Cambridge University Library

Exhibitions

Keeping Time

Charles Darwin. Geological map of South America

Charles Darwin. Geological map of South America.
MS DAR.44.13

Evolutionary Time

The idea of evolution - that species did not remain as created, but changed over time - was not a new idea in Darwin's time, but no mechanism for the changes had been propounded. Darwin's studies during and after the Beagle voyage led him to develop the idea that living things gradually adapted to the environment because suitable traits were selected by inheritance from one generation to the next. To allow enough time for these minute changes to accumulate and form new species, it was essential to prove that Earth had great antiquity. Darwin tackled the problem by reference to the geological record and the work of Charles Lyell.