Charles Darwin

Feb.12, 1809-April 19,1882

Charles Darwin was born in the city of Shrewsbbury, England and was raised as a fifth child by a wealthy family. (His father was a physician and son of Erasmus Darwin, a poet, philosopher and naturalist. His mother Susannah Wedgewood, died when Charles was eight.) In 1825, Darwin graduated from the elite school at shrewdsbury. He then attended the University of Edinburgh to study medicine. In 1927 he dropped out and entered the University of Cambridge in order to become a clergyman for the Church of England. There he met Adam Sedgwick and John Stevens Henslow. The two figures taught Darwin to become an observer of natural phenomenon and a collector of specimens. After graduating from Cambridge in 1831, he was brought aboard the English survey ship HMS Beagle as an unpaid naturalist on a scientific expedition around the world.

At the time, most geologists believed in the catastrophist theory. In which all creation was wiped out by certain catastrophes e.g. Noah’s flood. Darwin had some proof of this, but found some fossils and species didn’t fit this theory. He found fossils of extinct animals were closely related to live animals of the same geographical area. He also found that every island had it’s own form of tortoise, mocking bird, and finch. Though, each with slight differences.

After returning from his voyage in 1836, Darwin began investigating works of other scientists with similar findings. One in particular was Thomas Robert Malthus. He believed that population was balanced by natural limitations such as famine and war. Darwin took his idea and applied it to plants and animals. Giving him the theories of evolution and natural selection.

Since Darwin was independently wealthy he spent the next twenty years working on his theory without bringing in an income. In 1839, he married his first cousin and moved into a small estate. His wife thereafter gave birth to ten children, three of whom died in infancy. In 1858, The Origin of Species was published. This book presented Darwin’s whole theory. What the book basically said was that there was a “survival to the fittest” among all species. He also provided support that the Earth is not static, but revolving. The book sold out on the first day of publications.

Some scientists believed Darwin’s hypothesis could not be proven. Others argued he couldn’t explain the origin of variations or how they were passed by succeeding generations. Most of these points could not be proven until the early 20th century, at the birth of modern genetics. The biggest portion of people who criticized Darwin were not scientists. They were religious opponents. Darwin’s theories were severe contradictions to the Orthodox theological opinion. Later in his life, Darwin wrote more books expanding his theories.

In the end, Darwin suffered from a panic disorder, and also Chagas’ disease that he picked up during his travels in South America. He was plagued with fatigue and intestinal illness for the rest of his life.. Charles Darwin died on April 19, 1882 and was laid to rest at Westminer Abbey where he still remains.

Darwin’s findings were not overlooked. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1839 and to the French Academy of Sciences in 1878.

Thanks to Charles Darwin, we can understand the process at which species live and die. He laid the foundation of modern science arnd biology. Without him, science would be dramatically faltered.

Charles Darwin altered the thoughts of many people in his generation. Especially those of Americans, who, most of the time disagreed with expansion of our country, were thinking otherwise after reading Darwin’s book. The people’s interest in new ideas was one factor to the rise of expansion. During this time, the U.S. joined the Allies in World War I.