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On April 24, 1925, substitute science teacher and Rhea County High School football coach John T. Scopes was charged with violating Tennessee’s Butler Act which prohibited the teaching of evolution.  Nicknamed the ‘Monkey Trial’, the case was actually formed after the American Civil Liberties Union sought a defendant and citizens of the small town of Dayton, Tennessee convinced Scopes to stand trial to gain publicity for the town.  Both sides had superstar legal teams, led by Clarence Darrow for the defense and perennial presidential candidate William Jennings Bryant for the prosecution.  The case ended in July of 1925 with a guilty verdict-Scopes was fined $100.  The case went to the Tennessee Supreme Court but was overturned on a technicality and remained on the books until 1967 when it was finally repealed.  

The word evolution arrived in English in 1620 and comes from the Latin word evolutionem (nomnative form evolutio) meaning the unrolling of a book or revealing that which was rolled up. The word evolve arrived a bit later in the 1640s from the Latin wordevolvere meaning to unroll and could also pertain to other ‘hidden’ things (see also for example the etymology of vulva), but mostly meant books, when a ‘volume’ was a rolled up manuscript made from vellum. The modern meaning that scientists such ad Darwin meant for it began around 1832 and reached its first full expression in Darwin’s work. The word evolve had been used in a scientific sense specifically in biology for over a hundred years before Darwin wrote Origin of Species-which is one reason why he avoided it. By the mid 1850s, the word had connotations of perfectibility-something Darwin wanted to avoid. It was the last sentence of his book:

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

And while I am at it, let me add this:  Go Rhea County Golden Eagles!  I was briefly a student at that school and have some fond memories.  -kidsneedscience

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