© National Portrait Gallery, London
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
by Daniel John Pound, after a photograph by John Jabez Edwin Mayall Click on the links below to find out more
engraving, published 1859
15 3/4 in. x 10 5/8 in. (399 mm x 270 mm) paper size
Purchased with help from the Friends of the National Libraries and the Pilgrim Trust, 1966
Formation of the first Liberal cabinet, following the dissolution of Parliament in light of the Liberal and opposition member Lord Russell's introduction of a resolution arguing for widening the franchise, carried because the Conservatives, the ruling party, only have a minority. Palmerston holds a meeting of Whigs, Peelites and Radicals, from which the Liberal Party is formed, and the Queen later invites him to become Prime Minister.
Art and science
Charles Darwin's The Origin of the Species
is published, in which he sets out his theory of evolution based on the process of natural selection, species mutation, and survival of the fittest. The engineer Joseph Bazalgette begins work on constructing the London sewerage system, following the 'Big Stink' of the preceding summer. Bazalgette's system, now extended, continues to serve London.
Outbreak of war between an alliance of France and Italian nationalists, and Austria. Napoleon III signs an armistice with Austria. However, pressure from Britain, supporting Italian unification to counterweight French and Austrian influence, leads to success for Italian nationalists.The first oil well is drilled in America, after Edwin Drake's discovery in Titusville, Pennsylvania, transforming a quiet farming region into Oil Creek.