Who was Charles Darwin?


Charles Darwin


Charles Darwin was born on 2/12/1809 in Shrewsbury, England.  In 1825, he began to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh.  During his second years of college, he was introduced to the ideas of Larmarckism.  That theory states that acquired traits are passed on through each generation.  In 1827, Darwin left medical school and entered Christ’s College at Cambridge to study to be a clergyman, but he did not take his education very seriously.  In 1828, he became interested in natural sciences, and in 1829 he started to doubt his career as a clergyman.

In 1831, he was invited onboard the HMS Beagle, and agreed to work as a naturalist on a 5-year voyage.  With him on the ship, he had a copy of Charles Lyell’s book, Principles of Geology.  He also had a copy of the Bible, but others on board scoffed at him for reading it.   When they stopped at islands in South America, he collected different specimens of birds, animals, fish, and fossils.  In September of 1835, the ship arrived at the Galapagos Islands where Darwin collected different species of finches.  After sailing to various other places around the world, they returned to England in October of 1836.

In 1837, a man named John Gould looked at the finches that Darwin had collected and noticed that they had variations in their beaks.  Darwin began to formulate his theory on what causes changes within a species (because something has to cause the change), but he kept it to himself for fear of it being heretical. 

Darwin read a book by Thomas Malthus that described how humans would struggle for resources as populations grew.  Darwin adapted this concept to the changes seen in animals.  In 1842, he wrote his basic theory of the descent of animals through the process of natural selection.  Over time, Darwin met other people and shared his theory with them but received mixed responses.  Darwin read an essay written by Alfred R. Russell on the evolution of new species, but Darwin was not impressed with it.  In 1858, he received another paper from Wallace that contained many of the same ideas that Darwin had.  While Wallace believed that changes were guided by a higher power, Darwin thought they were all natural and had no goals or guidance.  In 1859, Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life, was published.

After his book, prominent secular figures such as Thomas Huxley and Joseph Hooker helped promote Darwin’s theory and they influenced many in the scientific community.  This was not well accepted by religious leaders on the grounds that it would affect morality and biblical truths.   In 1866, Darwin wrote another book, Descent of Man, using his evolutionary ideas and applying it to humans. 

Although at one time he studied to be a clergyman, later in life Darwin began to question the miracles in the Bible and also the Old and New Testaments.  When his daughter, Anne, died, he finally lost his faith in God.   He died in 1882.

More information can be found at www.aboutdarwin.com