"There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator 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."
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, 1859
It's difficult to choose a favorite, but something about this one has always spoke to me. Perhaps it's that you can hear the clear admiration and amazement at the incredible diversity of life he had observed during his explorations. Perhaps it's his attempt at aligning religious and scientific views. More likely, it's the memories of Stephen Jay Gould that this quote conjures for me.
Though Stephen Jay Gould passed away just as I was blossoming as a young scientist I've always felt some unexplainable connection to his writing. I remember the presence of his books in our house growing up, but never read them until entering college. When I was immersed into the world of Darwin I also began reading Gould. With Voyage of the Beagle in one hand and the Flamingo's Smile in the other my view of the world was forever altered.
I think Darwin perfectly describes this alteration of the perceived world we experience through gaining understanding of natural selection; "-from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved." It's really a grand view.