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Charles Darwin is famous for his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. The book mostly referred to as On the Origin of Species was published in 1859. The English geologist, naturalist, and biologist made incredible contributions to the field of science, catapulting him to iconic status. Darwin came up with a theory he called natural selection in which he argued that species were not created separately. Instead, nature was the main architect of change. Much of his reasoning was influenced by renowned academic advisors, the likes of John Stevens Henslow and Adam Sedgwick, in addition to being influenced by Charles Lyell, John Herschel, and his grandfather Erasmus Darwin. Darwin’s scientific discovery helped unify the theory of life sciences, which explains the diversity of life.
Early life and education
Charles Robert Darwin was born on 12 February 1809 and died on 19 April 1882. He was the second last born in a family of six children, the son of a wealthy doctor and financier Robert Darwin. His family was largely Unitarian, although Darwin’s mother, Susannah Darwin, adopted Anglicanism. Darwin and his siblings were frequenters at the Unitarian chapel, where the young boy expressed his liking for natural history under the guidance of its children’s pastor.
Darwin joined the Anglican Shrewsbury School, where his brother Erasmus schooled. In 1825, he started apprenticing as a doctor under his father, helping him treat the poor of Shropshire. He later joined the University of Edinburgh Medical School, which was the best medical school in the UK at that time. Having found the classes to be dull and the surgeries distressing, Darwin neglected his studies and spent the most time learning taxidermy from John Edmonstone, a freed black slave speculated to have come from South America.
His father was infuriated by Darwin’s decision to neglect medical school and sent him to Christ’s College, Cambridge where he studied a Bachelor of Arts degree. This is where his journey on natural selection began, first studying Natural Theology or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity by Paley.
Due to his many readings on nature topics at Christ’s College, Darwin got exposed to natural philosophy. His readings on Personal Narrative by Alexander von Humboldt created a burning zeal in Darwin to contribute, making up his mind to travel to the tropics and study natural history upon graduation. He joined Adam Sedgwick’s geology course and traveled with him to Strata in Wales, where Darwin got significant exposure. He was further exposed when he joined Captain Robert Fitzroy on a voyage, making natural history collections.
Darwin’s wide reading and exposure to nature eventually culminated in him coming up with the evolutionary theory. The naturalist’s work was highly influential, paving way for the emergence of social Darwinism, a collective term which described theories of society that claimed to apply concepts of natural selection and survival of the fittest.
Charles Darwin is regarded as one of the most influential figures in history. He was a fellow of the Linnean Society of London. Darwin College was set up at Cambridge University in honor of the Darwin family. He was also honored by being buried in Westminster Abbey when he died on 19 April 1882.