demonstrated that that men descended from apes (scimmie) and that the world was ruled by the law (governato dalla legge) of natural selection (only the strong could survive). The theory of evolution shook (scosse) all traditional beliefs (credenze) and caused disputes and controversies in England and all over the world. The theory of natural selection came to be considered as the primary explanation of the process of evolution only in the 1930s. Nowadays Darwin is still seen as the founder (fondatore) of biology as he presented a logical explanation for the diversity of life forms. The following extract is the introduction to Darwin’s work, The Origin of the Species, where he explains how he achieved his remarkable conclusions .

[…]In considering the Origin of Species, it is quite conceivable that a naturalist, reflecting on the mutual (reciproche) affinities of organic beings (esseri) , on their embryological relations, their geographical distribution, geological succession, and other such facts, might come to the conclusion that each species had not been independently created, but had descended, like varieties, from other species. Nevertheless (ciononostante), such a conclusion, even if well founded, would be unsatisfactory, until it could be shown how the innumerable species inhabiting this world have been modified so as to acquire that perfection of structure and co-adaptation which most justly excites our admiration. Naturalists continually refer to external conditions, such as (come) climate, food, &c., as the only possible cause of variation. In one very limited sense, as we shall hereafter see (da qui in poi vedrete), this may be true; but it is preposterous (insensate) to attribute to mere external conditions, the structure, for instance, of the woodpecker (picchio), with its feet, tail, beak (becco), and tongue (lingua), so admirably adapted to catch insects under the bark (corteccia) of trees. In the case of the mistletoe (vischio), which draws (trae) its nourishment (nutrimento) from certain trees, which has seeds that must be transported by certain birds, and which has flowers with separate sexes absolutely requiring the agency of certain insects to bring pollen (polline) from one flower to the other, it is equally preposterous to account for the structure of this parasite, with its relations to several distinct organic beings, by the effects of external conditions, or of habit, or of the volition (scelta) of the plant itself.

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