Charles Darwin was a British naturalist who devoted his life to the study of nature and geology. He is best known for his extensive contributions to the study of evolution.
Darwin was born in 1809 to a wealthy family. His father was a prominent doctor who influenced Darwin to study medicine in his youth. He was sent to continue in his footsteps at the University of Edinburgh Medical School. To his father’s dismay Darwin was squeamish during surgeries and uninterested in lectures.
Despite being enrolled at the best medical school in the UK Darwin focused his attention on theories that challenged religious entanglements with science. He became immersed in the study of marine invertebrates, and spent a great deal of time learning to classify plants and assemble the botany collection of the University Museum.
Darwin’s father attempted to reshape his interests again by transferring him to Cambridge’s Christ College. This course of education would have led Darwin to become an Anglican parson, but Darwin had other ideas. He spent a great deal of time on recreation, and on assembling a large beetle collection. He graduated in 1831 with an ordinary degree and a great deal of interest in natural theology. He had become a close friend of botanist and professor John Stevens Henslow who would subsequently recommend Darwin embark on an expedition on the HMS Beagle.
Darwin boarded the HMS Beagle in 1831 in the role of the gentleman naturalist. The five year voyage was intended to survey the South American coastline. Darwin assisted with geological surveys and kept a journal of his findings while also collecting fossils. At the end of the journey Darwin wrote that his findings seemed to reveal secrets about the origin of species. He’d also completed a great deal of experiential research pertaining to anthropology,geology, and zoology. Excerpts from his journals and letters had been distributed amongst scientific circles in England.
By March of 1837 as he organized his findings in writing Darwin mapped out his perception of an evolutionary tree. By June he was including his thoughts about sexual reproduction and lifespan as they applied to the adaptations of species. He used this research as a basis for his most famous theory of natural selection which was finally published in 1856.
Darwin died in 1882 at the age of 73 after a long life of scientific study. His published works provide immense value globally, and he has been described as among the most truly influential people in the world’s history.