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Natural selection: the essence of the idea


The idea of natural selection is formed
Francis Crick Scientist
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I think the basic idea you can easily express in very general terms. Remember, [Alfred Russel] Wallace had the same idea quite independently so it isn’t… it isn’t… so, it's not a very esoteric idea. As… as one has already said, it… it’s an idea which strikes you as obvious, why didn’t you think of it before? Once somebody says it. But to arrive at it is a different matter, you see, and then… as… his case it was because he said he was reading [Thomas Robert] Malthus and this gave him… and he’d been… he got around to the idea that species were not constant and were varying but he didn’t understand what the process would be. And then that gave him the basic idea, and then being a very conscientious man, he worked through, you know, and kept notebooks and collected lots of examples in order to write a treatise on the matter and then he was pushed into it by Wallace essentially so he wrote a short version which is what we call The Origin of Species. That was his idea of a short book. It became a bestseller, incidentally. It was sold out the first day, I think, and had to be reprinted.

The late Francis Crick, one of Britain's most famous scientists, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. He is best known for his discovery, jointly with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins, of the double helix structure of DNA, though he also made important contributions in understanding the genetic code and was exploring the basis of consciousness in the years leading up to his death in 2004.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: The Origin of Species, Alfred Russel Wallace, Thomas Robert Malthus

Duration: 1 minute, 9 seconds

Date story recorded: 1993

Date story went live: 08 January 2010