- NAME: Charles Darwin
- OCCUPATION: Biologist
- BIRTH DATE: February 12, 1809
- DEATH DATE: April 19, 1882
- Did You Know?: Although Charles Darwin originally went to college to be a physician, he changed career paths when he realized that he couldn't stomach the sight of blood.
- Did You Know?: Charles Darwin had a mountain named after him, Mount Darwin, in Tierra del Fuego for his 25th birthday. The monumental gift was given by Captain FitzRoy.
- EDUCATION: University of Edinburgh, Cambridge
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Shrewsbury, England
- PLACE OF DEATH: Downe, England
- Full Name: Charles Robert Darwin
Best Known For
Charles Darwin is best known for his work as a naturalist, developing a theory of evolution to explain biological change.
Charles Darwin dreamed of traveling the world and an opportunity presented itself with Captain Fitzroy and the HMS Beagle.
At age 50 Darwin revealed the theory of evolution in the Origin of Species.
Charles Darwin found himself in a dilemma knowing that Emma, his wife and devout Christian, would have difficulty accepting his evolutionary views.
Charles Darwin's books finally begin to gain acceptance in the public and intellectual communities helping Darwin overcome his mental anguish.
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Naturalist Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England, on February 12, 1809. In 1831, he embarked on a five-year survey voyage around the world on the HMS Beagle. His studies of specimens around the globe led him to formulate his theory of evolution and his views on the process of natural selection. In 1859, he published On the Origin of Species. He died on April 19, 1882, in London.
"A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life."
"[How great the] difference between savage and civilized man is—it is greater than between a wild and [a] domesticated animal."
"If all men were dead, then monkeys make men. Men make angels."
"I am a complete millionaire in odd and curious little facts."
"Multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die."
"For the shield may be as important for victory, as the sword or spear."
"I see no good reason why the views given in this volume should shock the religious feelings of anyone."
[In 'Origin of the Species']
"A grain in the balance may determine which individuals shall live and which shall die—which variety or species shall increase in number, and which shall decrease, or finally become extinct."
"If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case."
"The extinction of species and of whole groups of species, which has played so conspicuous a part in the history of the organic world, almost inevitably follows from the principle of natural selection."
"There is grandeur in this view of life...from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."
Naturalist Charles Robert Darwin was born on February 12, 1809, in the tiny merchant town of Shrewsbury, England. He was the second youngest of six children. Darwin came from a long line of scientists. His father, Dr. R.W. Darwin, was as a medical doctor, and his grandfather, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, was a renowned botanist. Darwin’s mother, Susanna, died when he was only 8 years old. Darwin was a child of wealth and privilege who loved to explore nature.
In October 1825, at age 16, Darwin enrolled at Edinburgh University along with his brother Erasmus. Two years later, Charles Darwin became a student at Christ's College in Cambridge. His father hoped he would follow in his footsteps and become a medical doctor, but the sight of blood made Darwin queasy. His father suggested he study to become a parson instead, but Darwin was far more inclined to study natural history.
While Darwin was at Christ's College, botany professor John Stevens Henslow became his mentor. After Darwin graduated Christ's College with a bachelor of arts degree in 1831, Henslow recommended him for a naturalist’s position aboard the HMS Beagle. The ship, commanded by Captain Robert FitzRoy, was to take a five-year survey trip around the world. The voyage would prove the opportunity of a lifetime for the budding young naturalist.
On December 27, 1831, the HMS Beagle launched its voyage around the world with Darwin in tow. Over the course of the trip, Darwin collected a variety of natural specimens, including birds, plants and fossils. Through hands-on research and experimentation, he had the unique opportunity to closely observe principles of botany, geology and zoology. The Pacific Islands and Galapagos Archipelago were of particular interest to Darwin, as was South America.
Upon his return to England in 1836, Darwin began to write up his findings in the Journal of Researches, published as part of Captain FitzRoy's larger narrative and later edited into the Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle. The trip had a monumental affect on Darwin’s view of natural history. He began to develop a revolutionary theory about the origin of living beings that was contrary to the popular view of other naturalists at the time.
Darwin's exposure to specimens all over the globe raised important questions. Other naturalists believed that all species either came into being at the start of the world, or were created over the course of natural history. In either case, the species were believed to remain much the same throughout time. Darwin, however, noticed similarities among species all over the globe, along with variations based on specific locations, leading him to believe that they had gradually evolved from common ancestors.
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