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In the 19th century, many Members responded to Franklin’s call to “let light into the nature of things.” They documented the natural world, questioned the origins of man, and studied different cultures.

Charles Darwin’s (APS 1869) groundbreaking ideas about natural selection and evolution resulted in the emergence of new and increasingly specialized fields. Geologists and paleontologists sought to prove Darwin’s theories by examining rocks and fossils as physical evidence of evolutionary change. Anthropologists similarly studied language and culture to better understand people in both the past and present.

Many of the biggest debates of the day took place at the APS. The Society created connections among paleontologists, geologists, and anthropologists, who presented their work at APS Meetings or in APS publications like the Transactions and Proceedings.