CHARLES DARWIN: A BIOGRAPHY.

Date and place of birth: February 12, 1809, Shrewsbury, England.

Parents: Father: Robert Warring Darwin, a physician, son of Erasmus Darwin, physician and author. Mother: Susannah Wedgwood, daughter of Josiah Wedgwood, the founder of the Wedgwood China factory. She died when Charles was eight years old.

Financial and social standing: a family of means, upper middle class.

Schooling: Public School at Shrewsbury (headmaster, Dr. Samuel Butler a classicist with little tolerance for science). Medical school at the University of Edinburgh, 1825-27. Main interest: outdoor activities. Friends: Robert Jameson, geologist. Robert Grant, zoologist. School of Divinity at Christ College at the University of Cambridge, 1827. Graduated in 1831. Main interest: geological survey with Adam Sedgwick, professor of geology at Cambridge. Frequent outdoor studies with the cleric botanist John Stevens Henslow.

Major events in his life:

1. The voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle December 27, 1831, from Plymouth, England, with captain Robert FitzRoy. The purpose of the voyage was to survey of the coastlines of South America and brief study of the Pacific Islands. Return: October 2, 1836 at Falmouth, England.
2. Marriage: On January 29, 1839, he married his first cousin Emma Wedgwood. In 1842 they moved into Down House in the village of Downe, Kent, close to London. Charles and Emma Darwin had 10 children, seven of them, five sons and two daughters survived into adulthood. Of the five sons, George, Francis, and Horace be came scientists, Leonard was a major in the royal army, while the fifth son, William Erasmus pursued no professional interests. Of the two daughters, Henrietta married, while Elizabeth, remained single. and stayed at Down with her parents.
3. Publication of the book The Origin of Species in 1859 in which he outlined and verified the major tenets of biological evolution by means of natural selection. His major supporters were John Stevens Henslow the cleric botanist, Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, botanist and director of Kew Gardens in London, Charles Lyell the geologist, and Thomas Henry Huxley, biologist and educator. (Darwin’s bulldog.)
General health: rather poor. Symptoms: digestive problems, vomiting, insomnia, palpitations. Since these symptoms were often associated with controversies about his evolutionary ideas, they may have been psychosomatic in origin.
Charles Robert Darwin died at Down House on April 19, 1882, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Darwin's major works:
Journal of a Naturalist. (1836)
Narratives of the Surveying Voyages of H.M.S. Adventure and Beagle. (1840-43)
The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs. (1842)
On the Tendency of Species to Form Varieties . . . by Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace, read before the Linnean Society in London. (1858)
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. (1859)
A Naturalist’s Voyage. (1860)
On the Various Contrivances by Which British and Foreign Orchids Are Fertilised by Insects, and On the Good Effects of Intercrossing. (1862)
On the Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants. (1865)
The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication. (1868)
The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. (1871)
The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. (1872)
Insectivorous Plants. (1875)
The Effects of Cross and Self Fertilisation in the Vegetable Kingdom. (1876)
Volcanic Islands. (1876
The Different Forms of Flowers on Plants of the Same Species. (1877) The Power of Movement in Plants. (1880)
The Formation of Vegetable Mould, Through the Action of Worms, with Observations on Their Habits. (1881)


Sources:
Encyclopedia Britannica on Line.
Alan Moorhead: Darwin and the Beagle. Harper and Row. 1969.
Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace: Evolution by Natural selection. Cambridge University Press. Published for the XVth International Congress of Zoology and the Linnean Society of London. 1958.

 

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