104 Facts About Charles Darwin


Charles Robert Darwin was an English naturalist, geologist, and biologist, widely known for his contributions to evolutionary biology.


Puzzled by the geographical distribution of wildlife and fossils he collected on the voyage, Charles Darwin began detailed investigations and, in 1838, devised his theory of natural selection.


Charles Darwin was writing up his theory in 1858 when Alfred Russel Wallace sent him an essay that described the same idea, prompting immediate joint submission of both their theories to the Linnean Society of London.


Charles Darwin's work established evolutionary descent with modification as the dominant scientific explanation of diversification in nature.


Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution with compelling evidence in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species.


Charles Robert Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, on 12 February 1809, at his family's home, The Mount.


Charles Darwin was the fifth of six children of wealthy society doctor and financier Robert Darwin and Susannah Darwin.


Erasmus Charles Darwin had praised general concepts of evolution and common descent in his Zoonomia, a poetic fantasy of gradual creation including undeveloped ideas anticipating concepts his grandson expanded.


Robert Darwin, a freethinker, had baby Charles baptised in November 1809 in the Anglican St Chad's Church, Shrewsbury, but Charles and his siblings attended the local Unitarian Church with their mother.


The eight-year-old Charles Darwin already had a taste for natural history and collecting when he joined the day school run by its preacher in 1817.


Charles Darwin spent the summer of 1825 as an apprentice doctor, helping his father treat the poor of Shropshire, before going to the well-regarded University of Edinburgh Medical School with his brother Erasmus in October 1825.


Charles Darwin found lectures dull and surgery distressing, so he neglected his studies.


Charles Darwin learned taxidermy in around 40 daily hour-long sessions from John Edmonstone, a freed black slave who had accompanied Charles Waterton in the South American rainforest.


Charles Darwin assisted Robert Edmond Grant's investigations of the anatomy and life cycle of marine invertebrates in the Firth of Forth, and on 27 March 1827 presented at the Plinian his own discovery that black spores found in oyster shells were the eggs of a skate leech.


Charles Darwin was astonished by Grant's audacity, but had recently read similar ideas in his grandfather Erasmus' journals.


Charles Darwin learned the classification of plants, and assisted with work on the collections of the University Museum, one of the largest museums in Europe at the time.


Charles Darwin was unqualified for Cambridge's Tripos exams, and was required instead to join the ordinary degree course.


Charles Darwin did this zealously, and had some of his finds published in James Francis Stephens' Illustrations of British entomology.


Charles Darwin met other leading parson-naturalists who saw scientific work as religious natural theology, becoming known to these dons as "the man who walks with Henslow".


When his own exams drew near, Charles Darwin applied himself to his studies and was delighted by the language and logic of William Paley's Evidences of Christianity.


Charles Darwin studied Paley's Natural Theology or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, which made an argument for divine design in nature, explaining adaptation as God acting through laws of nature.


Robert Charles Darwin objected to his son's planned two-year voyage, regarding it as a waste of time, but was persuaded by his brother-in-law, Josiah Wedgwood II, to agree to his son's participation.


Charles Darwin took care to remain in a private capacity to retain control over his collection, intending it for a major scientific institution.


Charles Darwin kept careful notes of his observations and theoretical speculations, and at intervals during the voyage his specimens were sent to Cambridge together with letters including a copy of his journal for his family.


Charles Darwin had some expertise in geology, beetle collecting and dissecting marine invertebrates, but in all other areas, was a novice and ably collected specimens for expert appraisal.


Charles Darwin found bony plates like a giant version of the armour on local armadillos.


In Patagonia, Charles Darwin came to wrongly believe the territory was devoid of reptiles.


On rides with gauchos into the interior to explore geology and collect more fossils, Charles Darwin gained social, political and anthropological insights into both native and colonial people at a time of revolution, and learnt that two types of rhea had separate but overlapping territories.


Charles Darwin read Lyell's second volume and accepted its view of "centres of creation" of species, but his discoveries and theorising challenged Lyell's ideas of smooth continuity and of extinction of species.


Charles Darwin found them friendly and civilised, yet at Tierra del Fuego he met "miserable, degraded savages", as different as wild from domesticated animals.


Charles Darwin remained convinced that, despite this diversity, all humans were interrelated with a shared origin and potential for improvement towards civilisation.


Charles Darwin experienced an earthquake in Chile in 1835 and saw signs that the land had just been raised, including mussel-beds stranded above high tide.


Charles Darwin theorised that as the land rose, oceanic islands sank, and coral reefs round them grew to form atolls.


Charles Darwin heard that slight variations in the shape of tortoise shells showed which island they came from, but failed to collect them, even after eating tortoises taken on board as food.


Charles Darwin's Journal was eventually rewritten as a separate third volume, on geology and natural history.


Charles Darwin later wrote that such facts "seemed to me to throw some light on the origin of species".


Charles Darwin first heard of this at Cape Town, and at Ascension Island read of Sedgwick's prediction that Charles Darwin "will have a great name among the Naturalists of Europe".


Charles Darwin promptly made the long coach journey to Shrewsbury to visit his home and see relatives.


Charles Darwin then hurried to Cambridge to see Henslow, who advised him on finding available naturalists to catalogue Darwin's animal collections and to take on the botanical specimens.


Charles Darwin's father organised investments, enabling his son to be a self-funded gentleman scientist, and an excited Charles Darwin went around the London institutions being feted and seeking experts to describe the collections.


Owen's surprising results included other gigantic extinct ground sloths as well as the Megatherium Charles Darwin had identified, a near complete skeleton of the unknown Scelidotherium and a hippopotamus-sized rodent-like skull named Toxodon resembling a giant capybara.


Questions of how to combine his diary into the Narrative were resolved at the end of the month when FitzRoy accepted Broderip's advice to make it a separate volume, and Charles Darwin began work on his Journal and Remarks.


The ornithologist John Gould soon announced that the Galapagos birds that Charles Darwin had thought a mixture of blackbirds, "gros-beaks" and finches, were, in fact, twelve separate species of finches.


Charles Darwin stayed with his freethinking brother Erasmus, part of this Whig circle and a close friend of the writer Harriet Martineau, who promoted the Malthusianism that underpinned the controversial Whig Poor Law reforms to stop welfare from causing overpopulation and more poverty.


Gould met Charles Darwin and told him that the Galapagos mockingbirds from different islands were separate species, not just varieties, and what Charles Darwin had thought was a "wren" was in the finch group.


Charles Darwin had not labelled the finches by island, but from the notes of others on the ship, including FitzRoy, he allocated species to islands.


Charles Darwin sketched branching descent, and then a genealogical branching of a single evolutionary tree, in which "It is absurd to talk of one animal being higher than another", thereby discarding Lamarck's idea of independent lineages progressing to higher forms.


Charles Darwin stretched the funding to include his planned books on geology, and agreed to unrealistic dates with the publisher.


Charles Darwin's Journal was printed and ready for publication by the end of February 1838, as was the first volume of the Narrative, but FitzRoy was still working hard to finish his own volume.


William Whewell pushed Charles Darwin to take on the duties of Secretary of the Geological Society.


Charles Darwin included mankind in his speculations from the outset, and on seeing an orangutan in the zoo on 28 March 1838 noted its childlike behaviour.


The cause of Charles Darwin's illness remained unknown, and attempts at treatment had only ephemeral success.


Charles Darwin visited Glen Roy in glorious weather to see the parallel "roads" cut into the hillsides at three heights.


Charles Darwin later published his view that these were marine raised beaches, but then had to accept that they were shorelines of a proglacial lake.


Charles Darwin did not get around to proposing, but against his father's advice, he mentioned his ideas on transmutation.


Charles Darwin later called his theory natural selection, an analogy with what he termed the "artificial selection" of selective breeding.


Charles Darwin accepted, then in exchanges of loving letters she showed how she valued his openness in sharing their differences, while expressing her strong Unitarian beliefs and concerns that his honest doubts might separate them in the afterlife.


On 24 January 1839, Charles Darwin was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.


Charles Darwin now had the framework of his theory of natural selection "by which to work", as his "prime hobby".


Charles Darwin's research included extensive experimental selective breeding of plants and animals, finding evidence that species were not fixed and investigating many detailed ideas to refine and substantiate his theory.


On 11 January 1844, Charles Darwin mentioned his theorising to the botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker, writing with melodramatic humour "it is like confessing a murder".


Charles Darwin scorned its amateurish geology and zoology, but carefully reviewed his own arguments.


Charles Darwin now renewed a fascination and expertise in marine invertebrates, dating back to his student days with Grant, by dissecting and classifying the barnacles he had collected on the voyage, enjoying observing beautiful structures and thinking about comparisons with allied structures.


Charles Darwin continued his research, obtaining information and specimens from naturalists worldwide, including Wallace who was working in Borneo.


Charles Darwin's book was only partly written when, on 18 June 1858, he received a paper from Wallace describing natural selection.


Charles Darwin's family was in crisis, with children in the village dying of scarlet fever, and he put matters in the hands of his friends.


Only one review rankled enough for Charles Darwin to recall it later; Professor Samuel Haughton of Dublin claimed that "all that was new in them was false, and what was true was old".


Charles Darwin struggled for thirteen months to produce an abstract of his "big book", suffering from ill health but getting constant encouragement from his scientific friends.


Charles Darwin first used the word evolution in The Descent of Man in 1871, before adding it in 1872 to the 6th edition of The Origin of Species.


Darwin's old Cambridge tutors Sedgwick and Henslow dismissed the ideas, but liberal clergymen interpreted natural selection as an instrument of God's design, with the cleric Charles Kingsley seeing it as "just as noble a conception of Deity".


Charles Darwin campaigned pugnaciously against the authority of the clergy in education, aiming to overturn the dominance of clergymen and aristocratic amateurs under Owen in favour of a new generation of professional scientists.


Charles Darwin's theory resonated with various movements at the time and became a key fixture of popular culture.


Charles Darwin covered human descent from earlier animals, including the evolution of society and of mental abilities, as well as explaining decorative beauty in wildlife and diversifying into innovative plant studies.


Charles Darwin wrote most of a second part, on natural selection, but it remained unpublished in his lifetime.


Charles Darwin's research using images was expanded in his 1872 book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, one of the first books to feature printed photographs, which discussed the evolution of human psychology and its continuity with the behaviour of animals.


Charles Darwin's evolution-related experiments and investigations led to books on Insectivorous Plants, The Effects of Cross and Self Fertilisation in the Vegetable Kingdom, different forms of flowers on plants of the same species, and The Power of Movement in Plants.


Charles Darwin continued to collect information and exchange views from scientific correspondents all over the world, including Mary Treat, whom he encouraged to persevere in her scientific work.


Charles Darwin was the first person to recognize the significance of carnivory in plants.


Charles Darwin died at Down House on 19 April 1882.


Charles Darwin had expected to be buried in St Mary's churchyard at Downe, but at the request of Darwin's colleagues, after public and parliamentary petitioning, William Spottiswoode arranged for Darwin to be honoured by burial in Westminster Abbey, close to John Herschel and Isaac Newton.


Charles Darwin's name was given, formally or informally, to numerous plants and animals, including many he had collected on the voyage.


In 1887 Francis Charles Darwin published Life and Letters with his own reminiscences of his father, an autobiography Charles Darwin had written for his family, and correspondence.


The Shrewsbury School building, which Charles Darwin attended as a boy, became the Free Library.


Charles Darwin was further commemorated on a series of UK postage stamps issued by the Royal Mail in 2009 with six "jigsaw" shaped stamps symbolising how his studies of different disciplines formed his new ideas on evolution.


Beagle: In Charles Darwin's wake was a Dutch-Flemish television series from 2009 and 2010 initiated by the VPRO in collaboration with Teleac and Canvas to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species.


Biologist Sarah Darwin is one of the recurring shipmates who appear in the series.


Charles Darwin was a devoted father and uncommonly attentive to his children.


Charles Darwin examined inbreeding in his writings, contrasting it with the advantages of outcrossing in many species.


Emma Charles Darwin was aged 48 at the time of the birth, and the child was mentally subnormal and never learnt to walk or talk.


Charles Darwin probably had Down syndrome, which had not then been medically described.


Charles Darwin learned John Herschel's science which, like William Paley's natural theology, sought explanations in laws of nature rather than miracles and saw adaptation of species as evidence of design.


On board HMS Beagle, Charles Darwin was quite orthodox and would quote the Bible as an authority on morality.


Charles Darwin looked for "centres of creation" to explain distribution, and suggested that the very similar antlions found in Australia and England were evidence of a divine hand.


Charles Darwin was increasingly troubled by the problem of evil.


Charles Darwin remained close friends with the vicar of Downe, John Brodie Innes, and continued to play a leading part in the parish work of the church, but from around 1849 would go for a walk on Sundays while his family attended church.


The "Lady Hope Story", published in 1915, claimed that Charles Darwin had reverted to Christianity on his sickbed.


Charles Darwin grew up in a family of Whig reformers who, like his uncle Josiah Wedgwood, supported electoral reform and the emancipation of slaves.


Charles Darwin was passionately opposed to slavery, while seeing no problem with the working conditions of English factory workers or servants.


Charles Darwin took the same attitude to native people he met on the Beagle voyage.


Around twenty years later, racism became a feature of British society, but Charles Darwin remained strongly against slavery, against "ranking the so-called races of man as distinct species", and against ill-treatment of native people.


Charles Darwin saw that European colonisation would often lead to the extinction of native civilisations, and "tr[ied] to integrate colonialism into an evolutionary history of civilization analogous to natural history".


Charles Darwin was intrigued by his half-cousin Francis Galton's argument, introduced in 1865, that statistical analysis of heredity showed that moral and mental human traits could be inherited, and principles of animal breeding could apply to humans.


Charles Darwin himself insisted that social policy should not simply be guided by concepts of struggle and selection in nature.


Early in the Beagle voyage, Charles Darwin nearly lost his position on the ship when he criticised FitzRoy's defence and praise of slavery.