This Day in History

  • November 24, 1859: Origin of Species is published
    on November 24, 2017 at 5:00 am

    On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, a groundbreaking scientific work by British naturalist Charles Darwin, is published in England. Darwin’s theory argued that organisms gradually evolve through a process he called “natural selection.” In natural selection, organisms with genetic variations that suit their environment tend to propagate more descendants than organisms of the same species that lack the variation, thus influencing the overall genetic makeup of the species. Darwin, who was influenced by the work of French naturalist Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck and the English economist Thomas Mathus, acquired most of the evidence for his theory during a five-year surveying expedition aboard the HMS Beagle in the 1830s. Visiting such diverse places as the Galapagos Islands and New Zealand, Darwin acquired an intimate knowledge of the flora, fauna, and geology of many lands. This information, along with his studies in variation and interbreeding after returning to England, proved invaluable in the development of his theory of organic evolution. The idea of organic evolution was not new. It had been suggested earlier by, among others, Darwin’s grandfather Erasmus Darwin, a distinguished English scientist, and Lamarck, who in the early 19th century drew the first evolutionary diagram—a ladder leading from one-celled organisms to man. However, it was not until Darwin that science presented a practical explanation for the phenomenon of evolution. Darwin had formulated his theory of natural selection by 1844, but he was wary to reveal his thesis to the public because it so obviously contradicted the biblical account of creation. In 1858, with Darwin still remaining silent about his findings, the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace independently published a paper that essentially summarized his theory. Darwin and Wallace gave a joint lecture on evolution before the Linnean Society of London in July 1858, and Darwin prepared On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection for publication. Published on November 24, 1859, Origin of Species sold out immediately. Most scientists quickly embraced the theory that solved so many puzzles of biological science, but orthodox Christians condemned the work as heresy. Controversy over Darwin’s ideas deepened with the publication of The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871), in which he presented evidence of man’s evolution from apes. By the time of Darwin’s death in 1882, his theory of evolution was generally accepted. In honor of his scientific work, he was buried in Westminster Abbey beside kings, queens, and other illustrious figures from British history. Subsequent developments in genetics and molecular biology led to modifications in accepted evolutionary theory, but Darwin’s ideas remain central to the field. […]

  • Lee Harvey Oswald Murdered by Jack Ruby on Live Television (1963)
    on November 24, 2017 at 5:00 am

    Hours after US President John F. Kennedy was assassinated during a Dallas parade, Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested. After two days of interrogations, Oswald was being led through the basement of the Dallas Police Headquarters to be transferred to a county jail when Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby stepped out of the crowd and shot him. Millions of people saw the incident on live television. Despite attempts to link Ruby to some conspiracy, he appears to have acted alone. Where did Oswald die? Discuss […]

  • The People's Republic of China Joins the UN Security Council (1971)
    on November 23, 2017 at 5:00 am

    The 1949 Communist takeover of mainland China created the People's Republic of China (PRC). The former government, known as the Republic of China (ROC), retained control only of Taiwan and outlying islands. However, for the next 22 years, the ROC also held onto its seat in the UN, representing the mainland it no longer controlled. UN Resolution 2758 finally transferred China's seat to representatives of the PRC. Since then, the ROC has repeatedly applied to rejoin the UN under what names? […]

  • Toy Story, First Feature-Length Computer-Generated Film, Is Released (1995)
    on November 22, 2017 at 5:00 am

    Released to universal acclaim, Toy Story was the first feature-length computer-generated film, as well as the first such film from Pixar Studios. Steve Jobs had purchased Pixar in 1986, but the company had yet to find its niche. When its 1988 short film Tin Toy won an Oscar, Disney took notice, and the two companies soon formed a partnership that would prove to be extremely successful, beginning with the release of Toy Story. What popular toy was cut from the original plot? […]