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How a little-known clergyman studying worms by candlelight in the 1700s inspired Charles Darwin


Waspie_Dwarf

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How a little-known clergyman studying worms by candlelight in the 1700s inspired Charles Darwin – but didn’t get the credit he deserved

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Charles Darwin is one of the greatest scientists that ever lived. His evolutionary theory opened up a whole new world of scientific understanding. But he was also a meticulous observer of some of the smallest, and seemingly insignificant, elements of the natural world – worms.

Earthworms were one of his long-term interests. So much so that in 1881, the year before his death, he wrote a book – “The formation of vegetable mould through the action of worms, with observations on their habits”. The book (which, for ease, I’ll refer to as Worms) brought together many decades of observation, experimentation, and theorising. It sold phenomenally well (thousands of copies within weeks of publication) perhaps because of its quirky topic or due to the growing interest in gardening at that time.

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