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Biography of Charles Darwin

Oct 08, 1999 793 Words
CHARLES ROBERT DARWIN

(1809-1882)

Charles Darwin was a very famous British scientist who laid the foundation of modern evolutionary theory with his concept of the development of all forms of life through the slow working process of natural selection. His work was mainly based on the life and earth sciences an on modern thought in general.

Charles Robert Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England on February 12, 1809. He was the fifth child of Robert Warning Darwin. After Char-les had graduated from the elite school at Shrewsbury in 1825, young Darwin went to the University of Edinburg to study medicine. In 1827 he had dropped out of medical school and attended University of Cambridge to prepare to become a cler-gyman of the Church of England. There he met two stellar figures, Adam Sedg-wick, a geologist, and John Stevens Henslow, a naturalist. Henslow not only helped build Darwin's self-confidence, but also taught his student to be a meticulous and painstaking observer of natural phenomena and collector of specimens. After Char-les had graduated from Cambridge he 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.

Now Charles Darwin was around the age twenty-two while he was on the HMS Beagle. Darwin's job as a naturalist aboard the Beagle gave him the opportu-nity to observe the various geological formations found on different continents and islands along the way, as well as a huge variety of fossils and organisms. In his geo-logical observations he was amazed mostly with the effect that natural forces had on shaping the earth's surface.

During this time, most geologists stuck to the so-called catastrophes theory that the earth had experienced a succession of creations of animal and plant life, and that each creation had been destroyed by a sudden catastrophe, such as an upheaval of the earth's surface. It was said that the Noah's flood had wiped away all life ex-cept those forms taken into the ark. The rest were visible only in the forms of fos-sils. In the view of the catastrophists, species were created individually and immu-table. There was another famous scientist who challenged this theory, he was known as Sir Charles Lyell. He had stated that the surface of the earth was con-stantly undergoing changes.

Darwin, who still had been aboard the Beagle, found himself fitting many of his observations into Lyell's general view. However, Charles realized that his ob-servations of fossils, animals, and living plants doubted the Lyell-supported view that species were specially created. In the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecua-dor, he also observed that each island had supported its own form of tortoise, finch, and mockingbird; the forms were closely related but somehow differed in the struc-ture and they also had different eating habits from island to island. This had raised Darwin a question of possible links between distinct but similar species.

Darwin had returned to England in 1836, he began to record his thoughts on changeability of species in his notes. Then in 1838 he concluded a sketch of a theory of evolution through natural selection. For the next two decades he worked on his theory. Then around 1839 he married his first cousin, Emma Wedgewood, and soon after he moved to a small estate outside of London. There he and his wife had ten children, but three died out of infancy.

Darwin announced his theory in 1858, and he completed it in 1859 in a book called On the Origin of Species. Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is essential, because of the food-supply problem, the young born into any species has to compete for survival. Those who survive to produce the next generation tend to fa-vor natural variations- the process of natural selection-and these variations tend to pass on by heredity. Therefore each new generation will improve adaptively over the generations, and this is the cycle of species that everything goes through. Many people did not agree with this theory, so they attacked Darwin with questions, but then many religious beliefs had agreed and also got the public to agree as well.

Later, after many years, Darwin spent the rest of his life finding more re-search on his theories and finished writing all his books with many different vol-umes. He traveled very little, only from and back to London. He did a lot more re-search at home and at the age of 73, he died in Down, Kent. Then on April 19th, 1882, he was buried at Westminister Abbey.

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