24 November 1859

Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species.

On the Origin of Species or more completely, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, published on 24 November 1859, is a work of scientific literature by Charles Darwin which is considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology. Darwin’s book introduced the scientific theory that populations evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection. It presented a body of evidence that the diversity of life arose by common descent through a branching pattern of evolution. Darwin included evidence that he had gathered on the Beagle expedition in the 1830s and his subsequent findings from research, correspondence, and experimentation.

Various evolutionary ideas had already been proposed to explain new findings in biology. There was growing support for such ideas among dissident anatomists and the general public, but during the first half of the 19th century the English scientific establishment was closely tied to the Church of England, while science was part of natural theology. Ideas about the transmutation of species were controversial as they conflicted with the beliefs that species were unchanging parts of a designed hierarchy and that humans were unique, unrelated to other animals. The political and theological implications were intensely debated, but transmutation was not accepted by the scientific mainstream.

The book was written for non-specialist readers and attracted widespread interest upon its publication. As Darwin was an eminent scientist, his findings were taken seriously and the evidence he presented generated scientific, philosophical, and religious discussion. The debate over the book contributed to the campaign by T. H. Huxley and his fellow members of the X Club to secularise science by promoting scientific naturalism. Within two decades there was widespread scientific agreement that evolution, with a branching pattern of common descent, had occurred, but scientists were slow to give natural selection the significance that Darwin thought appropriate. During “the eclipse of Darwinism” from the 1880s to the 1930s, various other mechanisms of evolution were given more credit. With the development of the modern evolutionary synthesis in the 1930s and 1940s, Darwin’s concept of evolutionary adaptation through natural selection became central to modern evolutionary theory, and it has now become the unifying concept of the life sciences.

24 November 1969

The Apollo 12 command module splashes down in the Pacific Ocean, ending the second manned mission to land on the Moon.

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Apollo 12, the second manned lunar mission, took off for the moon on Nov. 14, 1969. The spacecraft’s target was the Ocean of Storms, and NASA scientists hoped it would land a little closer to bull’s-eye than the first mission got.

Apollo 11 was a great technological achievement, but it landed four miles from its target. NASA wanted a more pinpoint landing in future missions. Also, part of Apollo 12’s work would be to retrieve bits of Surveyor 3, another spacecraft that had landed on the moon in 1967. If the crew landed miles away, there was no hope of achieving that.
The Apollo 12 astronauts

The crew of Apollo 12 were seasoned astronauts and pilots, and were close friends.Pete Conrad, a wise-cracking gap-toothed commander, graduated from Princeton University and joined the Navy, where he became a flight instructor. He first flew in space on Gemini 5, which set an endurance record at the time and pushed the United States ahead of the Soviet Union in terms of accumulated hours in space.
Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon, and Al Bean pose during a visit to North American Rockwell Space Division, Downey, California for spacecraft checkout.

Lunar module pilot Alan Bean was a student of Conrad’s at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School; in interviews with journalist Andrew Chaikin, the story was told that Bean was Conrad’s first pick for Apollo 12. However, Astronaut Office chief Deke Slayton voted the proposal down. C.C. Williams was chosen instead. Tragically, Williams died in a T-38 crash on Oct. 5, 1967. When Conrad approached Slayton again, Slayton agreed to bring Bean on board. Bean felt it was a rescue from his previous work at NASA, and an opportunity he would never forget.

The command module pilot for Apollo 12 was Richard “Dick” Gordon, who came to NASA after setting speed and distance records, and also doing flight testing for the Navy. His skill at the stick came in handy for the Gemini 11 mission, when he and Conrad piloted the docked spacecraft to 528 miles above Earth, an altitude record at the time.

24 November 1877

The novel, Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell is published.

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Black Beauty, the fictional ‘autobiography’ of a talking horse, was published in November 24, 1877 and remains a favorite children’s book to this day. In this lesson, you’ll learn about the book’s plot and major events, get to know some of the main characters and test your knowledge with a quiz.The magical idea of talking animals in children’s fiction has a long history, but the novel often credited with popularizing the genre of the talking animal story is Black Beauty by English writer Anna Sewell. Sewell wrote Black Beauty in 1877, and it’s referred to as an animal autobiography because, unlike animal stories that describe a child’s interaction with an animal, the novel is narrated from the animal’s point of view. The literary technique of giving animals human characteristics, like the ability to speak, is called anthropomorphism.