Charles Darwin Biography & Evolution

Charles Darwin

Charles Robert Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England on 12 February 1809. In 1827 he started theology studies at Christ's College, Cambridge. His love to collect plants, insects, and geological specimens was noted by his botany professor John Stevens Henslow. He arranged for his talented student a place on the surveying expedition of HMS Beagle. Despite the objections of his father, Darwin decided to leave his familiar surroundings at the age of 22. Charles Darwin voyage took five years from 1831 to 1836.

Darwin returned with observations he had made in Teneriffe, the Cape Verde Islands, Brazil, and especially in the Galapagos Islands. Unfortunately, during the voyage, Darwin had contracted a tropical illness, which made him a semi-invalid for the rest of his life. By 1846 Darwin had published several works based on the discoveries of the voyage and he became secretary of the Geological Society (1838-41).

From 1842 Darwin lived at Down House, Downe. In 1839 he had married his cousin Emma Wedgwood, and when not devoting himself to scientific studies, he led the life of a country gentleman. In the 1840s Darwin worked on his observations of the origin of species for his own use. He began to conclude, although he was deeply anxious about the direction his mind was taking, that species might share a common ancestor.

Darwin's great work, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, based principally on his observations in the Galapagos Islands and Darwin Finches, was heavily attacked because it did not support the depiction of creation given in the Bible. Darwin's argument that natural selection - the engine of evolution - worked automatically, leaving little or no room for the teachings of the Bible. All species, he reasoned, produce far too many offspring for them all to survive, and therefore those with favorable variations - owing to chance - are selected.

At Charle Darwin's hands evolution grew into a well-developed scientific theory, which has been a constant target of religious or anti-scientific attacks. However, Darwin himself did not at first explicitly apply the evolutionary theory to human beings. He knew that his challenge to the Biblical teachings would cause stress to his friends and family, among them his religious wife.

However, T.H. Huxley, another scientist who believed strongly in Darwin’s evolution theory, published in his Man's Place in Nature (1863) an application of the theory. Darwin followed him in The Descent Of Man, and Selection In Relation To Gender (1871) and Expression Of Emotions In Man And Animals (1872), which showed the similarities between animals and man in the expression of emotions and was the start of the science of ethnology. Darwin's voyage with the Royal Navy's H.M.S. Beagle was the foundation for many his theories and is recorded in the Journal Of Researches (1836), a blend of scientific reporting and travel writing.

Darwin died in Down, Kent, on April 19, 1882 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

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Charles Darwin FAQs

  • How long was Charles Darwin on the Galapagos Islands?

      Charles Darwin & The Beagle spent 5 weeks in the Galapagos carefully charting the archipelago. Fitz Roy's chart was remarkably accurate and remained in use until the U.S.S. Bowditch re-charted the area in 1942. In the meantime, Charles Darwin made careful observations about both the geology and biology of the Galapagos Islands.

       
  • What did Charles Darwin study on the Galapagos Islands?

      The most famous fauna of the Galapagos Islands are the iguanas, giant tortoises and finches. On Charles Island, Darwins second stop, Darwin was told by the local prisoners that each island had its own peculiar tortoise, which made him even more curious as to why each tortoise was different depending on which island it lived on.

      On his visit to the Galapagos Islands, Charles Darwin also discovered several species of finches that varied from island to island, which helped him to develop his theory of natural selection. Today, there are a total of 14 of which make up the group known as Darwin’s finches. These finches are considered to be the world’s fastest-evolving vertebrates because their appearance and behavior quickly adapted to this closed and rapidly changing environment.

       
  • How did Charles Darwin become famous?

      Charles Darwin is best known for developing the theory of evolution by natural selection. Darwin formulated his theories after returning from a voyage around the world on the HMS Beagle and he published them in 1859.

      The prevailing belief among other naturalists of the time was that species came into being at the start of the world, and remained much the same throughout the passage of time. Darwin observed many similarities among species from different regions and environments, leading him to formulate the theory that they had evolved from common ancestors. Darwin introduced his revolutionary theory of evolution at a meeting of the Linnean Society in 1858, one year before he published "On the Origin of Species," a book that would become his most famous work on the subject of evolution.

       
  • What is a list of accomplishments of Charles Darwin?

      Charles Darwin was famous for his theory of evolution, which challenged the prevailing theory of the creation of the earth and changed people's thinking regarding the natural world. Along with naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, Darwin laid the foundation of thought that gave scientific evidence showing the possibility that all species of life descended from common ancestors by a process of natural selection.

      Other accomplishments of Darwin include his 1859 book, "On the Origin of Species." The controversial book put forth the premise of natural selection, a theory Darwin began to develop while in the Galapagos Islands observing and making a survey of various life forms, including variations in finches that inhabited the different islands. His theory proposed that species change over time and adapt to their environment by passing on inherited characteristics to their offspring based on the success of those biological traits.

      Darwin's theory proposed that human beings also evolved based on natural selection rather than being created by God, as understood in biblical teachings. The possibility that humans may have descended from apes was contrary to the teachings of Christianity. The Church harshly criticized him but his theory was soon accepted by the scientific community and has become part of mainstream scientific theory. Darwin was buried in Westminster Abbey.

       
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