Charles Robert Darwin, 1809 - 1882

portrait of Charles Darwin
Portrait by George Richmond in the late 1830s
Charles Darwin signature

Born: 12 February 1809, Mount House, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England
Died: 19 April 1882, Down House, Downe, Kent, England

Darwin's father and paternal grandfather were physicians, his mother was an heiress to the Wedgewood china fortune. He and his brother Erasmus were sent to the University of Edinborough to become a physicians in 1825, but Charles couldn't stand the gore and, the agony involved in surgery before anaesthetics, and instead devoted his time to biological observation. His father then sent him to Christ's College, Cambridge with plans to become a priest in 1828, but he was at first more interested in riding and shooting, then took up beetle collecting. After graduation he accepted an unpaid trip around the world on HMS Beagle, serving as naturalist. He studied and collected fossils, plants, and drew animals on a trip that lasted almost five years. Organizing his notes and drawings after his return, he concluded that all life on earth had evolved from a single original life form, and that variations in species came about as a result of a process he termed natural selection. It should be remembered that evolution was not a new idea at the time, his concept of natural selection as the controlling element of evolution was, and this crystalized the conflict between science and parts of the religious establishment. His work was attacked by religious leaders who were certain that all species then living had been carried on Noah's Ark, despite the obvious fact that two of every species could not possibly have fit in the ark. Darwin's other published work is extensive, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society a full twenty years before publication of The Origin of Species. Darwin was afflicted with ill health throughout his life following an infection late in the journey of the Beagle, exacerbated by overwork in preparing his reports after that trip, but a clear diagnosis was never reached. He died at home, fully conscious up to the last few minutes.

Biography from Wikipedia and the BBC

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