Darwin - Pioneer of Evolutionary Theory

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Charles Darwin: Pioneer of Evolution Theory
Charles Darwin is the source of one of the biggest controversial subjects in the modern world. A pioneer of evolutionary biology, Darwin’s ideas and observations are all the more important in today’s further understanding of the sciences. Darwin’s work and understanding has propelled him to become one of the most influential scientists that ever lived.

The Grandfather of Charles, Erasmus Darwin, was a physician and poet with a fascination for natural philosophy. (Berra, 2). He was a kind-hearted man and enjoyed a comfortable life due to his popularity as a physician. He refused payment from poor patients and even offered them food and money! He was very close to several of the wealthy patients who made his comfortable life possible, and was a member of a group of intellectuals that jokingly called themselves the Lunatics. This group included James Watt, who perfected the steam engine, and Joseph Priestley, who is credited with the discovery of oxygen. Perhaps more importantly, the work that Erasmus proposed included an explanation for the origin and development of life. He published a book where he discussed cross-fertilization of plants as well as the domestication of animals. He also published other works discussing inheritance mechanisms and sexual selection.

Robert Darwin, like his father, was a respected physician. His marriage with Susannah Wedgwood was a result of the friendship between Erasmus Darwin and Josiah Wedgwood, the man credited with the industrialization of the manufacture of pottery. They had six children, four of which were girls.

Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809. The family home, the Mount, was located in Shrewsbury. Except for the death of his mother in 1817, Charles had a happy as well as privileged childhood. Uninterested in the classical education in his home town, he enjoyed hunting at the age of fifteen. His father was displeased with his son’s newfound interest, and decided to pull him out of school. He gave Charles the opportunity to serve as an assistant in his medical practice. Charles did insignificant work, but nonetheless realized that attempting to predict diagnoses was something that he had at least a remote interest in. His father and grandfather were going to influence the way Charles thought enough to pursue an understanding of the unknown.

Charles joined his older brother Erasmus, or Ras, at Edinburgh University in 1825. The two enjoyed the privileged lifestyle that was given to them, but eventually Charles found the medical lectures boring and uninteresting. Instead, he enjoyed sorting through fisherman’s nets, and had a genuine interest in zoologist and physician Robert Grant. Grant was an expert on marine life, particularly sponges, and provided Darwin with opportunities for field trips, research projects, and scientific presentations.

It was around this point of his life where Charles began to discover what genuinely excited his interest and imagination. After attending a lecture of American painter and ornithologist John Aububon, he became fascinated with taxidermy. This led him to take private lessons from a former slave who was likely the only black man in Edinburgh at this time (Berra, 8). Charles wrote to his sisters about his unhappiness; he was much more interested in natural history rather than medicine. During his second year in Edinburgh, a persuaded father Darwin decided that if Charles would not become a physician, he would become a clergyman. It is important to note that the Darwins were quite the opposite of a religious household, but nonetheless Charles was to attend Cambridge to study for the church.

Charles studied Latin and Greek for eight months before deciding that he was ready for Cambridge. After arriving to Cambridge in 1828, he found that the environment was more suited for him. He socialized with like-minded individuals and collected different plants and beetles. He also socialized...
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