Charles Darwin Committed Plagiarism

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Charles Darwin committed plagiarism is a false claim often made in anti-evolution circles as well as in some tabloid media. The claim is that Charles Darwin "stole" the theory of evolution either from Patrick Matthew who would have published the theory 28 years before Darwin, or Alfred Russel Wallace, who would have developed the theory contemporaneously to Darwin.

As part of this claim, Charles Darwin is sometimes accused of being "a fraud, a plagiarist, and the front man for a previously published theory." [1] He is also accused of "stealing" the theory of evolution in "history's biggest science fraud." [2]

The problem with the claim comes when examining On The Origin of Species where Charles Darwin states the following[3]:

In 1831 Mr. Patrick Matthew published his work on "Naval Timber and Arboriculture", in which he gives precisely the same view on the origin of species as that (presently to be alluded to) propounded by Mr. Wallace and myself in the "Linnean Journal", and as that enlarged in the present volume. Unfortunately the view was given by Mr. Matthew very briefly in scattered passages in an appendix to a work on a different subject, so that it remained unnoticed until Mr. Matthew himself drew attention to it in the "Gardeners' Chronicle", on April 7, 1860. The differences of Mr. Matthew's views from mine are not of much importance: he seems to consider that the world was nearly depopulated at successive periods, and then restocked; and he gives as an alternative, that new forms may be generated "without the presence of any mold or germ of former aggregates." I am not sure that I understand some passages; but it seems that he attributes much influence to the direct action of the conditions of life. He clearly saw, however, the full force of the principle of natural selection.

It appears clearly in this writing that Charles Darwin does not claim to be the father of the theory of natural selection. Indeed, he explicitly states that the view was expressed as far back as 1831 by Patrick Matthew. Thus, Darwin does not claim to be the sole discoverer of the theory, it is only through a modern lens that people assume, falsely, that he did. Because the works of Patrick Matthew and Alfred Russel Wallace are properly represented, the actions of Darwin are in line with the academic standards for referencing previous work, rather than plagiarism or fraud, as it is falsely claimed.

Statement of the claim Charles Darwin Committed Plagiarism
Level of certainty False
Nature Factual
Counterclaim Charles Darwin Did Not Commit Plagiarism
Dependent on
Dependency of


  1. Day, Vox (February 6, 2022) Darwin was an Anti-Christian Psyop. Vox Popoli. Accessed on February 9, 2022.
  2. Dingwall, John (February 5, 2022) Charles Darwin is accused of stealing Theory of Evolution from rival naturalist in history's biggest science fraud. The Mail. Accessed on February 9, 2022.
  3. Darwin, Charles (1872) On the Origin of Species, 6th edition. Unknown. Accessed on February 9, 2022.