Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

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Tree of Life
  • Charles Darwin
    born: Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England, United Kingdom ; died: Downe, London, England, United Kingdom ; active: England, United Kingdom
  • Tree of Life, 1860
  • On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or,
    The preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life, London: J. Murray
  • Where object was made: London, England, United Kingdom
  • Spencer Research Library,Department of Special Collections, Ellis Aves B110
  • Not on display
  • EL2009.017
  • Loan: Not in the Spencer's collection
Label Text

Exhibition Label:
"Trees & Other Ramifications: Branches in Nature & Culture," Mar-2009, Steve Goddard
Darwin’s On the origin of species is a founding work in the field of evolutionary biology. This, the only illustration in the book, is a visualization of Darwin’s concept of natural selection with species branching into new species, some becoming extinct while others survive and branch again. Darwin wrote in conclusion to his discussion of this diagram:

“As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all sides many a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever-branching and beautiful ramifications.”