On the Origin of Species
Region: Europe North America
Artist: Charles Darwin (1809 - 1882)
Confronting Bodies: The Anglican Church, Governments, religious groups and school baords around the world, The Roman Catholic Church
Date of Action: 1859
Location: England, the United States, Islamic countries around the world
Description of Artwork: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin was the first work to outline a theory of evolution.
The Incident: Darwin first began developing his theory of evolution during his exploratory voyage on the HMS Beagle. He returned from his voyage in 1936. His journal from his travels indicate that he was already developing his theory. Darwin had kept an entirely separate, clandestine journal in which he compiled his ideas on evolution. Even though he had already developed much of his theory by 1936, he waited for over 20 years, until 1959, to publish it. This self-censorship had many causes. First of all, Darwin felt his work was incomplete. He felt the need to win the approval of many of his colleagues in the scientific field (many of whom where also members of the clergy) and wanted to make sure when his work was published he could do so. Secondly, Darwin was aware of the fate met by other radical scientists in history such as Galileo and Copernicus. Thirdly, the thinking of the time was inclined to racism and the common belief was that the English people were biologically better than their colonial subjects. When his work was finally published in 1959 Darwin received both praise and the expected censorship. The first 1250 copes of On the Origin of Species were over subscribed and many sung the work's praises. The book was immediately placed on the Catholic "Index Librorum Prohibitorum" and was strongly denounced by the bishop of Oxford. It is believed that Darwin was in line to be knighted but that the bishop of Oxford convinced the prime minister not to. On the Origin of Species and its theories are still censored in many schools in the United States and in Islamic countries.
Results of Incident: Despite the controversy surrounding the work, Darwin was admired at the end of his life. The king of Prussia awarded him the Pour Le Merite. When Darwin died he was buried in Westminster Abbey, where he lies beneath a monument to Isaac Newton.
Source: Censorship: A World Encyclopedia