Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin Charles Robert Darwin was the fifth child of Robert Waring Darwin and Susannah Wedgewood. He was born on February 12, 1809 in Shrewsbury, England where his father practiced medicine. He attended Shrewsbury Grammar School which was a well-kn own secondary school which concentrated on teaching classic languages. Even as a boy Darwin loved science and his enthusiasm for chemical studies earned him the name “Gas” from his friends. The headmaster at Shrewsbury, Dr.

Samuel Butler noted, “Here’s a boy, plays around with his gases and the rest of his rubbish and works at nothing useful.” He was also an avid collector. Anything he could get his hands on- shells, eggs, minerals and coins interested him. Darwin was expected to follow his father and become a doctor and in 1825, at the age of sixteen, his father removed him from Shrewsbury and entered him in the University of Edenburgh to study medicine. He found all of his classes except chem istry dull. After two years at Edenburg, he quit school and went to live with his Uncle Josiah Wedgewood. After he abandoned medicine, his father urged him to attend Cambridge University to study to be a clergyman.

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At Cambridge he met John Steven Henslow who helped him regain his interest in nature. It was Henslow who was influential in getting Darwin the position of naturalist on the boat The Beagle. In April of 1831, he graduated from the University. In the fall following his graduation, the government decided to send the H.M.S. Beagle, under the command of Captain Fitzroy, to complete an unfinished survey of Patagonia and Tierra Del Fuego to help map out the shores of Chile and Peru.

Th e voyage was to last two years. Darwin volunteered his services without salary and offered to pay his own expenses on the condition that he was allowed to keep all the plants and animals he collected. On Henslow’s recommendation, Darwin was chosen to serve as naturalist for the exploration. The Beagle set sail from Devonport on December 27, 1831 and returned on October 2, 1836. Throughout the journey, Darwin shipped back to England crate loads of tropical plants, insects, flowers, spiders, s hells and fossil animals.

He was very popular with the crew and was given the name “Fly Catcher.” During the five year journey, he was exposed to different species of birds, insects and reptiles. He noted that in the different environments that he visited changes occurred in the same species that helped them to adapt to their surrounding s. It was as a result of these observations and observations of other naturalists and geologists that Darwin began to formulate his theory of evolution known as “Natural Selection.” Darwin had left England as a youthful collector and returned as a dedicated naturalist. Before the journey, he believed like Henslow, that the history of the earth was short and whatever changes occurred were the result of vast catastrophes. By his return, he was convinced that the earth was extremely old and its evolution was the result of many small changes.

Natural Selection, proposed by Darwin, is the most widely accepted theory on evolution today. The theory is based upon five basic principles. The first states that organisms increase at a higher rate than their food supply. However, while there is overproduction of organisms, there is never overpopulation because many young never reach adulthood. The second principle notes that because the resources of nature are limited, all life engages in a struggle for survival in which only thos e with superior characteristics survive.

The third principle states that no two individuals are identical. No matter how slight the difference may be, all show some variation from one another. The fourth principle notes that some individuals poss ess variations that are most helpful in adapting to an environment, increasing their chances for survival. This in turn enables them to produce more offspring. Darwin’s fifth principle concludes that these offspring will inherit the favored charact eristics of their parents and pass them on to their children.

Each generation maintains and improves the characteristics which help them diverge further from the original type. Ultimately the new forms will be so different in structure and behavior from the original, that they will not be able to breed with them and are therefore considered a new species. In summary evolution is based on the survival of the fittest. The individual who’s best suited to its environment will have a higher survi val rate. Those not favorably equipped will die preventing overpopulation of the earth.

In November, 1859, Darwin published The Origin of Species in which he proposed his ideas of evolution. The first edition was sold out on the day of publicatio n and by 1860 over five thousand copies had been sold. Instantaneously conflict arose and “Darwinism” was put on trial. Darwin was attacked as a blasphemous radical by the church. Scientific journals contained articles critical of his theory. Eve n some of Darwin’s closest friends turned on him. Darwin, himself, stayed clear of the debate and arguments knowing he had done his work well and it would be its own best defense.

Samuel Wilberforce, the Bishop of Oxford, spoke for the church and c harged that Darwin and his followers were atheists who denied that God was the creator. T.H. Huxley, Britain’s leading zoologist, defended Darwin in the debate with the bishop and by using careful reasoning convinced many to at least consider Darwin ‘s theory as plausible. The idea of evolution became popular with scientist all over the world. Darwin lived another twenty-two years after the book was published, but the major accomplishments of his life had concluded. However, he continued to work observing earthworms, plants and anything else that seemed interesting.

His work beca me the foundation of modern biology and established two new sciences- animal behavior and ecology. When asked what drove him on he answered,”From my early youth I have had the strongest desire to understand or explain whatever I observed and group a ll facts under some general laws..” On April 19, 1882 Darwin died of a heart attack. The family wanted Darwin to be buried in his home, the village of Downe. However, Parliament requested that he be buried in Westminster Abbey, a cemetery for Britain’s kings and queens and i ntellectual giants. This was an indication of how far Darwin had come towards universal acceptance and respectability. Darwin’s coffin lies next to Issac Newton which is only fitting because Darwin has been called “The Newton of Biology.” Darwin w as modest of his monumental achievements to the very end and said of himself shortly before his death,”With such moderate abilities as I possess, it is truly surprising that I should have influenced to a considerable extent the belief of scientific men on some important points.”.

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. His father was Robert Waring Darwin and his wife was Susannah, and he was the grandson of scientist Erasmus Darwin. His mother died when he was 8 years old, and his sister brought him up. He was taught at Shrewsbury, then sent to Edinburgh to study medicine, which he disliked very much so. Like many modern students, Darwin was only good in subjects that interested him him. Although his father was a physician, Darwin was not interested in medicine and he was couldnt stand the sight of surgery. Eventually he did get a degree in theology from Cambridge University, even though he wasnt really interested in it.
What Charles really liked to do was walk over the hills, observing plants and animals, collecting new specimens, investigating and observing their structures, and categorizing his findings, with the help of his cousin William Darwin Fox, an entomologist. His botany professor, John Stevens Henslow, who was pushing for Darwin to be a naturalist on the surveying of HMS Beagle to Patagonia, encouraged Darwins scientific inclinations. Under Captain Robert Fitzroy, Darwin visited Tenerife, the Cape Verde Islands, Brazil, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Chile, the Galapagos Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand, and Tasmania. In the Cape Verde Island Darwin devised his theory of coral reefs. Another important stop on their trip was in the Galapagos Islands, where Darwin found huge populations of tortoises and he found that different islands were home to visibly different types of tortoises. Darwin then found that on islands without tortoises, prickly pear cactus plants grew with their pads and fruits spread out over the ground. On islands that had hundreds of tortoises, the prickly pears grew very thick, in tall trunks, bearing the pads and fruits above the reach of the tortoises. During this 5 year expedition, he got knowledge of the fauna, flora, and geology of many lands, which helped him in his later investigations. In 1836, Darwin returned to England after the 5 years with the expedition, and by 1846 he had became one of the most important naturalists of his time, and he also published several works on the geological and zoological discoveries of his voyage. He developed a friendship with Sir Charles Lyell, became secretary of the Geological Society, a position which Darwin held for four years. In 1839 Darwin married his cousin Emma Wedgwood. But constantly bothering Darwin was the problem of the origin of the species. Darwin sought to prove his ideal of evolution with simple examples. The various breeds of dogs provided a striking example of what Darwin sought to prove. Dogs descended from wolves, and even today the two will readily crossbreed. With rare exceptions, however, few modern dogs actually resemble wolves. Some breeds, such as the Chihuahua and the Great Dane, are so different from one another that they would be considered separate species in the wild. If humans could cross breed such radically different dogs in only a few hundred years, Darwin reasoned that nature could produce the same spectrum of living organisms given the hundreds of millions of years that she had been allowed. From 1842 Darwin lived at Down House, a country gentleman among his gardens, conservatories, pigeons, and fowls. The practical knowledge he gained there, especially in variation and interbreeding proved invaluable. At Down House Darwin addressed himself to the great work of his life, the problem of the origin of species. After five years of collecting the evidence, Darwin began to speculate on the subject. In 1842 he drew up his observations in some short notes, expanded in 1844 into a sketch of conclusions for his own use. These conclusions were the principle of natural selection, the germ of the Darwinian Theory, but with typical caution he delayed publication of his hypothesis. However, in 1858 Alfred Wallace sent Darwin a letter of his book, Malay Archipelago, which, to Darwin’s surprise, contained the main ideas of his own theory of natural selection. Lyell and Joseph Hooker persuaded him to submit a paper of his own, based on his 1844 sketch, which was read simultaneous. Sly with Wallace’s before the Linnean Society in 1858. Neither Darwin nor Wallace was present on that historic occasion.

Darwin then set to work to condense his vast mass of notes, and put into shape his great work, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life, published in 1859. This great work, received throughout Europe with the deepest interest, was violently attacked because it did not agree with the account of creation given in the Book of Genesis. But eventually it succeeded in obtaining recognition from almost all biologists. Darwin, contrary to popular belief, never said that human beings evolved from apes. He said that all life began as primordial soup, with molecules acting on each other. So from the first single celled organism all life came. One single organism, when acted on by several different molecules could give rise to many different species of animals. It is in this way that he stated that Ape and man were similar…each having a similar life’s beginning. Darwin died after a long illness, leaving eight children, several of who achieved great distinction. Though not the sole originator of the evolution hypotheses, or even the first to apply the concept of descent to plants and animals, Darwin was the first distinction thinker to gain for that theory a wide acceptance among biological experts. By adding to the crude evolutionism of Erasmus Darwin, Lamarck, and others, his own specific idea of natural selection, Darwin supplied a sufficient cause, which raised it from a hypothesis to a verifiable theory.
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Charles Darwin

Darwin was born in February, 1809. He left the school at Shrewsbury to
the University of Edinburgh to study medicine. In 1827 he dropped out of
medical school and entered the University of Cambridge, intending to become
a clergyman. There he met Adam Sedgwick, a geologist and John Stevens
Henslow, a naturalist. Henslow not only helped build Darwin’s
self-confidence but also taught his student to be an observer of natural
phenomena and collector of specimens. After graduating from Cambridge in
1831, the 22-year-old Darwin was taken aboard the English survey ship HMS
Beagle, largely on Henslow’s recommendation, as an unpaid naturalist on a
scientific expedition around the world.

Darwin’s job as naturalist aboard the Beagle gave him the opportunity
to observe the various geological formations found on different continents
and islands along the way, as well as a huge variety of fossils and living
organisms. In his geological observations, Darwin was most impressed with
the effect that natural forces had on shaping the earth’s surface.

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During the voyage Darwin found himself doubting that all creatures had
been created individually when he found fossils closely ressembling each
other. In the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, he also observed
that each island supported its own form of certain animals; the various
forms were closely related but differed in structure and eating habits from
island to island. Both of his observations raised questions about the links
between different species.

After returning to England in 1836, Darwin began recording his ideas
about changeability of species in his Notebooks on the Transmutation of
Species. He wrote a theory about his findings but did not publish it.

Darwin’s theory was first announced in 1858 in a paper presented at the
same time as one by Alfred Russel Wallace, a young naturalist who had come
independently to the theory of natural selection. Darwin’s complete theory
was published in 1859, in On the Origin of Species. The Origin sold out on
the first day of publication and after this went through six editions. His
ideas were widely critized by scientists and the Church.

Darwin spent the rest of his life based around his theory and arguments
against it. He was honored by burial in Westminster Abbey after he died in
Down, Kent, on April 19, 1882.

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