Biological evolution refers to the changes in inherited traits in a specific population -- humans, for example -- from generation to generation. Some of these genetic changes introduce variations into the species, while others remove them. According to the theory of evolution, these changes, known as natural selection, result in organisms more adapted to their environments and more suited for survival.
Although the ancients had some inkling of evolution -- Aristotle classified all living creatures, from plants to humans, on the Great Chain of Being -- evolutionary theory did not receive widespread acceptance until the 1859 publication of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species [sources: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, American Museum of Natural History]. Darwin declared that all creatures are descended from a common ancestor. The book created a firestorm of public outcry -- indeed, Darwin sat on his findings for nearly 20 years, fearing just such a reaction. Even now, 150 years later, some people still don't accept the theory, saying it goes against the Biblical story of creation.
In this article, we'll take a look at some of the top minds in advancing evolutionary theory. Some of these men laid the groundwork for Darwin, while others came later and have expanded the usefulness of his theory. We'll learn why, more often than not, the Darwin Awards are given posthumously, and we'll visit a museum in Kentucky where men and dinosaurs coexist.