The English biologist has been widely seen as one of the most influential figures in human history due to his work on evolution, in which Darwin suggested that all species of life descended from common ancestors and evolved by natural selection.

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is considered a fundamental concept in science, but Dr Mike Sutton believes it is nothing but an insolent attempt to copycat the work of a fellow naturalist. In his upcoming book "Science Fraud: Darwin's Plagiarism of Patrick Matthew's Theory" he highlights similarities between Darwin's "On The Origin of Species" and Matthew's book "On Naval Timber and Arboriculture".

"This is the biggest science fraud in history. In 1859 Darwin replicated the theory of evolution by natural selection in Patrick Matthew's 1831 prior publication. Matthew was the first to coin that phrase to explain the theory, which he called the Natural Process of Selection. Darwin realised he had no choice but to use the same words so he called it the Process of Natural Selection. He shuffled the words and hoped nobody would notice", Dr Sutton said.

It should be noted that claims of plagiarism have been made against Charles Darwin before, but Dr Sutton's book contains what he calls new "evidence" of theft. For one, the author writes that Patrick Matthew's brainchild was read and reviewed by Darwin's friends and colleagues, while the famous biologist himself read at least five publications penned by Patrick Matthew. This contradicts statements made by Charles Darwin, who stated that he had not read any of the works by his fellow naturalist and suggested that neither he, nor apparently "any other naturalist had heard of Mr Matthew's views".

Another piece of "evidence" cited by Dr Mike Sutton is the letter Darwin's wife Emma allegedly wrote to Patrick Matthew. In it she admits that the theory of evolution was his "original child", but Darwin nurtured it "like his own".

"She wrote claiming Darwin was too ill to write, with a telling line to Matthew. She says, 'Darwin is more loyal to your own original child than you were yourself. If you want an admission, there it is – Your own original child'", says Mike Sutton.

Commenting on the book, Professor Mark Griffiths, of Nottingham Trent University, said that the "evidence" presented by Dr Sutton "conclusively shows the theory of evolution was first proposed by Patrick Matthew". "There is no good reason for Matthew not to be credited with being the originator of the theory", Professor Griffiths said.

Incidentally, Patrick Matthew himself spoke about similarities between his book and the work of Charles Darwin in a letter published in the Gardener's Chronicle. Darwin responded by admitting that his colleague "anticipated by many years the explanation which I have offered of the origin of species, under the name of natural selection", but as mentioned earlier Darwin stressed that he and his colleagues were not aware of Matthew's work. He offered apologies to the naturalist and promised to give credit to Matthew in the subsequent editions of his book, which Darwin did.

"He [Patrick Matthew] clearly saw, however, the full force of the principle of natural selection. In answer to a letter of mine (published in Gard. Chron., April 13th), fully acknowledging that Mr Matthew had anticipated me, he with generous candour wrote a letter (Gard. Chron. May 12th) containing the following passage: —'To me the conception of this law of Nature came intuitively as a self-evident fact, almost without an effort of concentrated thought. Mr Darwin here seems to have more merit in the discovery than I have had; to me it did not appear a discovery. He seems to have worked it out by inductive reason, slowly and with due caution to have made his way synthetically from fact to fact onwards'", Darwin's "On The Origin of Species" reads.