The world around us is a big one. Besides that, it is a very old one: The earth is estimated to be more than four billion years old! Despite earth 's long history, animals and plants emerged only 700 million and 600 million years ago, respectively, and humans, an estimated 200 thousand years ago. Animals and plants descended from earlier life forms. However, this has not always been known. Evolution has been a thoroughly studied theory that has its estimated origins with the Greeks of antiquity and that has continued up to modern times. But just how did evolutionary theory develop, and who were its major thinkers? A brief history of evolutionary thought and its significant proponents is vital to understanding just what shaped the theory in the thousands of years of its emergence and development.
The earliest known evolutionary thinker was Anaximander, a Greek philosopher who lived from about c. 611-546 BC. Anaximander 's most famous work, titled On Nature, summarizes his thoughts on the origin of the Earth and its life. Though the poem did not survive to this day, other writers referenced excerpts from the work. From the parts of the poem that have been reconstructed, Anaximander believed that the Earth, part of an open universe, began as a sphere covered by water. Plants and animals developed from the mud created as the Sun gradually dried up the water. Perhaps from observation of fossils, Anaximander, a bit of a proto-evolutionist, concluded that humans developed from fish. This a rudimentary beginning to evolutionary thinking.
“For we are all sprung from earth and water.”
Xenophanes, who studied under Anaximander, took an interest in various fields, including poetry, philosophy, and natural study...
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...del also determined that, after several generations, a species could change and eventually mutate into another. His “laws” of inheritance that were thereafter developed provided the mechanism of variation that Darwin’s theory needed.
The theory of evolution and its full implications have certainly not been fully studied. There is still much to know and understand about life’s origins and its future. However, science has come a long way. Though embryonic, evolutionary thought in ancient Greek and Roman antiquity provided vital foundations for later thinkers. 18th and 19th century thinkers, as well as many others, formulated and shaped the theory of evolution as it is known today. In addition, modern proponents have further solidified the principle of evolution. Ultimately, the history of evolution is evidence of man’s persistence in searching for truth.
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