Darwin Cartoon

Date: 1871
Owner: Granger Collection, The
Source Type: Cartoons


This 1871 cartoon by Thomas Nast uses satire to make light of the controversy surrounding Darwin's theory of evolution. Since the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859, evolution had caused an enormous controversy both among naturalists who debated the validity of the theory and, more importantly, the general public. While theories concerning natural history were not often popular topics, Darwin cast doubt on beliefs that were fundamental to the Judeo-Christian West, not only that God created each species and man individually, but also that the world was made in a week sometime around 4000 BCE. The clergy, led by Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, took the offensive against Darwin at the so called Oxford Meeting, a debate between pro and anti-Darwinists that left the clergy deflated.

The "Defrauded Gorilla" in this cartoon complains to Henry Bergh, the founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), that Darwin has insulted his dignity by claiming humans are related to him. Nast, apparently, did not have the highest regard for mankind. This is only one of several satirical cartoons about Darwin and his theory that spanned many years. Perhaps more than any scientist in history, his work has entered the public consciousness and changed how we think about ourselves and our place in the world.

CITATION: Nast, Thomas. Darwin Cartoon. 1871. The Granger Collection, New York. 0009813