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Darwin went to Edinburgh University in 1825 to study medicine.In his second year he neglected his medical studies for natural history and spent four months assisting Robert Grant's research into marine invertebrates.Georges Cuvier strongly disputed such ideas, holding that unrelated, fixed species showed similarities that reflected a design for functional needs.
With the development of the modern evolutionary synthesis in the 1930s and 1940s, Darwin's concept of evolutionary adaptation through natural selection became central to modern evolutionary theory, and it has now become the unifying concept of the life sciences.
organisms were described by their mythological and heraldic significance as well as by their physical form.
Nature was widely believed to be unstable and capricious, with monstrous births from union between species, and spontaneous generation of life.
The Protestant Reformation inspired a literal interpretation of the Bible, with concepts of creation that conflicted with the findings of an emerging science seeking explanations congruent with the mechanical philosophy of René Descartes and the empiricism of the Baconian method.
Both envisaged that spontaneous generation produced simple forms of life that progressively developed greater complexity, adapting to the environment by inheriting changes in adults caused by use or disuse. Lamarck thought there was an inherent progressive tendency driving organisms continuously towards greater complexity, in parallel but separate lineages with no extinction.
Geoffroy contended that embryonic development recapitulated transformations of organisms in past eras when the environment acted on embryos, and that animal structures were determined by a constant plan as demonstrated by homologies.
He read Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology and from the first stop ashore, at St.
Jago, found Lyell's uniformitarianism a key to the geological history of landscapes.
Darwin's book introduced the scientific theory that populations evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection.
It presented a body of evidence that the diversity of life arose by common descent through a branching pattern of evolution.