Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

Timeline created by nmalesa
  • "This is the Question."

    "This is the Question."
    Charles Darwin, aged 29, makes a list detailing the pros and cons of marriage.The most significant reason not to marry is "Loss of time." As a scientist, Charles is constantly devoted to analyzing his specimens and honing his theories--the most significant of which is his theory of natural selection, which he has secretly begun to flesh out. However, Charles decides to marry. A wife, he concludes, is "better than a dog anyhow." Image courtesy of Flickr: claudiogennari
  • A Proposal

    A Proposal
    Charles visits his uncle's family and has a memorable chat (then called a "goose"), with his cousin, Emma Wedgwood, before the fire.The more he talks with her, the more he realizes that Emma--open-minded and intelligent--will make a good partner, and he proposes. "This Marlborough St is a forlorn place.--We have no ducks here, much less geese, and as for that sentimental fat goose we ate over the Library fire,--the like of it seldom turns up." --Charles to Emma Image: Daveness_98
  • The Wedding

    The Wedding
    Charles and Emma wed amidst a mix of feelings-- love: "There was never anyone so lucky as I have been, or so good as you....I vow to try to make myself good enough somewhat to deserve you." --Charles to Emma desire: "Sexual desire makes saliva to flow, yes, certainly." --Charles in his private observational notebooks fear: "Some sad [thoughts] have forced themselves in, of fear that our opinions on the most important subject should differ widely." --Emma to Charles Image: Jeff Belmonte
  • Voyage of the Beagle

    Voyage of the Beagle
    Charles publishes his first book, Journal of Researches, chronicling his voyage around the world as a young naturalist aboard the HMS Beagle. The book will later be known as Voyage of the Beagle. "The success of my first literary child always tickles my vanity more than that of any of my other books."
    --Charles Darwin Image: joiseyshowaa
  • "Little Animalcules"

    "Little Animalcules"
    Charles's and Emma's first child (they would go on to have ten children) is born and christened William Erasmus Darwin. While pregnant, Emma had agonized over her husband's lack of faith: what if she should die in childbirth and be eternally separated from him? Thankfully, both Emma and the baby survived. "He has very dark blue eyes and a pretty, small mouth, his nose I will not boast of, but it is very harmless as long as he is a baby."
    --Emma to her Aunt Jessie Image: dulcelife
  • "Descent with Modification"

    "Descent with Modification"
    Charles secretly makes a pencil sketch outlining his theory on the mutability of species, taking God out of the story of creation, and addressing problems with his theory of natural selection, such as the formation of the eye. Despite her religious objections, Charles later gives the paper to his best friend, Emma, to publish it in case of his sudden death. "An individual organism placed under new conditions [often] sometimes varies in a small degree."
    --Charles Darwin Image: Michele Catania
  • Moving to the Country

    Moving to the Country
    Charles, the nine-months pregnant Emma, and their young family--children William and Annie--move to Down House in the village of Downe, Kent. "I feel sure I shall become deeply attached to Down, with a few improvements--It will be very difficult not to be extravagant here."
    --Charles to his sister Catherine Image--Present-day photo of Down House: Richard Carter
  • Barnacles

    Barnacles
    Charles realizes that, to work out his theory of the transmutability of species, he must become adept at describing at least one creature in minute detail. He chooses the barnacle, genus Cirripedia--one of the specimens he retained from his voyage on the Beagle--and spends the next 8 years studying them. "[I am] hard at work dissecting a little animal about the size of a pin's head...and I could spend another month, and daily see more beautiful structure."
    --Charles to FitzRoy Image: Reva G
  • "A Dear and Good Child"

    "A Dear and Good Child"
    The Darwins' beloved daughter, Annie, dies at age 10 of "Bilious Fever with typhoid character." Emma believes she will see Annie again in heaven. Charles believes Annie is gone forever and, devastated, rarely speaks of her for the rest of his life. "She must have known how we loved her. Oh, that she could now know how deeply, how tenderly, we do still and shall ever love her dear joyous face!"
    --Charles in a memorial to Annie Image--Present-day photo of Anne Darwin's grave: TossMyPancake
  • Struggle for Existence

    Struggle for Existence
    Children Etty and Charles Waring are ill. Charles sees that his theory on species' "struggle for existence" is taking place in his family. On the same day, Alfred R. Wallace sends Charles an essay entitled "On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type." Charles's recognition for his theory, secretly thought up 20 years earlier, must now "struggle for existence" too. "All my originaliy, whatever it may amount to, will be smashed."
    -Charles to Lyell Image: zen
  • The Theory Gets Leaked

    The Theory Gets Leaked
    Charles Waring dies. On the same day, the Linnaean Society presents a joint paper--put together by Charles Lyell to protect the interests of his friend, Charles Darwin--on the "tendency of species to form varieties; and on the perpetuation of varieties and species by natural means of selection" by Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace. "...but neither of them having published his views, though Mr. Darwin has for may years past been repeatedly urged by us to do so..."
    --Introduction Image: gbaku
  • The Origin of Species

    The Origin of Species
    On the Origins of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life is published, and the entire printing is sold. Although Charles does not address human evolution, the book causes an immediate controversy that is still being hotly debated today, 152 years later. "Your father says he shall never think small beer of himself again & that candidly he does think it very well written."
    --Emma to their son William Image: Kaptain Kobold
  • Second Edition

    Second Edition
    Charles makes one major change to the second edition of The Origin of Species. "There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originall breathed into a few forms or into one."
    --Last sentence of The Origin of Species, 1st ed. "There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one."
    --Last sentence of The Origin of Species, 2nd ed. Image: Eric Begin
  • Darwin's Bulldog

    Darwin's Bulldog
    At a conference of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Thomas Henry Huxley, Charles's biggest propenent and known as "Darwin's bulldog," draws cheers and gasps when he declares that he would rather have an ape for a grandfather than be descended from a man who introduced ridicule into a serious scientific discussion (i.e. Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, representing religion). "I am sharpening up my claws & beak in readiness."
    -Huxley to Charles Image: Fuzzy T
  • Faith

    Faith
    Charles gets very sick, both physically and emotionally. Emma writes Charles a letter about faith and the effectiveness of prayer. Charles is hurt by the pain he causes Emma, yet he cannot pray nor can he accept Jesus as his personal savior. "It is feeling and not reasoning that drives one to prayer."
    --Emma to Charles Image: Alejandro Hernandez
  • "An Appeal"

    "An Appeal"
    Emma wages a campaign to invent a more humane trap for game-hunting and publishes "An Appeal." She inspires the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to host a contest to see who can invent the most humane yet effective trap. "It is a fact that every game preserver in this country sanctions a system which consigns thousands of animals to acute agony, probably of eight or ten hours duration, before it is ended by death."
    --From "An Appeal" Image: Black Country Museums
  • A Seance

    A Seance
    Spiritualism becomes very popular in Victorian England, and attending seances and communing with spirit guides are all the rage. The skeptical Darwins, along with famed novelist George Eliot (real name Mary Ann Evans), Huxley, and their daughter, Etty, attend a seance hosted by Charle's brother, Erasmus. Emma keeps an open mind, but Charles thinks people should spend more time studying reality. "The Lord have mercy on us all, if we have to believe in that rubbish."
    --Charles Image: crowolf
  • Worms

    Worms
    Charles publishes his final book, The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, with Observations on their Habits. After obsessing over and studying the habits of beetles, barnacles, and orchids, he--with Emma joining him--turned to worms. This book sold more copies than any of his previous publications. "Worms have played a more important part in the history of the world than most persons would at first suppose."
    --Conclusion Image: Ben McLeod
  • "His body is buried in peace, but his name liveth evermore."

    "His body is buried in peace, but his name liveth evermore."
    Charles Darwin dies in Emma's arms at age 73 and is buried in Westminster Abbey. The Origin of Species is in its 6th edition at the time of his death and has never gone out of print. "Remember what a good wife you have been to me."
    --Charles Darwin's last words Portrait of Charles Darwin painted by George Richmond (1840)
  • "Wise Adviser and Cheerful Comforter"

    "Wise Adviser and Cheerful Comforter"
    Emma Darwin dies at the age of 88, fourteen years after her best friend. "It gives me a sort of companionship with him which makes me feel happy--only there are so many questions I want to ask."
    --Emma to their daughter Etty on re-reading Voyage of the Beagle three years after Charles's death Portrait of Emma Darwin painted by George Rechmond (1840)