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A grain in the balance will determine which individual shall live and which shall die…’. Darwin’s theory of natural selection issued a profound challenge to orthodox thought and belief: no being or species has been specifically created; all are locked into a pitiless struggle for existence, with extinction looming for those not fitted for the task. Yet ‘The Origin of the Species’ (1859) is also a humane and inspirational vision of ecological interrelatedness, revealing the complex mutual interdependencies between animal and plant life, climate and physical environment, and – by implication – within the human world. Written for the general reader, in a style which combines the rigour of science with the subtlety of literature, ‘The Origin of the Species’ remains one of the founding documents of the modern age.