Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Darwin, Charles Robert, was born at Shrewsbury, February 12, 1809, being the grandson of Erasmus Darwin, who anticipated in his verse much of the theory of descent promulgated by Lamarck, and of Josiah Wedgwood, the famous potter. He early exhibited a passion for collecting, and the classical training of Shrewsbury grammar school, then under Dr. Butler, was irksome to him. In 1825 he went to Edinburgh University, where he made his first discovery - that of the larval nature of the so-called ova of the sea-mat - and read his first scientific paper. After two years he was removed to Christ's College, Cambridge, where the friendship of Professors Henslow and Sedgwick finally converted him from a devotee of field sports into an enthusiastic student of nature. After taking his degree in 1831, at Henslow's suggestion he volunteered to accompany Fitzroy as naturalist to the Beagle, in that voyage which was the main event of his life, and the narrative of which, published in 1839, was to become a classic in the literature of travel. On his return in 1836 Darwin devoted himself to the editing of the material he had collected, with the assistance of several specialists, was elected fellow of the Royal Society, and from 1838 to 1841 acted as secretary of the Geological Society, to which he contributed important papers on South American volcanoes, foliation, etc. In 1839 he married his cousin, Emma Wedgwood, by whom he had several children, who have attained distinctiom in various branches of science. Darwin then settled at Down, near Beckenham, Kent, where he resided for the remainder of his life, his health having permanently suffered from the voyage. In 1842 he published his work on Coral Reefs (q.v.), which gave the first full and satisfactory description of their formation; in 1844, one on Volcanic Islands; in 1846, one on the geology of South America; and in 1851 and 1854 four volumes dealing with all known barnacles living and fossil. He thus established a reputation as a thoughtful traveller, a keen observer, a master of geological reasoning, and a cautious student of anatomy. Happening in 1838 to read Malthus's Essay on Population, it suggested to him the idea of natural selection, the key-note of his theory of descent, though the problem of the origin of species had engaged his thoughts when on the Beagle. The anonymous publication of Robert Chambers's Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation in 1844 stimulated his interest in his inquiries, and twelve years later, at the advice of Lyell, he began a large and comprehensive work. The discovery that Mr. Alfred Russel Wallace (q.v.) had arrived at identical conclusions led Darwin to prepare a summary of his views. This appeared as The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, in 1859, and created a profound sensation. Darwin then devoted himself to elaborating the evidence in certain special directions, especially by experiments in vegetable physiology. The Fertilisation of Orchids by insects formed the subject of a volume in 1862, and that of other plants was afterwards dealt with. The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, two volumes issued in 1868, in which he put forward the provisional hypothesis of pangenesis (q.v.) in explanation of heredity, were an important instalment of the evidence from one direction. In 1871 he dealt with the extension of his theory to the human species, in which he had been anticipated by Huxley, Lyell, and Hackel, by his Descent of Man, in which work also he supplemented the theory of natural selection by suggesting the action of sexual selection. The following year he published the Expression of the Emotions in Men and Animals; and then he returned to vegetable physiology, issuing volumes on Insectivorous Plants (q.v.), the Forms of Flowers, and the Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants, in 1875,1877, and 1880 respectively. Darwin died at Down, April 19, 1882, and, in accordance with the feeling of the nation, was laid beside Newton in Westminster Abbey on the 26th. His Life and Letters were published in 1887, his portrait by the Hon. John Collier adorns the walls of the Linnean Society, and his statue by Boehm seems to preside over the Natural History Museum at South Kensington; but the impress of his work is stamped more indelibly than that of any other naturalist since the days of Aristotle, not only upon biology, but upon many sciences apparently least likely to be affected by it.