November 12, 2015
Darwin’s On the Origin of Species voted most influential academic book ever
by Simon Reichley
Cease all anxious hand-wringing. The wait is over. The people have spoken. On the Origin of Species is the most important academic book of all time.
Charles Darwin‘s landmark study on evolution, published in November of 1859, was selected from a field of twenty other momentous, largely unread books for the U.K.’s inaugural Academic Book Week (#AcBookWeek!)—a week-long celebration of all things academic (read: nerdy and great) organized by the Academic Book of the Future project, a collaboration between the British Library and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
Academic Book Week aims to explore some of the most crucial questions surrounding academic books, such as—and I quote the Academic Book of the Future website—“Who reads them?” and “What are they? Worthy questions considering recent controversies amongst the publishers and academics.
Here a list of the 19 other books that also changed the world, according to organizers:
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Orientalism by Edward Said
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer
The Making of the English Working Class by EP Thompson
The Meaning of Relativity by Albert Einstein
The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris
The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli
The Republic by Plato
The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
The Uses of Literacy by Richard Hoggart
The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
Ways of Seeing by John Berger
The people’s champ was elected with 29% of the popular vote by a panel of academic booksellers, librarians and publishers. Darwin’s fitness as a juggernaut of the academy is attested by his own thesis, which states that the fittest book among the species of books that almost nobody has actually read survives. Or something like that.
Simon Reichley is assistant to the publishers and office manager at Melville House.