Letters With Impact: The Letter that Led to Evolution

Today, most school children will learn about Charles Darwin in their classrooms. His theory of evolution is almost taken for granted. And yet, this fundamental theory of modern biology may not have been discovered if it wasn't for a letter.

Darwin's friend and mentor, Reverend John Stevens Henslow, was the Professor of Botany at Cambridge University. In 1831, Henslow wrote to Darwin to offer him a place on South American Expedition.

'The Voyage is to last 2 yrs. & if you take plenty of Books with you, any thing you please may be done— You will have ample opportunities at command— In short I suppose there never was a finer chance for a man of zeal & spirit.'

Henslow had personally recommended Darwin, not 'on the supposition of yr. being a finished Naturalist' but because of his being a 'gentleman'.

Without Henslow's letters, Darwin may have never developed his theory of evolution. It was on this expedition to South America -which ended up lasting five years- that Darwin began his research and changed science forever.

Henslow's full letter can be found here: Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 105,” accessed on 30 March 2022,

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