Charles Robert Darwin

Charles Robert Darwin

Born: 1809. Died: 1882.

Ideas

- Species are related to each other by descent, with the changes from their common ancestors being caused by the survival and reproduction of advantageous genetic variants.

- Overpopulation and the resulting shortage of food create the pressure that causes organisms that have advantageous genetic variants to produce a greater number of surviving offspring than those that do not have these variants.

- Man and apes are descended from a common primate ancestor.

- Secondary sexual characteristics have evolved as part of a complex set of reproductive behaviours.

Biography

Charles Robert Darwin was born on February 12, 1809 in Shrewsbury, England. He was the fifth child and second son of Robert Waring Darwin and Susannah Wedgwood. Darwin was the British naturalist who became famous for his theories of evolution and natural selection. Like several scientists before him, Darwin believed all the life on earth evolved (developed gradually) over millions of years from a few common ancestors.

From 1831 to 1836 Darwin served as naturalist aboard the H.M.S. Beagle on a British science expedition around the world. In South America Darwin found fossils of extinct animals that were similar to modern species. On the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean he noticed many variations among plants and animals of the same general type as those in South America. The expedition visited places around the world, and Darwin studied plants and animals everywhere he went, collecting specimens for further study.

Upon his return to London Darwin conducted thorough research of his notes and specimens. Out of this study grew several related theories: one, evolution did occur; two, evolutionary change was gradual, requiring thousands to millions of years; three, the primary mechanism for evolution was a process called natural selection; and four, the millions of species alive today arose from a single original life form through a branching process called "specialization."

Darwin's theory of evolutionary selection holds that variation within species occurs randomly and that the survival or extinction of each organism is determined by that organism's ability to adapt to its environment. He set these theories forth in his book called, "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life" (1859) or "The Origin of Species" for short. After publication of Origin of Species, Darwin continued to write on botany, geology, and zoology until his death in 1882. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Darwin's work had a tremendous impact on religious thought. Many people strongly opposed the idea of evolution because it conflicted with their religious convictions. Darwin avoided talking about the theological and sociological aspects of his work, but other writers used his theories to support their own theories about society. Darwin was a reserved, thorough, hard working scholar who concerned himself with the feelings and emotions not only of his family, but friends and peers as well.

It has been supposed that Darwin renounced evolution on his deathbed. Shortly after his death, temperance campaigner and evangelist Lady Elizabeth Hope claimed she visited Darwin at his deathbed, and witnessed the renunciation. Her story was printed in a Boston newspaper and subsequently spread. Lady Hope's story was refuted by Darwin's daughter Henrietta who stated, "I was present at his deathbed ... He never recanted any of his scientific views, either then or earlier."

Major Books of Charles Robert Darwin

- The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, 1871
- The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, 1872
- Journal of Researches into the Geology and Natural History of the Various Countries Visited by the H.M.S. Beagle, 1839
- On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, 1859
- The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs, 1842
- Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, Parts 1: Fossil Mammalia, 2: Mammalia, 3: Birds, 4: Fish and 5: Reptiles, 1838-1843

Major Articles of Charles Robert Darwin

- 1839, Observations on the Parallel Roads of Glen Roy, and of Other Parts of Lochaber in Scotland, with an Attempt to Prove That They Are of Marine Origin , Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London
- 1839, Note on a Rock Seen on an Iceberg in 61o South Latitude, Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London

Quotes from Charles Robert Darwin

- "Among the scenes which are deeply impressed on my mind, none exceed in sublimity the primeval forests undefaced by the hand of man. No one can stand in these solitudes unmoved, and not feel that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body." (from "Journal of Researches into the Geology and Natural History of the Various Countries Visited by H.M.S. Beagle", 1839)

- "As natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection." (from "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life", 1859)

- "From the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved." (from "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life", 1859)

- "I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term of Natural Selection." (from "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life", 1859)

- "I use the term Struggle for Existence in a large and metaphorical sense, including dependence of one being on another, and including (which is more important) not only the life of the individual, but success in leaving progeny." (from "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life", 1859)

- "Man is descended from a hairy, tailed quadruped, probably arboreal in its habits." (from "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life", 1859)

- "There is no exception to the rule that every organic being naturally increases at so high a rate, that if not destroyed, the earth would soon be covered by the progeny of a single pair." (from "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life", 1859)

- "At no time am I a quick thinker or writer: whatever I have done in science has solely been by long pondering, patience and industry." (from a letter to Dr. F.E. Abbott, 1871)

- "A belief constantly inculcated during the early years of life, while the brain is impressible, appears to acquire almost the nature of an instinct; and the very essence of an instinct is that it is followed independently of reason." (from "The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex", 1874)

- "I agree with Agassiz that dogs possess something very like a conscience.
   Dogs possess some power of self-command, and this does not appear to be wholly the result of fear." (from "The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex", 1874)

- "Man is more courageous, pugnacious, and energetic than woman, and has a more inventive genius." (from "The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex", 1874)

- "The moral sense perhaps affords the best and highest distinction between man and the lower animals." (from "The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex", 1874)

- "Sympathy beyond the confines of man, that is, humanity to the lower animals, seems to be one of the latest moral acquisitions. ... This virtue, one of the noblest with which man is endowed, seems to arise incidentally from our sympathies becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until they are extended to all sentient beings. As soon as this virtue is honored and practiced by some few men, it spreads through instruction and example to the young, and eventually becomes incorporated in public opinion." (from "The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex", 1874)

- "Ultimately our moral sense or conscience becomes a highly complex sentiment-originating in the social instinct, largely guided by the approbation of our fellow men, ruled by reason, self-interest, and in later times by deep religious feelings, and confirmed by instruction-and habit." (from "The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex", 1874)

- "[Captain Fitz-Roy, of the Beagle, and I] had several quarrels; for instance, early in the voyage at Bahia, in Brazil, he defended and praised slavery, which I abominated, and told me that he had just visited a great slave owner, who had called up many of his slaves and asked them whether they were happy, and whether they wished to be free, and all answered "No." I then asked him, perhaps with a sneer, whether he thought that the answer of slaves in the presence of their master was worth anything?." (from "The Autobiography of Charles Darwin and Selected Letters", 1879)

- "I am not the least afraid to die." (from "The Autobiography of Charles Darwin and Selected Letters", 1879)

- "I have steadily endeavored to keep my mind free so as to give up any hypothesis, however much beloved (and I cannot resist forming one on every subject), as soon as facts are shown to be opposed to it." (from "The Autobiography of Charles Darwin and Selected Letters", 1879)

- "In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an Atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. I think that generally (and more and more as I grow older), but not always, that an Agnostic would be the more correct description of my state of mind." (from "The Autobiography of Charles Darwin and Selected Letters", 1879)

- "It is the duty of everyone to spread what he believes to be the truth." (from "The Autobiography of Charles Darwin and Selected Letters", 1879)

- "My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts." (from "The Autobiography of Charles Darwin and Selected Letters", 1879)

- "With such moderate abilities as I possess, it is truly surprising that I should have influenced to a considerable extent the belief of scientific men on some important points." (from "The Autobiography of Charles Darwin and Selected Letters", 1879)

- "How paramount the future is to the present when one is surrounded by children." (from a letter to Rev. William Darwin Fox, 1892)

- "Whilst I was young and strong I was capable of very warm attachments, but of late years, though I still have very friendly feelings towards many persons, I have lost the power of becoming deeply attached to anyone, not even so deeply to my good and dear friends Hooker and Huxley, as I should formerly have been. ... The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature." (from "Charles Darwin, the Anaesthetic Man" by Donald Fleming published in Victorian Studies)

- "It is a cursed evil to any man to become as absorbed in any subject as I am in mine."

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