Charles Darwin is known to be one of the most influential people in science for his contributions to evolutionary biology and the theory of evolution. However, insight into his life led me to discover that scientists preceding him had already begun to coin the basis for his theory. So why is Darwin’s contribution much more prominent than the others?

It was not Darwin’s discovery itself, but rather his approaches to science that made him a distinguished and famed man in the realm of biology. In Darwin’s approach, he did not seek to push the boundaries of science so much as to create something supernatural or superhuman, nor was his intention to produce something revolutionary beyond human limits. Instead of seeking to develop something that currently ceased to exist in the human world, Darwin chose to find scientific basis in existing patterns of life. His theory of evolution and natural selection, for instance, was rooted in his experiments done on the finches of the Galapagos Islands. In this experiment, Darwin set off on a voyage to simply observe the beak sizes of the various finches and recorded his observations. Darwin’s approach differed from those of other scientists who preferred more intervention, that is, to use new developments and new inventions as the basis for their theories. Darwin, however, did not intervene directly and instead focused on the life histories of these birds and how they presently functioned in the natural world. Thus, he ultimately formulated his scientific theories of evolution and natural selection on biological concepts, not through formulas and mathematical laws. He introduced the idea that a microscope was not needed to make groundbreaking discoveries, but that some of the most complex processes could in fact be seen with the naked eye. Darwin’s approach using observation and historical narratives not only changed the paradigm for methodical approaches to biology, but also offers some valuable lessons about how we should approach science in today’s technological age.

In today’s technological age where there are more extensive experimentation techniques and tools than ever before, the power of observation is often undermined and forgotten. In many ways, these tools have replaced observation and our ability to see things as they are.  But in some instances, such as in the case with Darwin, our own eyes offer more knowledge and greater scope of discovery than any tool can. Some of the most intricate concepts can in fact be seen in areas of the natural world we overlook everyday. Tools can sometimes restrict our ability to see the full picture and gain a comprehensive understanding of a concept, as well as skew the way in which we perceive things. Thus, Darwin’s legacy serves as a reminder to open our eyes and look around, for the next big phenomena could be right in front of us.