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1871 Charles Darwin Monkey versus Kelvin

1871 Charles Darwin Monkey versus Kelvin

C028/9997

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Credit

PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

The light of Darwin's theory (Darwin here a monkey) to be eclipsed by the power of Kelvin's theoretical calculations. The most serious threat to Darwin's theories in the 19th century. A rarely reproduced but remarkable contemporary victorian cartoon (here hand coloured) referring to the meeting of the BAAS in Edinburgh Scotland 1871 at which Kelvin spoke. It refers to Lord Kelvin's assertion at that the geological time that Darwin's theory required is implausible on the basis of physics. Darwin was shaken by this assertion, which he could not disprove, and saw Kelvin as "an odious spectre" for his theory. William Thompson - Lord Kelvin - however was wrong because he did not realise nuclear fusion and fission - then unknown sources of power - fuelled stars like the sun. Empirical physics had to bow to theoretical biology and the brief penumbra and eclipse passed evolutionary theory.

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