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Timeline: Monkey Trial

1859-1925 | 1927-1999  


 Charles Darwin's Origin of Species is published. Its revolutionary theory of natural selection will have profound effects on both the scientific world and society at large.


January: William Jennings Bryan begins his anti-evolution crusade in Kentucky, speaking out against the Darwinian "law of hate" and calling for a return to the Biblical "law of love." His campaign catches fire in Tennessee.


Governor Austin PeayMarch 21: Tennessee governor Austin Peay signs into law the Butler bill, outlawing the teaching of "any theory that denies the divine creation of man and teaches instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals."

May 4: Newspapers throughout Tennessee carry a small notice from the ACLU offering to pay court costs for any Tennessee teacher willing to test the anti-evolution law in the courts.

John ScopesMay 5: At a meeting in Robinson's drugstore in Dayton, Tennessee, science teacher John Scopes agrees to become the ACLU's defendant in a trial testing the Tennessee anti-evolution law.

William Jennings BryanMay 13: Though he hasn't practiced law for 30 years, William Jennings Bryan agrees to represent the World's Christian Fundamentals Organization as special prosecutor at the Scopes trial.

May 25: In Dayton, a grand jury indicts John Scopes for violating the Butler Law.

July 10: Case Number 5232, the State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, comes before Judge John T. Raulston. Prosecution and defense teams choose members of the jury.

Clarence DarrowJuly 13: Clarence Darrow delivers an impassioned speech against "religious bigotry and hate." He hopes to convince Judge Raulston to declare the Butler Law unconstitutional.

July 15: Judge Raulston upholds the Butler Law and the trial continues. Witnesses for the prosecution and defense testify. Darrow and the defense team bring prominent scientists to Dayton to testify for evolution.

July 17: Judge Raulston reads his decision forbidding the defense team's scientific experts to testify before the jury. Darrow objects strenuously. Believing the trial is over, many reporters leave town.

Judge RaulstonJuly 20: Because of the heat and the crowd, Judge Raulston re-convenes court outside, under the trees. The defense calls Bryan to the stand as an expert on the Bible. Darrow's relentless interrogation of the elderly Bryan becomes the most famous event of the trial.

July 21: After nine minutes of deliberation, the jury returns a verdict of guilty. The judge imposes a fine of $100 on the defendant and John Scopes speaks for the first time, vowing to "to oppose this law in any way [he] can."

Darrow's coffin and pallbearersJuly 26: Five days after the trial ends, Bryan dies in his sleep in Dayton. Many blame his death on the stress of Darrow's interrogation, but he had been ill with diabetes for some time.

July 31: In a pouring rain, William Jennings Bryan is buried in Arlington National Cemetery just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

1859-1925 | 1927-1999  

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