As biologists we all acknowledge the influence that Charles Darwin has had on our professional lives but how many of us have actually read On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in its entirety? The importance of The Origin has long been recognised by universities, even we agricultural zoology students at Leeds University back in 1973 had The Origin on our first year recommended reading list. How many of my classmates bought it, let alone actually read it, is anyone’s guess. I suspect not many. I was somewhat odd, in that I had already read it, as far as I can remember when I was about 16 and just starting in the Lower 6th (Year 12 in today’s parlance). I was helped by the fact that both my parents were biologists and my Dad’s copy of The Origin was readily available. I was, and still am, a prodigious reader, although I must confess that I now find it much more difficult to read ‘hard’ books than I did then.
Finally, here is my question. If as a professional biologist, of whatever ilk, does not having read The Origin make you any less of a biologist? Should you be outed and castigated as an incomplete biologist? Probably not. What do you think? I asked how many people had read The Origin using a Twitter survey last week as a simple yes/no question. The survey generated 53 responses, of which 57% said yes. The survey below is slightly more nuanced, taking into account the one respondent who tweeted “partially?” 🙂 Just realised that I managed to miss out the less than 18 category, my apologies. If you are such a prodigy please feel free to tick the 18-25 box but add a note in the comments section so that I can adjust later.
Many thanks for your participation and rest assured, if you have not read The Origin I am not judging you in any way 🙂