the town of Shrewsbury, Shrospire in England, Darwin first knew life on February 12th 1809. Grandson of Erasmus Darwin, who was famous in his own rights as a natural philosopher and Josiah Wedgwood, who brought about the industrialization of pottery production, Darwin was groomed early on for a life of education.
Darwin first attended school in Shrewsbury. At the Shrewsbury School, he studied under Dr. Samuel Butler. Feeling constrained by the narrow minded approach to education, which was universally accepted, he left the Shrewsbury School. Later in 1825, Charles Darwin moved to Edinburg with the intent to study towards a career in the medical field. Within a short amount of time he realized that this would not be the course that his life would lead. In 1828, with the help of his father, he relocated to Cambridge, his intent would be to study and eventually join the Clergy. In 1831 Darwin earned his degree from Christ’s College where he matriculated. Graduating a mere 10th in his class, he quickly developed a love of sports and of entomology, the study of insects. While attending school at Cambridge, Charles Darwin made the acquaintance and friendship of men such as Robert Edmond Grand, William Macgillivray, and James Stevens Henslow.
After passing his last examinations, Charles Darwin took two terms of residence at Cambridge, where he moved his focus of interest towards geology. During this time Darwin and another geologist, Adam Sedgwick made an excursion to Northern Wales in 1831. After returning from this trip, Darwin would be prompted by one of his peers to apply for a position aboard the HMS Beagle. He would function as the position of “Naturalist” during a long surveying expedition.
Darwin’s voyage aboard the HMS Beagle would last from 1831 to 1836. These 5 years of exploration and discovery would become his inspiration for many later views and ideas. Among the most widely known is the theory of evolution by natural selection. Functioning in the capacity of the ships naturalist, Darwin’s job was to study the geographical features of unexplored coasts and ecosystems. He would collect an immense cache of specimens in his studies showing evidence of species evolution. His first theory was that the earth was only 6000 years old, and that the inhabitants were unchanged during this time of the planet’s development. This would later change as Darwin would realize that the earth was infinitely more aged than his first belief of a mere 6000 years. In South America, Darwin witnessed one of the marvels of nature. After a large earthquake the landscape was altered; the ground in certain places had risen by several feet. Later in the expedition of the Beagle, Darwin would have the opportunity to study the Galapagos Islands. He would find multiple species of animals and reptiles which were adaptations of similar species found in other parts of the world. These discoveries would bring about the realization that the earth was in constant geographical and ecological change. The inhabitants of Earth were also in a constant flux of adaptation geared towards the survival of the inevitable change of their environment. During his voyage on the Beagle, Darwin would encounter many more examples of the adaptation of various species for survival within the respective environments. Pondering these observations, Darwin would begin to question how and why life would adapt to meet the demands of the climate and ecology of the native land.
Darwin’s Notebooks on the Transmutation of Species, which was inspired by an essay on the Principle of Population by Thomas Robert Malthus, would become his first work towards his forming view of evolution. In 1838, Charles Darwin would arrive at his first idea of the theory of Evolution through Natural Selection. In 1858, Darwin would reveal his theory Evolution to the Linnaean Society of London. His first published work, “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection” would ignite a firestorm of debate among both the scientific and religious communities.
In 1859, Darwin’s shattering work, The Origin of Species, came out (“a sell out in one day”); it is now recognized as a leading work in natural philosophy and in the history of mankind. Simply stated, Darwin’s theory is that things, and, in particular, life, evolves by a process which Darwin called “natural selection.”
“Currently we accept the general idea that biological development can be explained by mutations in combination with natural selection. In its essential parts, therefore, Darwin’s theory of development has been accepted. In Darwin’s time mutations were not known about; their discovery has led to extensive modifications of his theory, but it has also eliminated the most important objections to it. …
We are beginning to see that the awesome wonder of the evolution from amoeba to man – for it is without a doubt an awesome wonder – was not the result of a mighty word from a creator, but of a combination of small, apparently insignificant processes. The structural change occurring in a molecule within a chromosome, the result of a struggle over food between two animals, the reproduction and feeding of young – such are the simple elements that together, in the course of millions of years, created the great wonder. This is nothing separate from ordinary life. The wonder is in our everyday world, if only we have the ability to see it.” (Alfvén’s Atom, Man, and the Universe.)
The scientific community would widely accept his ideas while the church would vehemently deny his findings. His views on the evolutionary theory, in conjunction with the Mendelian genetics would become known as the “modern Synthesis”, a belief that is still widely accepted in the scientific community today.
The repercussions of the church were both severe and widespread. The Clergy would argue that this was a direct challenge to the widely accepted belief of Creation taught by the Church. Darwin would find himself denied a knighthood for his achievements due to the influence of the church on the Crown.
The works and studies of Charles Darwin, while still widely accepted today, are often misunderstood. Many people relate Darwin’s theory to the origins of life, other people belief that he was the first person to propose the idea of evolution, an idea originating to the time of the Ancient Greeks, Both beliefs are fallible, While he may not have been the first to propose Evolution, he was the first to document and present a scientific argument towards this theory.
Charles Darwin’s contribution to the scientific world today, without question, makes him one of the most important scientists of all times. Even the church as began to issue apologies, post humorous, to Darwin. A mere 200 years after his birth, Darwin is finally realizing his success among both the Scientific World and the Church.