The one and only! Deals with animals and skirts around humans, which are addressed specifically in another book of his, The Descent of Man. Has been through several editions, might as well just read what I can find, but bear that in mind - in particular there are varying degrees of mention of God and "Creation".

On the Origin of Species


Charles Darwin


Biology, evolution

Public domain, so I have electronic copies, and have read once. Published in 1859, although updated several times up to the sixth edition in 1872.

First read (April-September 2012)Edit

12 09 21 On the Origin of Species

Finished at last! September 20th 2012.

12 09 20 On the Origin of Species

Progress graph, generated by Goodreads.


Free Kindle version, 490 pages long, of the first edition. The Project Gutenberg version is 466 standard pages long[1], but is the second edition, and the Darwin Online first edition is 474 standard pages long[2].


Acquired it from Amazon for free due to it being public domain, and started reading it after finishing Written in Stone on the train on March 30th 2012. The first chapter of Written in Stone provided a great introduction to Origin, so when I finished it I thought I'd dive right in.

First chapter (Variation under domestication)

I finished the first chapter on April 3rd. It concerned artificial selection, focusing in particular on pigeon breeds. It was particularly interesting for providing an insight into the contemporaneous perception on those matters, but the old style of writing is of course sometimes hard to parse (so many commas!). Interestingly, I'm tempted to think of Darwin as quite a particular man, on the fussy side of organised.

Second chapter (Variation under nature)

Finished the second chapter on April 6th or 7th, while spending Easter weekend in South Wales with friends. Its focus was 'variation', and it was fairly bland, basically pushing the point of view that species and 'varieties' are arbitrary and fuzzy terms that make more sense thought of as the same thing, just at different stages.

Third chapter (Struggle for existence)

Resumed reading after fixing my broken Kindle and finishing off a few other books, in August. Finished this chapter on the 11th. Darwin emphasises why and in which ways all life forms are struggling to survive and reproduce. Shows a great deal of insight.

Fourth chapter (Natural selection)

The best chapter so far, with a beautifully written conclusion.

Fifth chapter (Laws of Variation)

Very dry, laborious, chapter, detailing many specifics of Darwin's (flawed) understanding of several aspects of biology, including, remarkably, a belief in what we call Lamarckian inheritance. Skimmed most of it after reading a few pages.

Sixth chapter (Difficulties on Theory)

Got to this one on the 15th of August.

Seventh chapter (Instinct)

Had some interesting stuff about how bees make their honeycombs, but largely unnecessary waffle amounting to 'instinct can evolve gradually like physical attributes'.

Eighth chapter (Hybridism)

Skimmed a lot of it, it was basically about how sterility is graduated and, despite being a mystery, fits the idea of natural selection and the gradual evolution of species.

Ninth chapter (On the Imperfection of the Geological Record)

Got to this one on the 24th of August.

Tenth to fourteenth chapters

Finished it on the 20th of September 2012. The final chapter was a great summary of the whole thing, and despite it being pretty boring in the middle there was plenty of interesting insight into Darwin's view of evolution and the views commonly held about many related things.



Reading recordEdit

Previous book: Brian Switek, Written in Stone

Simultaneous books: Isaac Asimov (editor), Spells

Next book: Lens of Sanity, The Dark Lord's Equal

Ratings, awards, mentions and recommendationsEdit

Links and referencesEdit

  1. 898248 characters according to Notepad++, with the beginning and ending fluff taken out.
  2. 912474 characters according to Notepad++.