Some years ago, my friend and college Chandra Wickramasinghe gave me to study a thick manuscript written by him and Fred Hoyle showing that Charles Darwin had not originated the idea of natural selection, but instead gave most of the credit to another English naturalist called Edwin Blyth. Chandra and I agreed that I would edit the document and prepare it for publication. In the end however, Hoyle’s family refused their permission for this after concluding that Fred had soiled his reputation by getting into too many controversies; suggesting that Darwin’s contribution, they thought, was a heresy too far. So I was left with an intriguing, but unpublishable document.
An article which I wrote on Patrick Matthew (for the Microbiologist in 2010) discussing his contribution to evolution as well as the germ theory.
Nevertheless, the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe Darwin document got me interested in making my own study of the history of evolution. At first, I gravitated to the view that Wallace was the real genius of the evolution story and that he had been robbed by Darwin’s friends, and subsequently by historians, of the credit for having discovered natural selection. However, just at that time I came across Google Books (Advanced Search) and realised how it could be used to do in depth history searches. Armed with this remarkable search engine I began looking for Pre-Darwin-Wallace references to evolution, notably natural selection. I was astounded by what I found, namely that there are at least two major pre-Darwin-Wallace enunciators of the idea of natural selection (William Wells and Patrick Matthew) and that both Darwin and Wallace both admitted as much on more than one occasion. This fact has been recognized before, but largely hidden from the public. My researches then went on to show a remarkable fact: there is nothing in On the Origin of Species that is novel to Darwin (and also Wallace) and that that famous book was the last (and best) review of what was known about transmutation (i.e. evolution prior to 1857), when Wallace published his famous paper and of course before On the Origin appeared. Put simply, all the ideas that are supposed to make Darwin a genius had been published before he gathered them together in his famous book. Darwin was not as novel in his thinking as the historians and Darwinists have led us to believe. I was confident that, when published, my findings would completely change our views on Darwin. But not for the first time my optimism would be dashed by the science–academic history establishment. Every paper I wrote on Darwin was summarily rejected without even being read. It was clear that the Darwinist Establishment was not going to readily allow the truth about Darwin’s work to be made public. I did eventually write papers on my research, but had to see them published in lower-ranked journals than I had hoped. I also set up a small blog detailing my findings called “wainwrightscience”. I also contributed a large number of letters to the world’s media during the Darwin Centennial pointing out that both Darwin and Wallace admitted not to be the first to originate the idea of natural selection
Richard Dawkins criticise creationists for warping the truth and spreading falsehoods, especially to young people, but he and his fellow Darwinists continue to do exactly the same in order to shore up their hero worship of Darwin! Fortunately, the role of pre-Darwin evolution pioneers is now increasingly be recognized and papers on Matthew, for example, are beginning to appear, which just shows that the Establishment cannot forever keep the truth away from the public.