Darwin's Struggle: The Evolution of the Origin of Species

Darwin's Struggle: The Evolution of the Origin of Species

2009, Science  -   37 Comments
Ratings: 7.10/10 from 31 users.

Darwin's Struggle: The Evolution of the Origin of SpeciesDocumentary telling the little-known story of how Darwin came to write his great masterpiece, On the Origin of Species, a book which explains the wonderful variety of the natural world as emerging out of death and the struggle of life.

In the twenty years he took to develop a brilliant idea into a revolutionary book, Darwin went through a personal struggle every bit as turbulent as that of the natural world he observed.

Fortunately, he left us an extraordinary record of his brilliant insights, observations of nature, and touching expressions of love and affection for those around him.

He also wrote frank accounts of family tragedies, physical illnesses and moments of self-doubt, as he labored towards publication of the book that would change the way we see the world.

The story is told with the benefit of Darwin's secret notes and correspondence, enhanced by natural history filming, powerful imagery from the time and contributions from leading contemporary biographers and scientists.

More great documentaries

37 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Francis

    if you haven't read 'on the origin of species', but find documentaries concerning evolution compelling, you would be pleased to do so. its a very entertaining, well-written book, and does not require really any particular background, other than a reasonable intelligence to appreciate and enjoy the delightful intelligence of the man who found biology as a cataloguing science (no insult, most sciences started that way) and left it a systematic science, true peer to the physical sciences.

  2. Mom

    Darwin never answered the simple question of how organic chemistry works to make life from dead chemical compounds? The primeordial soup of which the basic chemicals of life came is found in coal beds of dead organisms. Where is the magic transformation found in that soup?

    1. robertallen1

      You're right. Darwin never answered this question because he didn't need to. Like most of those ignorant of even the basics of biology, you confound evolution with abiogenesis.

    2. Kateye70

      Abiogenesis, a field in the exciting throes of discovery.

      The 'primordial soup' theory isn't the only idea scientists are pursuing and there are many different approaches to the subject. You might find the wiki article on abiogenesis interesting.

      As robert said, Darwin never addressed that question. It isn't quite as simple a question as you make it sound, and doesn't depend on a 'magical transformation.' Not nearly as easy as saying 'word'...

    3. Hoodah

      a really nice exposition on the context in which darwin came to present his grand synthesis.

  3. Winston Smith

    at the start they quote from the close of Darwin's Origin of Species, and they removed the words 'by the creator' that Darwin used in his book! heh (or maybe Darwin did that in later edition than the 6th impression I have?)
    "There is grandeur in this view of the world..."

    1. brian rose

      Oddly enough, the exact phrase you are referring to was not in the 1st edition, but was added in later editions.

      His Autobiography, Life and Letters, and Notebooks are all published as well, and together provide an immersive experience of his life and thoughts. Even though that exact phrase didn't appear in the 1st edition, numerous references and mentions of a Creator are dispersed throughout On The Origin of Species. He apparently inserted that quote to appease his wives family and win public perception of his revolutionary idea.

      In a letter to J.D. Hooker on March 29, 1863 he wrote " I have long regretted that I truckled to public opinion, and used the Pentateuchal term of creation."

  4. Dillon Larson

    he was a plagiarizer. barnacles to the origin of species instantly. plus he was wrong. true Darwinism revolves around random mutation and nothing but. however, every thing we have ever evolved has been from selected activation of our DNA through environmental influence

  5. dennis bannister


    Many times have I heard discussed, "The Origin of Species" with intelligent people, but only twice have I met individuals who have actually read the book. All the others have been happy to comment on this masterpiece without having taken the trouble to actually read it.
    It's a masterpiece of honest scientific "argument", as Darwin himself called it.
    Well worth reading are "The Descent of Man" and "The Voyage of the Beagle"

    1. Sonya Singleton Richards

      I happen to be a Creationist, but wanted to commend you on your observation Dennis, because you are 100% right when you say that those who criticize it should at least read it. The same goes for the Bible. If we, as Christians, say detractors should read the Bible before judging it, then we have to allow the opposite argument that in order to criticize Origin of the Species, we should read it first.

  6. RileyRampant

    a really nice exposition on the context in which darwin came to present his grand synthesis.

    darwin's important place within victorian society actually provides, adjunct to the importance of the work in progress, a penetratating view into the milieu of the time, and even for the many of us who came to science drenched in the trappings of familial religious tabus, something to, in a sense, relate to. religion dies hard.

    the back story of the piece is, of course, his personal journey out of christian dogma, first by observation & reason, and later by tragedy.

    when i read the 'origin', onto 20 years ago by now, was struck at the time by the sheer mass of PERSONAL research which went behind the ideas.

    if you haven't read 'on the origin of species', but find documentaries concerning evolution compelling, you would be pleased to do so. its a very entertaining, well-written book, and does not require really any particular background, other than a reasonable intelligence to appreciate and enjoy the delightful intelligence of the man who found biology as a cataloguing science (no insult, most sciences started that way) and left it a systematic science, true peer to the physical sciences.

  7. dogsaysbark

    Charles Darwin was a gifted genius way ahead of his time!
    He is by far the greatest scientist that has ever lived.

  8. Nakor420

    I believe in evolution, but Darwins ideas can be dangerous. Darwinism is the basis of marxist thought. The idea that humans are merely animals is a slippery slope, and has resulted in the deaths of millions. If you don't believe me, research the philosophies of Stalin and Mao.

    1. robertallen1

      The truth might hurt, but it's not dangerous, the same with Darwin. Marx, Hitler, Mao and others simply jerryrigged Darwin's ideas onto their own. In truth, Darwin described whereas the individuals you mention prescribed and in his description, Darwin stressed variety while the individuals you mentioned stressed uniformity i.e., that were at complete loggerheads.

      But as any reputatble biologist will tell you, humans are indeed no more than animals.

    2. Gary V

      Oh how misguided you are my friend. Darwinism has got nothing to do with Marxism. We are merely animals & that is a fact that you need to come to terms with & to think that we are made in the image of any non-existent God should only ever be treated as blasphemy to assume that we mere Humans could ever be on the same level as any non-existent God. If that is what you choose to believe in.

    3. Gary V


      The Communist Manifesto, originally titled Manifesto of the Communist Party (German: Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei) was published by Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels on the 21st of February 1848. Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life on the 24th of November 1859. How can an older book be influenced by a book that had not yet been written?

    4. Nakor420

      You are wrong bro.

    5. RileyRampant

      gravity is dangerous too. bullies use it to knock the little kids down.

      does that mean we shouldn't study physics?

    6. Nakor420

      That's a really stupid thing to say. I never said we shouldn't study evolution. If you actually READ my comment, the first thing I said is that I BELEIVE in evolution. It's obviusly scientific fact, I'm not disputing that. I'm merely commenting on a histoical context relating to the subject matter. Pull your head out of your ass before you start trolling forums.

    7. Jim Wilbur

      I disagree regarding Riley's comment. If you were to apply what you are saying about evolution and Darwin's ideas to the physics of gravity and Newton - you would be saying something like: 'I believe in gravity, but Newtons ideas can be dangerous, etc., etc.

    8. RileyRampant

      i did read what you said.

      what is your point? that ideas can be misapplied, misperceived, used for a nefarious purpose?

      ok - so what? my point is that reality is reality, and it must be accepted, even in the face of possible misunderstandings.

      your point is not clear at all. i was not trolling the forum, i was pointing out the lack of clarity in your statement, and the implication you made, but left hanging, about 'dangerous' ideas.

      you accuse me of trolling, and then insult me. why dont you practice some manners before scolding others for finishing the thoughts you leave undone.

    9. robertallen1

      Your response ties in with the frequent question, "Why does God do nothing about so much evil in the world? Why does he allow horrible things to occur?"

      It all comes down to wishful thinking rather than reality.

    10. Darren Malin

      we are just animals.

  9. robertallen1

    Of course, he was not the only one. What about the Huxleys? It was just that he was the most aristocratic.

    1. Gary V

      He was not the only person to see the things that he observed, but he was the only one of his time who would stand up against the normal way of thinking (although he was pushed to publish his ideas by the thought that Alfred Wallace would publish the same ideas before he could), this does not detract from the fact the he was the one who had the balls to challenge the ideas of the past.

    2. robertallen1

      Please don't misunderstand me. I regard Darwin as one of the most significant, if not the most significant, contributors to modern science and the way we think about it. However, as far as challenging the ideas of the past, I put Huxley in pretty much the same league.

    3. Gary V

      Yes I agree & I could name a few more too. I will not not bother to list them all, I think that you already know who I mean. It is just because the doc was about Darwin that I thought that he should get the reverence that he deserves.

  10. Gary V

    If Darwin had not had the intelligence & open-mindedness to have questioned the ideas of the past then we would all still be stuck in the Dark Ages & we would not have progressed as far as we have now. We should all never underestimate the greatness of the knowledge that he has bestowed upon us all.

  11. wald0

    This is mostly about Darwins perosonal life and the struggles he went through, and the reasons behind his hesitation to publish his work. It has very little to say about the science of evolution. I thought it was o.k., but I have already seen one documentary and one docudrama about this same subject so I got bored.

    1. StillRV

      Thanks Waldo. I was going to watch it now. But since it is just a rehash I'll save it for a much rainier day.

    2. Gary V


      There are many docs here that repeat the same things & there are many docs about the science of evolution but unless you watch them all then you you will never get the full story, it is only by repeating the same facts that the message gets through to most people. I too find that I have to hear the same things repeated over & over again,that I have already understood, but for some people it takes a bit longer for it to sink into their brains. That is just something that we have to put up with, unfortunately we don't all have logical, rational minds that can absorb facts, some people need to be told the same things many times before they grasp the concept of what is being said.

    3. robertallen1

      And sometimes even this doesn't work--unless it's religious and fantastic.

    4. Gary V

      I'm sorry but I'm not sure what it is that you are trying to say here. Are you saying that there are some people who can not relate to something because they can only see things from a religious perspective or am I missing your point ?

    5. robertallen1

      Your understanding is basically correct, except that there are all too many people suffering from this myopia.

    6. Gary V

      Right I'm with you now, at least I think that I am. You are saying that some people have a narrow minded view & can only see things in a way that only they can understand. Is this what you are saying ? This is why I always say that everyone should question everything that they are told, until they have reached a logical conclusion as to what they Perceive to be correct, even then we should always be ready to change our opinions as & when new evidence comes to light. Knowledge always has & always will be an ever evolving process.

    7. robertallen1

      Not quite. I'm saying that there all to many people who cannot or do not wish to view the scientific scientifically and therefore all attempts at inculcation are abortive. They would rather live in the fairyland of religion.

  12. Gary V

    Superb doc, in HD too.

    Watch & learn Creationists. lol