A History of Evolutionary Thought banner Return to Main Evolution Hall THE THEORY of evolution, formalized by Charles Darwin, is as much theory as is the theory of gravity, or the theory of relativity. Unlike theories of physics, biological theories (especially evolution) have been argued long and hard in socio-political arenas. The history of thought about evolution in general and paleontological contributions specifically are often useful to the workers of today. Science, like any iterative process, draws heavily from its history.

The list below includes scientists and thinkers who have contributed to our understanding of life on Earth, especially evolution. The list is given chronologically, and is divided into sections according to themes in the history of evolutionary thought.

Timeline of Evolutionary Thought: Get a graphical view of some
of the key players in evolutionary thought over the last 300 years.

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  Founders of Natural Science:
  From Ancient Times to the Enlightenment
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.)
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
Georgius Agricola (1494-1555)
John Ray (1628-1705)
Antony van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723)
Robert Hooke (1635-1703)
Nicholas Steno (1638-1686)
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  Great Naturalists of the 18th Century
Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707-1788)
Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778)
Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802)
William Paley (1743-1805)
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  Preludes to Evolution
Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829)
Thomas Malthus (1766-1834)
Georges Cuvier (1769-1832)
William Smith (1769-1839)
Étienne Geoffroy St. Hilaire (1772-1844)
Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873)
Patrick Matthew (1790-1874)
Mary Anning (1799-1847)
Sir Richard Owen (1804-1892)
Louis Agassiz (1807-1873)
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  Natural Selection
Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913)
   courtesy of Charles H. Smith
Thomas Henry Huxley (1824-1895)
Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919)
Edward Drinker Cope (1840-1897)
Henry Fairfield Osborn (1857-1935)
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  The Modern Synthesis
Alfred Wegener (1880-1930)

Special Exhibit: UCMP after 75 Years

John C. Merriam (1869-1945)
Annie Alexander | William Gordon Huff

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