Lincoln and Darwin. Born on the same day…who was more important?

NEWSWEEK’s Malcolm Jones compares revolutionaries Lincoln and Darwin in this fascinating article.

A couple of highlights from the report (much of it based on the book “The Rebel Giants” by David R. Contosta).

-Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born in the same year, on the same day: Feb. 12, 1809 

-Both lost their mothers in early childhood

-Both suffered from depression

-Each had a strained relationship with his father and each of them lost children to early death

-Both “spent the better part of their 20s trying to settle on a career, and neither man gave much evidence of his future greatness until well into middle age: Darwin published “The Origin of Species” when he was 50, and Lincoln won the presidency a year later.”

-Darwin, “the man who would almost singlehandedly redefine biological science, started out as an amateur naturalist (yes, a Citizen Scientist!), a beetle collector. He became the very model of a modern major scientist without benefit of graduate school, grants or even much peer review.” Yet he created the theory of evolution: species evolve and the ones best adapted to their environment thrive and leave more offspring, crowding out the rest. He wrote “The Origin of Species” (this year marks the 150th anniversary of its publication) as if he’s talking to his citizen scientist friends. “He is never autocratic, never bullying. He’s also a good salesman. He knows that what he has to say will not only be troubling for a general reader to take but difficult to understand—so he works very hard not to lose his customer….generous, open-minded and always respectful of those who he knew would disagree with him.”

-Like Darwin, Lincoln was “not a quick study. Both men worked slowly to master a subject. But both had restless, hungry minds.” Lincoln taught himself trigonometry and “read Blackstone on his own to become a lawyer.”  In 29 words, Lincoln defined the purpose of the war for the Union: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”   A man of conviction; one so great “it has been estimated that more books have been written about him than any other human being except Jesus.”

So, who was more important? Newsweek chose Lincoln. “There was a certain inevitability to Darwin’s theory. Ideas about evolution surfaced throughout the first part of the 19th century, and while none of them was as cogent as Darwin’s—until Wallace came along—it was not as though he was the only man who had the idea.”  As for Lincoln: “Take him out of the picture, and there is no telling what might have happened to the country. ”

On February 12th, let’s raise our glasses to both these “revolutionary rebel giants!”

Darwin Events

Lincoln Events