Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

  • Birth

    Charles Robert Darwin was born on February 12, 1809, in his family's home in Shrewsbury, England, to Rober Darwin and Susannah Wedgwood.
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    Early life

    From the beginning, Darwin had a lot of people to look up to. His maternal grandfather was a Unitarian pottery industrialist. His paternal grandfather was a free-thinking physician and poet before the French Revolution. Post revolution he wrote "The Laws of Organic Life:" (1794-96). His own father, Robert, was a doctor, whose sharp observations taught him a lot about human psychology. Charles lost his mother at the age of 8 and was cared for by his three older sisters.
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    Anglican Shrewsbury School

    Charles attended the Anglican Shrewsbury School from 1818 to 1825. Science was considered dehumanizing during this period in English public schools. Charles got into trouble by his headmaster for dabbling in chemistry and even got the nickname "Gas" from his classmates.
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    Edinburgh University

    Robert sent his son to study medicine at Edinburgh University in 1825. He did not learn much in his 2 years attending this University. He was not interested in the modern "natural system" and hated anatomy and was sickened by pre-chloroform surgery. He did find himself a mentor, Robert Edmund Grant, who took him under his wing and taught him about the growth and relationships of primitive marine invertebrates.
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    Cambridge to Beagle

    Robert enrolled Charles in Christ's College, Cambridge in 1828 when he realized the church was better suited for him as a naturalist. He drank, collected beetles, and went shooting with other squires' sons. He placed 10th for the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1831. He was introduced to botany by Rev. John Stevens Henslow and went to Wales on a geological field trip with Rev. Adam Sedgwick. Intrigued by Alexander von Humboldt's accounts of the jungles he agreed to sail to South America.
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    HMS Beagle Voyage

    Charles left on this 5-year voyage with weapons, books, and knowledge on preserving carcasses from London Zoo experts. He was a self-financed companion to the captain. Due to his status, he was not confined to the ship, so he only spent 18 months of the 5 years actually aboard the ship. Darwin and the crew visited many areas on the boarder of South America. By the end of the voyage, he had written 2,520 pages in notes and diaries, collected 5,436 specimens, and drew up 12 catalogues.
  • Montevideo, Uruguay

    In July of 1832 when Charles and the crew made it to Montevideo, they found it in a state of rebellion. Charles joined the armed sailors and retook the rebel fort.
  • Rio de Janeiro

    One of the first places the crew visited was Rio de Janeiro. Charles spent a lot of time in the forest here. He thought the forest made up for human evil but was reminded that nature has its own evils.
  • Bahia Blanca, Argentina

    Here he met Juan Manuel de Rosas, who was in charge of eradicating the Pompas natives. Although Charles was disturbed by the fact genocide ruled this frontier, he returned periodically over 2 years to find huge bones of extinct mammals. He once traveled 340 miles with a 28-inch skull strapped to his horse. Fossil extraction led him to think about the primeval world and what led these creatures to become extinct.
  • Tierra del Fuego

    Darwin met "untamed" humans here, which disturbed him more than the genocide. "Differences between savage and civilized man is. - It's greater than between a wild and (a) domesticated animal." This left Charles wanting to know more.
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    Theory of Evolution

    Charles devised his theory of evolution in 1832 following the first Reform Act. By 1837, he accepted Charles Babbage's idea that "the Creator creates by... laws." Darwin adopted "transmutation" (evolution) when he learned the mockingbirds were each unique to their different islands in March of 1837. His ideas were considered an abomination by Cambridge Clerics that would destroy the spiritual safeguards of the social order. This caused Darwin to lead a double life for 2 decades.
  • Galapagos Islands

    The Galapagos Islands had many iguanas and giant tortoises. Some of the crew even took the smaller tortoises back on the ship as pets. Charles noted the mockingbirds all differed on the 4 islands but failed to label his other birds by island. He also failed to collect tortoise specimens even though the local prisoners believed each island had its own distinct "race".
  • Valdivia, Chile

    Charles climbed 4000 feet into the Andean foothills and gazed at the mountains in awe. He got to witness the eruption of volcanic Mount Osorno on January 15, 1835.
  • Valdivia, Chile

    On February 20, 1835, Charles experienced the earthquake and tidal wave that destroyed the city of Concepcion. Walking through the rubble of the city, he was intrigued mostly by the dead muscle beds lying above high tide. He had read about these geological formations where the continents were rising and had begun to wonder how long this must have taken.
  • Cocos Island

    When the ship made it to the Cocos Island, they used this opportunity to see if the captain's theory of coral formation was true. Charles had a (correct) theory that reefs grew on the sinking mountain tops.
  • Cape of Good Hope

    At the Cape of Good hope, Darwin met up with astronomer Sir John Herschel and potentially talked about gradual geological evolution and how it brought up the new problem of simultaneous change of fossil life.
  • The Geological Society

    Charles became a member of the Geological Society in January of 1837 and was the secretary by 1838.
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    Stress and Ploys

    Darwin began experiencing stomach problems and heart palpitations in March of 1837. His stress over evolution led him to Scotland in 1838 to study "parallel roads" of Glen Roy. As he continued his study into the scientific foundation of the cleric-dominated society, his illness returned. Charles was worried about his secrets being discovered and being accused of social abandonment. He found a new contempt for the Devine's shortsightedness.
  • Natural Selection

    Charles noticed that dog breeders and nature change characteristics in the same way. He also realized population explosion would lead to a competition for food that would weed out the unfit. This principle also applied to nature. He modified the Malthusian mechanism and called it "natural selection". The ones with the best traits survived to pass on its superior traits to its offspring.
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    Zoology of the Voyage of HMS Beagle

    He received a 1,000 pound grant through the Cabridge network and used the money to hire experts to describe his specimen. He published the findings in "Zoology of the Voyage of HMS Beagle" (1838-1843)
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    Charles moved into an ultraradical phase in 1838 and suggested that the belief in God was an ingrained survival strategy. He tried to hide his true stance in his notes because none of that could be known yet; he had too much to lose.
  • Journal of Researchers into the Geology and Natural History of the Various Countries Visited by HMS Beagle

    Darwin published his diary "Journal of Researchers into the Geology and Natural History of the Various Countries Visited by HMS Beagle" in 1839. He received a 1,000 pound grant through the Cabridge network and used the money to hire experts to describe his specimen.
  • Marriage to Emma

    Charles married his cousin Emma Wedgwood in 1839. Together they had 10 children, losing 2 in infancy and another to an illness at the age of 10. He even confided in Emma about his thoughts on evolution. When he saw how shocked she was by his view he realized that he must hide his thoughts. He still believed in God as the ultimate lawmaker, even though his theory left little room for such an entity.
  • Final Theory Notebook

    Charles finished his final theory notebook in 1839, with his theory mostly complete.
  • Seclusion

    In 1842, Darwin drafted a sketch of his theory on natural selection and then expanded it in 1844. He left a note for his wife to publish his work if he should die before he was ready. He moved his family to Downe becoming secluded from society. He began to live his life on a set schedule, rarely mentioning his double life. Charles thought believing in evolution was the equivalent of confessing to murder. He understood that his theory was a sensitive subject.
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    During this time period, Charles added on more credibility as an expert. He became interested in barnacles and their sexual differentiation. He was curious about how male and female forms diverge from an original hermaphrodite creature.
  • Royal Society’s Royal Medal

    Charles received the Royal Society's Royal Medal in 1853 for becoming a world expert in barnacles after publishing 4 different written works on the matter.
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    Evolutionary Branches

    The world was evolving and becoming safer for Darwin's theories. He finally solved the forking genera to create new evolutionary branches. The competition in nature’s overcrowded marketplace would favor variants that could exploit different aspects of a comfortable life. Species would mutate on the spot. He experemented with seeds to prove they could cross oceans to start the process of speciation on different islands. He perfected his idea of Natural Selection.
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    Natural Selection: The Triple Volume

    Darwin began writing a triple volume book, that was designed to crush the opposition, called Natural Selection. He had scientific and social authority and had a place in his parish. When his 10th child was born with developmental disabilities, it made him rethink that species stay adapted until their environments change. He finished the books on June 18, 1858. His work was read at Linnean Society on July 1, 1858. Darwin did not attend due to the loss of his son.
  • On the Origin of Species

    Charles quickly did an "abstract" of Natural Selection, which was more accessible. He was 50 years old, and suffering from more illnesses, when his book was sold to the trade. He was so nervous that he sent books with effacing letters to the experts. Newspapers drew the conclusion that humans derived from apes, although Darwin specifically avoided that subject, and denied humans immortality.
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    Home Laboratory

    Charles dealt with a lot of illnesses during the 1860s leaving his wife, Emma, to care for him. He continued to experiment and revamped the Origin through 6 editions. Darwin published Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication in 1868 in which he discussed the variations in domestic breeds. The Various Contrivances by which British and Foreign Orchids are Fertilized by Insects was published in 1862 and was used to show ways of natural selection without causing too much of a stir.
  • Royal Society's Copley Medal

    Charles gained the Royal Society's Copley Medal when Huxley and other professionals helped defend and push Darwin's ideas into areas of biological science that were previously considered taboo.
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    End of Life

    Darwin was rarely seen during this time period. People were in awe of him and seen him as a sweet old grandpa. He wrote his own autobiography between 1876 and 1881, more so for his grandchildren than for publication. He was very open about how he felt about Christian myths and claimed to be agnostic. Charles suffered a seizure in March of 1882 and suffered from angina.
  • Death

    Charles passed away on April 19, 1882, from a heart attack. He was laid to rest on April 26, 1882.