“Evolution, Selected Papers and Commentary” by D.R. Forsdyke is a site organized by D.R. Forsdyke that presents the historical development of the idea of evolution with his overview, selected papers on variation, heredity, phenotypic (natural) selection/ isolation, and reproductive (physiological) selection/isolation. I think that Forsdyke summed it up nicely, “To really understand evolution we must first understand the historical development of ideas on evolution. But to really understand its history, we must first understand evolution.”
In the nineteenth century evolution, progress and natural laws were intimately related in the understandings of nature. At the beginning of the century, the evolution of species, especially man, and the evolution of the earth were generally considered absurd and beyond the bounds of learned discussion in general society. According to Forsdyke, “because of the great interest in Darwin and evolutionary biology today, we tend to speak in terms of the history of evolutionary thought, as if many thinkers struggled in vain to come up with Darwin's theory.” A wide variety of concerns were proposed and debated before and after Darwin's Origin of Species (1859). According to Forsdyke, “I think for some, it is difficult to appreciate the enormous impact Darwin's work had at the time.” In 1858 papers were presented on evolution at the Linnean Society in London by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. The following year Darwin's magnum opus was published—On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.
Forsdyke details the thinking among philosophers and scientists around the time of Darwin's publication who attempted to explain the most serious difficulties with Darwin's theory, namely, how could small initial variations lacking any apparent value to the individual (so-called ‘non-adaptive’) lead to the establishment of a...