The Cycle of Life:
An History of Experimental Ecology

Sterling Memorial
Kline Sciences
Medical Historical
Exhibit Map

Charles Darwin, Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, 1881

In 1859, Charles Darwin (1809-1882) published one of the world's most influential books, On the Origin of Species. His claim that the evolution of new species occurred by the process he called natural selection emerged from the grander view of nature as an economical circulation of matter (that he learned in part from his grandfather Erasmus). In his Worms, Charles discussed the important role worms play in cycling matter through nature and to the benefit of plants: “The entire superficial bed of vegetable mould passes through heir bodies every few years.” Worms prepare the ground in an excellent manner for the growth of plants of all kinds.” They mingle the mould together like a gardener who prepares fine soil for his choicest plants.” (pp. 305-313)



Erasmus Darwin, Zoonomia, 1793
Charles Darwin, On the Formation of Vegetable Matter by Worms, 1881
Alexander von Humboldt, Cosmos, 1858
Dumas and Boussingault, Balance of Organic Matter, 1844
Ferdinand Cohn, Bacteria, The Smallest Living Beings, 1872
Louis Pasteur, Etudes sur la Biere, 1862
Selman Waksman, Sergei Winogradsky, 1953
Selman Waksman, Humus, 1939
Vladimir Vernadsky, Principles of Biogeochemistry, 1960
James Lovelock, An Homage to Gaia, 1985
Lloyd Ackert
Whitney Humanities Center
Yale University
53 Wall Street
P.O. Box 208298
New Haven, CT 06520-8298
Office: (203).432.3112

The Sterling Memorial Exhibit is located in the Overflow Case to the left of the circulation desk. The Sterling Memorial Library is located at

120 High Street
Yale University
New Haven, CT 06520
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