Charles Darwin's Unexpected Invention That Changed The Way People Work Forever

Charles Darwin is primarily famous for two things: his majestic Victorian beard, and his incredibly influential work on the theory of evolution. Darwin, per Britannica, embarked on his legendary journey on the HMS Beagle in the 1830s. On the trip, he would do and see much that would shape his view of the world, and his groundbreaking "On The Origin Of Species" was released in 1859 as a result.

In the book, Darwin expounded on his theory of evolution through natural selection. This theory, per Live Science, suggests that the same species will have a range of differing characteristics and that those characteristics that give a particular specimen a greater chance of survival will be passed on. For instance, as the famous example goes, grazing herbivore individuals with longer necks could reach leaves that others couldn't. The longer-necked animals survived and so would be more likely to pass on these traits when mating.

Though Darwin's theories attract opposition, there's really no denying that they have shaped the scientific landscape. Everybody knows this, but the brilliant Brit also brought us a wonderful invention that continues to improve the everyday lives of millions of people around the world.

Charles Darwin invented the office chair, of sorts

Since Darwin's time, there has been a paradigm shift in the world of work. A genius the naturalist may have been, but the notions of remote work, fiber broadband, and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets were far, far after his time and beyond his comprehension.

Today, though, remote work is a global juggernaut. According to April 2022 research from Zippia, 66% of workers in the U.S. work remotely at least one day of their working week, and there are estimated to be around 36.2 million remote workers in the United States by the turn of 2025. Whether you work in a home office or a company office, though, you probably know that there's one piece of equipment that's utterly essential: a comfortable office chair.

As it turns out, we have Charles Darwin to thank for this innovation. He developed the precursor of the modern office chair. The lumbar support, handy wheels, and soft, comfy cushions we enjoy today can be traced back to Darwin.

A wheely good invention

Of course, the humble chair existed long before Darwin came along. Since ancient times, we've needed comfortable places to park ourselves. Through the centuries, countless creative souls have come along with their own innovations for specific types of chairs. For instance, according to ThoughtCo, Virginia resident Nathaniel Alexander received a patent for his unique folding chair design in July of 1911. It was created for group settings, such as churches.

Being the super-studious type, Darwin wanted to add a little more functionality to his own seat. Penketh Group reports that, in the 1840s, he devised a brilliant way to quickly and conveniently consult whatever he needed: he scooted around his office in his chair on the wheels he'd attached to it. He reportedly called this invention his wooden armchair on wheels, and it was a masterpiece.

In the decades to come, further variants on the concept were released. 1904 saw the creation of Frank Lloyd Wright's Larkin Building chair, per Penketh Group. This elaborate seat had not only wheels but could be adjusted to the height of the user and was seemingly intended for long hours of use. It's clear to see that Darwin's one-off model, like Wright's purpose-built one, was a vital precursor to the modern office chairs that so many of us rely on.