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Charles Darwin 1809-1882

Naturalist Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England, on February 12, 1809. In 1831, he embarked on a five-year survey voyage around the world on the HMS Beagle. His studies of specimens around the globe led him to formulate his theory of evolution and his views on the process of natural selection. In 1859, he published On the Origin of the Species. He died on April 19, 1882, in London.

PERHAPS no one has influenced our knowledge of life on Earth as much as the English naturalist Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882). His theory of evolution by natural selection, now the unifying theory of the life sciences, explained where all of the astonishingly diverse kinds of living things came from and how they became exquisitely adapted to their particular environments. His theory reconciled a host of diverse kinds of evidence such as the progressive nature of fossil forms in the geological record, the geographical distribution of species, recapitulative appearances in embryology, homologous structures, vestigial organs and nesting taxonomic relationships. No other explanation before or since has made sense of these facts.
In further works Darwin demonstrated that the difference between humans and other animals is one of degree not kind. In geology, zoology, taxonomy, botany, palaeontology, philosophy, anthropology, psychology, literature and theology Darwin's writings produced profound reactions, many of which are still ongoing. Yet even without his evolutionary works, Darwin's accomplishments would be difficult to match. His brilliantly original work in geology, botany, biogeography, invertebrate zoology, psychology and scientific travel writing would still make him one of the most original and influential workers in the history of science. Darwin's writings are consequently of interest to an extremely wide variety of readers. This site contains the largest collection of his writings ever published.
While Darwin was at Christ's College, botany professor John Stevens Henslow became his mentor. After Darwin graduated Christ’s College with a bachelor of arts degree in 1831, Henslow recommended him for a naturalist’s position aboard the HMS Beagle. The ship, commanded by Captain Robert FitzRoy, was to take a five-year survey trip around the world. The voyage would prove the opportunity of a lifetime for the budding young naturalist. On December 27, 1831, the HMS Beagle launched its voyage around the world with Darwin in tow. Over the course of the trip, Darwin collected a variety of natural specimens, including birds, plants and fossils. Through hands-on research and experimentation, he had the unique opportunity to closely observe principles of botany, geology and zoology. The Pacific Islands and Galapagos Archipelago were of particular interest to Darwin, as was South America. Upon his return to England in 1836, Darwin began to write up his findings in the Journal of Researches, published as part of Captain FitzRoy’s larger narrative and later edited into the Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle. The trip had a monumental affect on Darwin’s view of natural history. He began to develop a revolutionary theory about the origin of living beings that was contrary to the popular view of other naturalists at the time.
Darwin’s exposure to specimens all over the globe raised important questions. Other naturalists believed that all species either came into being at the start of the world, or were created over the course of natural history. In either case, the species were believed to remain much the same throughout time. Darwin, however, noticed similarities among species all over the globe, along with variations based on specific locations, leading him to believe that they had gradually evolved from common ancestors.

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