Charles Darwin The theory of evolution by natural selection that was created by Charles Darwin that completely changed the study of living things. His idea remains central to the foundations of today’s biology. Darwin helped guide in a new era in the intellectual and cultural history of mankind. On February 12, 1809, Charles Robert Darwin was born in a very small merchant town of Shrewsbury, England. He was the fifth child out of six. Darwin came from an extended line of scientists. His grandfather, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, was a renowned botanist, and his father, Dr. R.W. Darwin, was a medical doctor. When he was just eight years old, his mother, Susanna passed away. He was a product of privilege and riches who enjoyed exploring nature. Initially, Darwin planned to pursue a medical career. He showed no interest though and his father told him, "You care for nothing but school, dogs, and rat-catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family" (Britannica Library). He had no concern in ancient history or in the classical languages that were taught in school. Instead, he liked to collect coins, shells, and birds' eggs. He also helped his brother make chemical experiments, and he watched insects and birds. At the age of 16, in October 1825, he began to study at Edinburgh University, as well as his brother, Erasmus. However, there he found the programs were boring, and watching surgical procedures made him sick. In 1828, two years later, Darwin transferred to Christ's College in Cambridge planning to become a minister. Rather, he dedicated most of his time studying animals and plants and later to geology. In 1831, he earned his bachelor's degree. While Darwin was at Cambridge, botany professor John Stevens Henslow, became his adviser. In 1831, after he had graduated, Henslow recommended him for an unpaid naturalist's position on the HMS Beagle. On December 27, 1831, it left England to sail around the world and map the southern coasts of South America. The journey, with many secondary trips on land, lasted until October 1836. Darwin collected an array of natural species, including plants, fossils, and birds over the course of the voyage. Through experimentation and hands-on research, he had a one-of-a-kind chance to carefully examine principles of zoology, geology, and botany. In the mountains, islands, and jungles he visited, he noticed evidence of the many geologic differences that have been taking place for over the course of many years. For instance, the land increasingly rising in some locations but falling in others. He also thought about t the great variety of living things, even in the bottom of the ocean where no humans could acknowledge their beauty. He thought about how the fossils he gathered suggested that some kinds of animals had died out. When he returned home, he was filled with many questions. Upon his return to England, Darwin settled in London. He quietly started to work on what would become his great theory of evolution, developed mostly in 1837-89. In the meantime, he wrote up the Journal of his scientific work on the HMS Beagle. He also sought opinions of experts to help him analyze the thousands of fossils and samples he had brought back, and the results were published. He was admitted to the renowned Royal Society in 1839. The trip had an enormous impact on his view of natural history. He started to develop a revolutionary theory about the creation of living creatures that was opposite to the well-known view of other naturalists at the time. In 1839, Darwin married his cousin, Emma Wedgwood, and in the course of time, they had ten children. He began to refrain from the public, and in 1842, they moved to the remote village of Downe. This was somewhat due to physical illness: several years earlier, Darwin had started to experience heart problems that would affect him for his entire life. Although, he also wanted
Possible readings include selections from The Metamorphosis (Ovid), Gulliver’s Travels (Jonathan
Swift), Leviathan (Thomas Hobbes), Frankenstein (Mary Shelley), The Descent of Man (Charles Darwin), Tess of
the D’Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy), The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka), The Burrow (Franz Kafka), Sociobiology
(E.O. Wilson), Animal Liberation (Peter Singer), The Lives of Animals (J.M. Coetzee), and Disgrace (J.M.