First, a historical timeline, as it may be helpful in dealing with
opposition to Darwin at different times:
* HMS Beagle trip -- 1831-1836
* Darwin's initial outline of "Origin of Species" -- 1842-1844
* Alfred Russel Wallace's draft paper mailed to Darwin, early summer, 1858
* Darwin-Wallace theory presented to Linnaean Society, July 1, 1858
* Darwin's publication of "Origin of Species" -- late November, 1859
Several books have analyzed the Darwinian revolution and tried to look
at what factors determined whether someone would be an opponent or
supporter of his theory of natural selection. Adrian Desmond, an
English science historian, wrote in "Politics of Evolution" that
social class determined where people would fall. A more-recent book,
"Born to Rebel" by Frank J. Sulloway uses statistical models to look
for other predictors (he argues that it's birth order --- I'd
recommend reading the book both for its interesting theory and its
details on the history of the debate after the publication of "Origin
The only reason to mention these two is they both have good lists of
who the opponents were. And note, too that some people -- most
notably Charles Lyell, the great English geologist and friend of
Darwin's -- were opposed to his ideas before 1868, then became a
lukewarm supporter afterwards.
Here is a pretty good list of opponents:
* Adam Segwick, Darwin's geology professor: despite laying the
foundation for the long scales of geological time his opposition to
Darwin was primarily to the materialistic and amoral nature of the
theory. He criticized his former student for failures in inductive
Berkeley Museum of Paleontogy
Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873)
* Louis Agassiz, professor of geology at Harvard: Agassiz'
contributions included his understanding of how Ice Ages had formed
geology but he felt that geologic time wasn't long enough to support
as slow a process as evolution. In 1859 he wrote that Darwin's theory
was "a scientific mistake, untrue in its facts, unscientific in its
method and mischievous in its tendency."
* Karl Friedrich Schimper (German botanist)
* Léonce Élie de Beaumont, French mining engineer who believed that
mountains were formed once by a great catastrophe. De Beaumont, being
a catastrophist, didn't believe that small changes or small elements
were important in the work of nature. He and Darwin argued over the
impact of worms and molds, for example.
* Pierre Flourens, permanent secretary of the French Academy of Sciences:
I'll used the quote from Flourens in Sulloway's book: "What
metaphysical jargon clumsily hurled into natural history! What
pretentious and empty language! What childish and out-of-date
personifications." It gets worse from there . . .
* John Herschel, astronomer
* Roderick Murchison, English geologist
* William Whewell, founder of the British Association for the
Advancement of Science, he was an ardent creationist before Darwin's
theory was published, writing "Indications of a Creator" in 1845.
* James Dwight Dana: American geologist at Yale who chronicled the
forces of volcanism, coral growth, subsidence and erosion in geology.
Agreed with Darwin on a number of topics, including geology and coral
development, but believed that the Earth had progressed steadily in
preparation by God for the existence of mankind.
* Henri Bergson: French philosopher and Nobel laureaute (Literature,
1927), though he's really 20th Century: "life can't be explained
simply in chemical-physical terms."
* Henry Charles Fleeming Jenkin, professor of engineering at Glasgow
University: too speculative an idea without enough data to support it:
"How was Darwin's Theory First Received?"
"The chief arguments used to establish the theory rests on conjecture.
We are asked to believe all these "maybes" happening on an enormous
scale, in order that we may believe the final Darwinian "maybe" as to
the origin of species. The general form of his argument is as
follows:?all these things may have been, therefore my theory is
possible, and since my theory is a possible one, all those hypotheses
which it requires are rendered probable. There is little direct
evidence that any of these maybes actually have been. Many of these
assumed possibilities are actually impossibilities,?"
* Richard Owen, anatomist/paleontologist: strongly believed that man
was unique as a creature -- not related to others. Over his career he
was constantly debating Darwin and T.H. Huxley but he understood and
evolutionary links in species -- including man with the primates.
Note the extensive criticism of Darwin written by him in the Edinburgh
Times, 1860. It is linked here :
The Friends of Charles Darwin
* Lord Kelvin (William Thomson): felt that Darwin's estimates of the
age of the Earth were far too long. His measures of radiation done at
the end of the century led him to believe that the Earth was 24
million years old and that would not leave enough time for life to
develop. (Darwin himself had estimated that the geology of southern
England was 306,662,400 years old.)
A Google search strategy using the names of opponents turns up quite a
bit of historical material on them, with the UCal Berkeley
Paleontology Museum site being particularly good:
"Adam Sedgwick" + Darwin
Many argued that the fossil record wasn't present to support Darwin's
assumptions about all species. For a broad range of species it
certainly wasn't -- it's moe complete today. However, in my research
I couldn't find that in any contemporary statements -- instead we see
criticisms that he's "jumped to conclusions" or "not presented enough