On the Origin of Species HTML version

When on board H.M.S. Beagle, as naturalist, I was much struck with certain facts in the
distribution of the organic beings inhabiting South America, and in the geological
relations of the present to the past inhabitants of that continent. These facts, as will be
seen in the latter chapters of this volume, seemed to throw some light on the origin of
species--that mystery of mysteries, as it has been called by one of our greatest
philosophers. On my return home, it occurred to me, in 1837, that something might
perhaps be made out on this question by patiently accumulating and reflecting on all sorts
of facts which could possibly have any bearing on it. After five years' work I allowed
myself to speculate on the subject, and drew up some short notes; these I enlarged in
1844 into a sketch of the conclusions, which then seemed to me probable: from that
period to the present day I have steadily pursued the same object. I hope that I may be
excused for entering on these personal details, as I give them to show that I have not been
hasty in coming to a decision.
My work is now (1859) nearly finished; but as it will take me many more years to
complete it, and as my health is far from strong, I have been urged to publish this
abstract. I have more especially been induced to do this, as Mr. Wallace, who is now
studying the natural history of the Malay Archipelago, has arrived at almost exactly the
same general conclusions that I have on the origin of species. In 1858 he sent me a
memoir on this subject, with a request that I would forward it to Sir Charles Lyell, who
sent it to the Linnean Society, and it is published in the third volume of the Journal of that
Society. Sir C. Lyell and Dr. Hooker, who both knew of my work--the latter having read
my sketch of 1844--honoured me by thinking it advisable to publish, with Mr. Wallace's
excellent memoir, some brief extracts from my manuscripts.
This abstract, which I now publish, must necessarily be imperfect. I cannot here give
references and authorities for my several statements; and I must trust to the reader
reposing some confidence in my accuracy. No doubt errors may have crept in, though I
hope I have always been cautious in trusting to good authorities alone. I can here give
only the general conclusions at which I have arrived, with a few facts in illustration, but
which, I hope, in most cases will suffice. No one can feel more sensible than I do of the
necessity of hereafter publishing in detail all the facts, with references, on which my
conclusions have been grounded; and I hope in a future work to do this. For I am well
aware that scarcely a single point is discussed in this volume on which facts cannot be
adduced, often apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which I
have arrived. A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts
and arguments on both sides of each question; and this is here impossible.
I much regret that want of space prevents my having the satisfaction of acknowledging
the generous assistance which I have received from very many naturalists, some of them
personally unknown to me. I cannot, however, let this opportunity pass without
expressing my deep obligations to Dr. Hooker, who, for the last fifteen years, has aided
me in every possible way by his large stores of knowledge and his excellent judgment.