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The Life History of Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin was a man who shaped the way in which we think about evolution in modern times. He brought forth and described the theory of natural selection and survival of the fittest. To fully understand modern evolutionary thoughts it is necessary for one to completely understand the early theories of Charles Darwin. In this paper I will provide the reader with a complete background on Charles Darwin, describe his voyage on the HMS Beagle, and discuss his theory of natural selection.

Charles Robert Darwin, the founder of evolution, was born on February 12, 1809 in rural England. Charles was the son of Robert Darwin and Susannah Wedgewood. His mother died when he was seven and his father died when Charles was thirty-nine. Until the age of eight, Charles was educated at home by his sister Caroline. Charles soon thereafter developed a fascination for biology and natural history. The young student began to hoard, collecting anything that captured his interest, from shells and rocks, to insects and birds. Darwin’s beetle collecting while at Cambridge seems to have been a little more than collecting. His collecting began to control all of his time, and eventually his thoughts. But they proved very useful once on board the Beagle. (Freeman 91) His hobbies laid the framework for a wonderful life of discovery.

In 1825, Robert sent Charles to Edinburgh Medical School to follow in the footsteps of Eras (Charles’ brother) and himself. It was at Edinburgh that Charles discovered that medicine was not in his future. Charles was extremely squeamish and hated working on cadavers. This sent Charles back to his old ways of collecting and dissecting animals and bugs. Meanwhile, while attending Edinburgh, Darwin was also receiving instruction on taxidermy. This also proved useful on board the Beagle. Also, while attending Edinburgh Darwin became familiar with the evolutionary theories of Lamarck. Darwin gave up his education at Edinburgh after his second year studying medicine, without a degree. Next, Dr. Darwin sent his son to the University of Cambridge to study religion. It was at Cambridge that Darwin developed his new obsessive fascination, entomology (especially with beetles). He struggled through his first three years, but in his fourth he pulled himself together. Charles graduated in 1831 from Cambridge and began to look for a job with...

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...n a subject which the public had relatively no knowledge of. He described the way in which an individual of a species reproduced and genetically passed on variations. The species that adapted through variation was the one who survived. This is where the phrase “survival of the fittest” came from. As pointed out, Charles Darwin was a man ahead of his time, and his work laid the structural basis for how we now look at evolution. On the last page of Origin of the Species, Darwin summarizes his findings, “as Natural Selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection”.

Works Cited:

Barnett, Samuel A. A Century of Darwin. New York: Books for Libraries Press, 1969.

Campbell, Bernard. Human Evolution. Chicago/New York: Aldine and Atherton, 1970.

Darwin, Charles. On the Origin of the Species by Natural Selection. 1859.

Gribben, John and Michael White. Darwin: A Life in Science. New York: Dutton, 1995.

Jurmain, Robert; et al. Essentials of Physical Anthropology. International: West/Wadsworth, 1997.

Sears, Paul B. Charles Darwin. New York: Scribner’s Sons LTD, 1950.
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