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Charles Darwin.

posted Jun 30, 2015, 2:44 PM by Upali Salpadoru   [ updated Jul 10, 2016, 2:26 AM ]

Charles Darwin 

1809 -1882

Date of birth 12th Feb

Place of birth  Shrewsbury, England,

Fig. 1. Courtney: Cartoon

If the Copernican theory of 1543 was a stone pelted at the Christendom, Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, that came about 300 years later, was a grenade hurled at all human beliefs

Not only the religious few but  even the agnostics and the atheists could not support the view that men have evolved from monkey like creatures. Yet within the lifetime of the author almost the entire scientific community and the the intelligentsia have accepted it.

Biography of Charles Darwin

Charles belonged to the third generation of scientists in a wealthy, pious Christian family. His father Robert Waring Darwin, was a practising doctor and the grandfather was the famous poet, philosopher and naturalist Erasmus Darwin. He had a happy childhood with 5 siblings. Just like any other child he picked up plants, pebbles and shells. Unlike other children he pursued this habit until his death.

1817 Age 8Yrs.

He lost his mother, Susana Wedgwood, due to an illness. He was taken care of by his three elder sisters..He was at first educated by his sister, Caroline, before attending Revd Case's grammar school in Shrewsbury

1818  Age 9Yrs.

His father sent him to a boarding school, just across the river from his house,  At this school Darwin learned the classics, ancient history, and Greek, all of which he found entirely boring. The  subjects he appreciated were drama and poetry.

1822 Age 23Yrs

His brother, Erasmus, started a chemistry lab in the garden shed in back of the house. Darwin acted as assistant to his older brother, and often worked on chemical reactions gaining some skills.

1825 Age 16Yrs.

Two brothers, Erasmus and Charles gained admission to the University of Edinburgh  for course in medicine.

1827 Age 18Yrs.

While his brother continued to be trained as a doctor Charles had to give it up as the sight of blood made him sick.

1828 Age 19Yrs.

He  joined  the Christ's College in Cambridge.

Father’s next choice was for him to be a Clergyman; a degree from an English University was an essential requirement for this . At the beginning he liked it as it would give more free time for him to engage in nature studies.

1831 Age 22Yrs.

While at Cambridge, William Fox, his cousin introduced him to a new hobby; collecting Beetles. He took it with a passion. He got an excellent training in this field including comparative anatomy, identifying,  cataloguing and how to work efficiently in the field.

Fanny Owen, his girl friend, often scolded him for wasting his time with his beetles.

When it came to crossroads he sacrificed romance to the love of Beetles.

He obtained the  BA degree  and started learning Geology.

He went on a geologic field trip to Wales.

Captain Fitzroy of the ship H M S Beagle, who was on a project to survey the coastline of  South America was looking for a Naturalist. Charles Darwin grabbed the opportunity being  recommended by his Botany Professor. Against the wishes of his father he set sailed for a very very long voyage.

For  four or five years he was collecting facts on the life of plants, animals and geological phenomenon from across the world.  In La Plata he saw a strange breed of oxen.  From another place he picked up a fossilized tooth of a horse and more fossils in Patagonia. In Galapagos Islands he noted that every Island had its own kind of birds.

Fig. 2. Charles Darwin.

On his voyage he sent packages of collected specimens and detailed notes several times to England.  By the time he returned he had already become a well known naturalist.

1835 Age 26Yrs,

On his return he decided not to seek employment but to be a full time investigator into natural phenomenon. He could well afford it due to family wealth.

Sir Charles Lyell had written a new book, Principles of Geology which was a new approach to the subject. This common interest in the matters of the Earth bound them in a strong friendship. bv

1836 Age 27Yrs.

His health deteriorated making him a nervous wreck. Completely lost interest in poetry and music.

1839 Age 30Yrs.

He married his cousin Emma Wedgwood.

1842 Age 33Yrs.

He moved to Kentish village leaving the London flat.

1851  Age 42Yrs  

Darwin’s 10 year daughter died and his condition worsened.

1854 Age 45Yrs

He had formulated his theory by this time. ‘Many species were not as a result of creation, but had developed from slight differences in individuals. They have been brought about originally by the individual's special surroundings. Once formed they accentuated in his descendents. Those with the favourable traits survived while the others perished.”  He agreed with the Malthus doctrine, ‘survival of the fittest’ and termed it “Natural Selection”..

When he explained this theory to the scientists, they all agreed that it was one of the most important scientific discoveries of all time. They urged him to publish the theory but he was reluctant. Probably his own theory has shocked him as he was a devout Christian himself.

1858  Age 49Yrs.

Darwin received a letter from one of his admirers Alfred Russell Wallace. On reading this he got into a quandary.The writer had developed a theory of evolution , on his own which was quite similar to his own theory. When he requested the opinion of his friends as to what he should do, they were of opinion that both views should be read at the same time to the members of the Linnean Society.. As wallace was away he could not attend to it. Darwin missed the presentation. His son, 18 month old baby, died of scarlet fever.

The revelations, surprisingly, did not make a stir among the learned members.

1859 Age 50Yrs.

He published the book, “Origin of Species by Natural Selection:. The first edition was sold out the first day. Within a few years it was translated into almost every world language. Popularity of the author and the severe attacks made by the church made more and more people buy the book.Attacks came from people of all spheres ranging from Professors and Parsons to the cockneys. Only the scientists of the calibre of T H Huxley and Charles Lyell strongly  supported the theory.

“While the storm raged, Darwin remained silent”     

1868 Age 59Yrs.  

He published a more precise version  titled, “Variations of animals and plants”.

1871 Age 62Yrs.

He published another book attempting to correct the mistaken views of the critics titled “Descent of Man”; by this time the storm had died down.

1881  Age 72Yrs.

He got a heart attack but he survived.

1882  Age 73Yrs.

Although he had willed to be buried in his village, according to the public outcry he was given a public funeral and set aside Sir Isaac Newton at West Minster.