The Life & Legacy of Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin, the scientist who is known for the Evolutionary Theory, was born February 12, 1809 in Shropshire, England to two wealthy parents . Since a young age, Charles showed an interest in natural history and collecting specimens. While not much is known about Darwin’s early life, he was able to attend the University of Edinburgh Medical School, where he joined the Plinian Society and was able to study the anatomy and life cycle of marine invertebrates along with the history and classification of plants. Although Charles’ father pushed him to follow a path towards earning a degree in theology and becoming a parson, Charles pursued what was called an ordinary degree at Cambridge College and was able to have some of his finds on insect entomology in the llustrations of British Entomology.

After graduating from Cambridge College in 1831, Darwin’s interest in natural history began to grow, and he traveled to Tenerife to study natural history there with some friends. During the same year, Darwin was invited to travel with the HMS Beagle as a naturalist for the ship. With funding from his father and relative privacy and control over his collection for the trip. The voyage lasted roughly five years, and visited parts of the South American coastline in order to survey and chart different parts of the coast. Darwin spent most of his time studying the geology of South America and making different natural history collections to study. Darwin made sure to keep extensive records of his findings and theories for experts to look at later, and began to develop an idea that humans and animals weren’t as different as other scientists and people of the day thought they were. It was during this trip that Darwin and the crew of the HMS Beagle first stopped in the Galapagos Islands, where Darwin looked for evidence of a kind of “center of creation” where all modern animals descended from. This was where Darwin began noticing how the mockingbirds on each of the islands were slightly different from island to island, and that other kinds of animals (such as tortoises) followed a similar suit when it came to their appearances from island to island.

After the HMS Beagle arrived home in England in 1836, Darwin began to be accepted as a “gentleman scientist” in the more elite, scientific circles of the time – while on the trip, Darwin had been mailing home some of his findings whenever he had the chance, and one of his mentors, Stevens Henslow, had been selectively showcasing a pamphlet of Darwin’s letters on the geology of South America to some of the other, well-known naturalists of the time. Following Henslow’s advice, Darwin found naturalists that would help him to catalog his collections and botanical specimens from South America. He took up a residence near Cambridge and spent his time re-writing his first paper on how the South American landmass was rising before presenting it, along with his findings on the mammal and bird specimens that he had collected, to the Geological Society of London in 1837.

Shortly after this, Darwin moved to London and began to work on his now famous theory of evolution, which would go on to become his life’s work. Over the course of the next 20 or so years, Darwin delved further and further into the research on this topic and gathered enough evidence to provide support for his hypothesis that all animals evolved from a singular common ancestor. Darwin continued to work on his theory of evolution, with support from the findings on the mockingbirds and tortoises from the Galapagos Islands and other evidence from different genus of the same animal around the world. With the publication of his theory in his work titled On the Origin of Species, Darwin received a lot of backlash from most parts of society, which resulted in certain parts of society denouncing Darwin and his work on the account of heresy and sacrilege. However, within the scientific community, Darwin was still allowed to work and present his ideas in lectures and future essays and works in journals and other publications. Darwin continued to improve upon and present other evidence to support his hypothesis of evolution until his death in 1882.

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