Posted by: Dan | September 14, 2007

Two Weeks Left (for me)

Two weeks from now, my lovely fiancée and I will be saying our “I do’s”, slipping on pair of rings, and bathing ourselves in wedded bliss. I can’t help being a bit of a geeky biologist about it though, so I thought I’d reference something in the history of biology that also happened on a September 28th.

And indeed, something dramatic did happen on that day in history! On September 28th, 1838, Charles Darwin first read Malthus’ Essay on the Principle of Population, according to entries in his notebooks. Natural selection had already dawned on him as a mechanism of change (if memory recalls, in 1837), but in Malthus’ writing he found a way to apply that principle. As Joel Schwartz wrote in a paper in 1974:

Darwin was impressed by “Malthus’ mathematical demonstration of the results of the geometrical rate of increase of man and the arithmetical rate of increase of his available food supply.” Since Malthus made man his central theme in the Essay, Darwin was able to see the universal applicability of Malthus’ theory to all living things. By giving Darwin the stimulus he needed to perceive “species” in a manner different from the traditional view of a fixed, unchanging unit, Malthus earned the credit he received from Darwin.

And so, on September 28th, 1838, the concepts of fecundity and variation dawned upon Darwin, the prerequisites for natural selection.

Well, here’s to a life of prosperity and success, in whatever endeavors we choose to pursue!

PS – Thanks, Allen, for pointing this historical factoid out to me a couple months ago.

  • Schwartz, JS (1974) Charles Darwin’s debt to Malthus and Edward Blyth. Journal of the History of Biology, 7(2): 301-318.


  1. September 28th is also my birthday, not that there is any necessary connection. Which birthday it is I leave as an exercise for the reader…

  2. Warmest congratulations to you both!

  3. Thanks, and an early happy birthday, Allen!

  4. Congratulations!


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