Charles Robert Darwin (; ; 12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English , and , best known for his contributions to the science of . His proposition that all species of life have descended from is now widely accepted and considered a fundamental concept in science. In a joint publication with , he introduced his scientific theory that this of resulted from a process that he called , in which the has a similar effect to the artificial selection involved in . Darwin has been described as one of the most influential figures in , and he was honoured by . Darwin published his theory of evolution with compelling evidence in his 1859 book '. By the 1870s, the scientific community and a majority of the educated public had accepted . However, many favoured which gave only a minor role to natural selection, and it was not until the emergence of the from the 1930s to the 1950s that a broad consensus developed in which natural selection was the basic mechanism of evolution. Darwin's scientific discovery is the unifying theory of the , explaining the . Darwin's early interest in nature led him to neglect his medical education at the ; instead, he helped to investigate . Studies at the () encouraged his passion for . on established him as an eminent geologist whose observations and theories supported 's , and publication of his made him famous as a popular author. Puzzled by the geographical distribution of wildlife and fossils he collected on the voyage, Darwin began detailed investigations, and in 1838 conceived his theory of natural selection. Although he discussed his ideas with several naturalists, he needed time for extensive research and his geological work had priority. He was writing up his theory in 1858 when Alfred Russel Wallace sent him an essay that described the same idea, prompting immediate joint publication of . Darwin's work established evolutionary descent with modification as the dominant scientific explanation of diversification in nature. In 1871 he examined and in ', followed by ' (1872). His research on plants was published in a series of books, and in his final book, (1881), he examined s and their effect on soil.


Early life and education

Charles Robert Darwin was born in , Shropshire, on 12 February 1809, at his family's home, . He was the fifth of six children of wealthy society doctor and financier and (''née'' Wedgwood). His grandfathers and were both prominent . Erasmus Darwin had praised general concepts of evolution and in his ' (1794), a poetic fantasy of gradual creation including undeveloped ideas anticipating concepts his grandson expanded. Both families were largely , though the Wedgwoods were adopting . Robert Darwin, himself quietly a , had baby Charles in November 1809 in the Anglican , but Charles and his siblings attended the Unitarian chapel with their mother. The eight-year-old Charles already had a taste for natural history and collecting when he joined the day school run by its preacher in 1817. That July, his mother died. From September 1818, he joined his older brother attending the nearby Anglican as a .
Darwin spent the summer of 1825 as an apprentice doctor, helping his father treat the poor of Shropshire, before going to the (at the time the best medical school in the UK) with his brother Erasmus in October 1825. Darwin found lectures dull and surgery distressing, so he neglected his studies. He learned in around 40 daily hour-long sessions from , a freed black slave who had accompanied in the South American .
In Darwin's second year at the university, he joined the , a student group featuring lively debates in which students with views challenged orthodox religious concepts of science. He assisted 's investigations of the anatomy and life cycle of in the , and on 27 March 1827 presented at the Plinian his own discovery that black spores found in shells were the eggs of a skate . One day, Grant praised 's . Darwin was astonished by Grant's audacity, but had recently read similar ideas in his grandfather Erasmus' journals. Darwin was rather bored by 's natural-history course, which covered geology—including the debate between and . He learned the of plants, and assisted with work on the collections of the , one of the largest museums in Europe at the time. Darwin's neglect of medical studies annoyed his father, who shrewdly sent him to , to study for a degree as the first step towards becoming an Anglican country . As Darwin was unqualified for the ', he joined the ''ordinary'' degree course in January 1828. He preferred and to studying. During the first few months of Darwin's enrollment, his second cousin was also studying at Christ's College. Fox impressed him with his butterfly collection, introducing Darwin to and influencing him to pursue collecting. He did this zealously, and had some of his finds published in ' ''Illustrations of British entomology'' (1829–32). Also through Fox, Darwin became a close friend and follower of botany professor . He met other leading s who saw scientific work as religious , becoming known to these as "the man who walks with Henslow". When his own exams drew near, Darwin applied himself to his studies and was delighted by the language and logic of 's ''Evidences of Christianity'' (1795).
In his final examination in January 1831 Darwin did well, coming tenth out of 178 candidates for the ''ordinary'' degree. Darwin had to stay at Cambridge until June 1831. He studied Paley's ' (first published in 1802), which made an , explaining as God acting through . He read 's new book, ''Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy'' (1831), which described the highest aim of as understanding such laws through based on observation, and 's ''Personal Narrative'' of scientific travels in 1799–1804. Inspired with "a burning zeal" to contribute, Darwin planned to visit with some classmates after graduation to study natural history in the . In preparation, he joined 's course, then on 4 August travelled with him to spend a fortnight mapping in .

Survey voyage on HMS ''Beagle''

After leaving Sedgwick in Wales, Darwin spent a few days with student friends at , then returned home on 29 August to find a letter from Henslow proposing him as a suitable (if unfinished) for a self-funded place on with captain , emphasising that this was a position for a rather than "a mere collector". The ship was to leave in four weeks on an expedition to chart the coastline of South America. objected to his son's planned two-year voyage, regarding it as a waste of time, but was persuaded by his brother-in-law, , to agree to (and fund) his son's participation. Darwin took care to remain in a private capacity to retain control over his collection, intending it for a major scientific institution. After delays, the voyage began on 27 December 1831; it lasted almost five years. As FitzRoy had intended, Darwin spent most of that time on land investigating geology and making natural history collections, while HMS ''Beagle'' coasts. He 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 for his family. He had some expertise in geology, beetle collecting and dissecting , but in all other areas was a novice and ably collected specimens for expert appraisal. Despite suffering badly from seasickness, Darwin wrote copious notes while on board the ship. Most of his zoology notes are about marine invertebrates, starting with collected in a calm spell. On their first stop ashore at in , Darwin found that a white band high in the cliffs included seashells. FitzRoy had given him the first volume of 's ', which set out concepts of land slowly rising or falling over immense periods, and Darwin saw things Lyell's way, theorising and thinking of writing a book on geology. When they reached , Darwin was delighted by the , but detested the sight of , and disputed this issue with Fitzroy. The survey continued to the south in . They stopped at , and in cliffs near Darwin made a major find of fossil bones of huge extinct s beside modern seashells, indicating recent with no signs of change in climate or catastrophe. He identified the little-known ' by a tooth and its association with bony armour, which had at first seemed to him to be like a giant version of the armour on local s. The finds were shipped to England, and scientists found the fossils of great interest. On rides with s into the interior to explore geology and collect more fossils, Darwin gained social, political and insights into both native and colonial people at a time of revolution, and learnt that two types of had separate but overlapping territories. Further south, he saw stepped plains of shingle and seashells as es showing a series of elevations. He 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. Three on board had been seized during the , then during a year in England were educated as missionaries. Darwin found them friendly and civilised, yet at he met "miserable, degraded savages", as different as wild from domesticated animals. He remained convinced that, despite this diversity, all humans were interrelated with and potential for improvement towards civilisation. Unlike his scientist friends, he now thought there was no unbridgeable gap between humans and animals. A year on, the mission had been abandoned. The Fuegian they had named lived like the other natives, had a wife, and had no wish to return to England. Darwin experienced in 1835 and saw signs that the land had just been raised, including -beds stranded above high tide. High in the he saw seashells, and several fossil trees that had grown on a sand beach. He theorised that as the land rose, sank, and s round them grew to form s. On the geologically new , Darwin looked for evidence attaching wildlife to an older "centre of creation", and found s allied to those in Chile but differing from island to island. He heard that slight variations in the shape of shells showed which island they came from, but failed to collect them, even after eating tortoises taken on board as food. In Australia, the and the seemed so unusual that Darwin thought it was almost as though two distinct Creators had been at work. He found the "good-humoured & pleasant", and noted their depletion by European settlement. FitzRoy investigated how the atolls of the had formed, and the survey supported Darwin's theorising. FitzRoy began writing the official ''Narrative'' of the ''Beagle'' voyages, and after reading Darwin's diary he proposed incorporating it into the account. Darwin's ' was eventually rewritten as a separate third volume, on geology and natural history. In , , Darwin and FitzRoy met , who had recently written to Lyell praising his as opening bold speculation on "that mystery of mysteries, the replacement of extinct species by others" as "a natural in contradistinction to a miraculous process". When organising his notes as the ship sailed home, Darwin wrote that, if his growing suspicions about the mockingbirds, the tortoises and the were correct, "such facts undermine the stability of Species", then cautiously added "would" before "undermine".
He later wrote that such facts "seemed to me to throw some light on the origin of species".

Inception of Darwin's evolutionary theory

By the time Darwin returned to England, he was already a celebrity in scientific circles as in December 1835 Henslow had fostered his former pupil's reputation by publishing a pamphlet of Darwin's geological letters for select naturalists. On 2 October 1836 the ship anchored at , Cornwall. Darwin promptly made the long coach journey to Shrewsbury to visit his home and see relatives. He then hurried to to see Henslow, who advised him on finding available naturalists to catalogue Darwin's animal collections and to take on the botanical specimens. Darwin's father organised investments, enabling his son to be a self-funded , and an excited Darwin went round the London institutions being fêted and seeking experts to describe the collections. British zoologists at the time had a huge backlog of work, due to natural history collecting being encouraged throughout the British Empire, and there was a danger of specimens just being left in storage. Charles Lyell eagerly met Darwin for the first time on 29 October and soon introduced him to the up-and-coming anatomist , who had the facilities of the to work on the fossil bones collected by Darwin. Owen's surprising results included other gigantic extinct s as well as the ', a near complete skeleton of the unknown ' and a -sized -like skull named ' resembling a giant . The armour fragments were actually from ', a huge armadillo-like creature, as Darwin had initially thought. These extinct creatures were related to living species in South America. In mid-December, Darwin took lodgings in Cambridge to arrange expert classification of his collections, and prepare his own research for publication. Questions of how to combine his diary into the ''Narrative'' were resolved at the end of the month when FitzRoy accepted advice to make it a separate volume, and Darwin began work on his . Darwin's first paper showed that the South American landmass was slowly rising, and with Lyell's enthusiastic backing he read it to the on 4 January 1837. On the same day, he presented his mammal and bird specimens to the . The ornithologist soon announced that the Galapagos birds that Darwin had thought a mixture of , "" and es, were, in fact, twelve . On 17 February, Darwin was elected to the Council of the Geological Society, and Lyell's presidential address presented Owen's findings on Darwin's fossils, stressing geographical continuity of species as supporting his uniformitarian ideas. Early in March, Darwin moved to London to be near this work, joining Lyell's social circle of scientists and s such as , who described God as a programmer of laws. Darwin stayed with his brother Erasmus, part of this circle and a close friend of the writer , who promoted the that underpinned the controversial Whig to stop welfare from causing overpopulation and more poverty. As a , she welcomed the implications of , promoted by Grant and younger surgeons influenced by . Transmutation was anathema to Anglicans defending social order, but reputable scientists openly discussed the subject and there was wide interest in 's letter praising Lyell's approach as a way to find a of the origin of new species. Gould met Darwin and told him that the Galápagos s from different islands were separate species, not just varieties, and what Darwin had thought was a "" was also . Darwin had not labelled the finches by island, but from the notes of others on the ship, including FitzRoy, he allocated species to islands. The two were also distinct species, and on 14 March Darwin announced how their distribution changed going southwards. By mid-March 1837, barely six months after his return to England, Darwin was speculating in his ''Red Notebook'' on the possibility that "one species does change into another" to explain the geographical distribution of living species such as the rheas, and extinct ones such as the strange extinct mammal ', which resembled a giant , a llama relative. Around mid-July, he recorded in his "B" notebook his thoughts on lifespan and variation across generations—explaining the variations he had observed in s, mockingbirds, and rheas. He sketched branching descent, and then a branching of a single , in which "It is absurd to talk of one animal being higher than another", thereby discarding Lamarck's idea of independent progressing to higher forms.

Overwork, illness, and marriage

While developing this intensive study of transmutation, Darwin became mired in more work. Still rewriting his ''Journal'', he took on editing and publishing the expert reports on his collections, and with Henslow's help obtained a Treasury grant of £1,000 to sponsor this multi-volume ', a sum equivalent to about £115,000 in 2021. He stretched the funding to include his planned books on geology, and agreed to unrealistic dates with the publisher. As the began, Darwin pressed on with writing his ''Journal'', and in August 1837 began correcting . As Darwin worked under pressure, his health suffered. On 20 September he had "an uncomfortable palpitation of the heart", so his doctors urged him to "knock off all work" and live in the country for a few weeks. After visiting Shrewsbury he joined his Wedgwood relatives at , Staffordshire, but found them too eager for tales of his travels to give him much rest. His charming, intelligent, and cultured cousin , nine months older than Darwin, was nursing his invalid aunt. His uncle pointed out an area of ground where cinders had disappeared under and suggested that this might have been the work of s, inspiring "a new & important theory" on their role in , which Darwin presented at the Geological Society on 1 November 1837. His ''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. pushed Darwin to take on the duties of Secretary of the Geological Society. After initially declining the work, he accepted the post in March 1838. Despite the grind of writing and editing the ''Beagle'' reports, Darwin made remarkable progress on transmutation, taking every opportunity to question expert naturalists and, unconventionally, people with practical experience in such as farmers and . Over time, his research drew on information from his relatives and children, the family butler, neighbours, colonists and former shipmates. He included mankind in his speculations from the outset, and on seeing an in the zoo on 28 March 1838 noted its childlike behaviour. The strain took a toll, and by June he was being laid up for days on end with stomach problems, headaches and heart symptoms. For the rest of his life, he was repeatedly incapacitated with episodes of stomach pains, vomiting, severe s, palpitations, trembling and other symptoms, particularly during times of stress, such as attending meetings or making social visits. The cause of remained unknown, and attempts at treatment had only ephemeral success. On 23 June, he took a break and went "geologising" in Scotland. He visited in glorious weather to see the parallel "roads" cut into the hillsides at three heights. He later published his view that these were marine es, but then had to accept that they were shorelines of a . Fully recuperated, he returned to Shrewsbury in July. Used to jotting down daily notes on animal breeding, he scrawled rambling thoughts about marriage, career and prospects on two scraps of paper, one with columns headed ''"Marry"'' and ''"Not Marry"''. Advantages under "Marry" included "constant companion and a friend in old age ... better than a dog anyhow", against points such as "less money for books" and "terrible loss of time". Having decided in favour of marriage, he discussed it with his father, then went to visit his cousin Emma on 29 July. He did not get around to proposing, but against his father's advice he mentioned his ideas on transmutation.

Malthus and natural selection

Continuing his research in London, Darwin's wide reading now included the sixth edition of 's ', and on 28 September 1838 he noted its assertion that human "population, when unchecked, goes on doubling itself every twenty five years, or increases in a geometrical ratio", a so that population soon exceeds food supply in what is known as a . Darwin was well prepared to compare this to 's "warring of the species" of plants and the struggle for existence among wildlife, explaining how numbers of a species kept roughly stable. As species always breed beyond available resources, favourable variations would make organisms better at surviving and passing the variations on to their offspring, while unfavourable variations would be lost. He wrote that the "final cause of all this wedging, must be to sort out proper structure, & adapt it to changes", so that "One may say there is a force like a hundred thousand wedges trying force into every kind of adapted structure into the gaps of in the economy of nature, or rather forming gaps by thrusting out weaker ones." This would result in the formation of new species. As he later wrote in his ': By mid-December, Darwin saw a similarity between farmers picking the best stock in , and a Malthusian Nature selecting from chance variants so that "every part of newly acquired structure is fully practical and perfected", thinking this comparison "a beautiful part of my theory". He later called his theory , an analogy with what he termed the "artificial selection" of selective breeding. On 11 November, he returned to and proposed to Emma, once more telling her his ideas. She accepted, then in exchanges of loving letters she showed how she valued his openness in sharing their differences, also expressing her strong Unitarian beliefs and concerns that his honest doubts might separate them in the afterlife. While he was house-hunting in London, bouts of illness continued and Emma wrote urging him to get some rest, almost prophetically remarking "So don't be ill any more my dear Charley till I can be with you to nurse you." He found what they called "Macaw Cottage" (because of its gaudy interiors) in , then moved his "museum" in over Christmas. On 24 January 1839, Darwin was (FRS). On 29 January, Darwin and Emma Wedgwood were married at Maer in an Anglican ceremony arranged to suit the Unitarians, then immediately caught the train to London and their new home.

Geology books, barnacles, evolutionary research

Darwin now had the framework of his theory of natural selection "by which to work", as his "prime hobby". His 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. For fifteen years this work was in the background to his main occupation of writing on geology and publishing expert reports on the ''Beagle'' collections, and in particular, the barnacles. FitzRoy's long delayed ''Narrative'' was published in May 1839. Darwin's ' got good reviews as the third volume, and on 15 August it was published on its own. Early in 1842, Darwin wrote about his ideas to , who noted that his ally "denies seeing a beginning to each crop of species". Darwin's book ' on his theory of formation was published in May 1842 after more than three years of work, and he then wrote his first "pencil sketch" of his theory of natural selection. To escape the pressures of London, the family moved to rural in September. On 11 January 1844, Darwin mentioned his theorising to the botanist , writing with melodramatic humour "it is like confessing a murder". Hooker replied "There may in my opinion have been a series of productions on different spots, & also a gradual change of species. I shall be delighted to hear how you think that this change may have taken place, as no presently conceived opinions satisfy me on the subject." By July, Darwin had expanded his "sketch" into a 230-page "Essay", to be expanded with his research results if he died prematurely. In November, the anonymously published sensational best-seller ' brought wide interest in transmutation. Darwin scorned its amateurish geology and zoology, but carefully reviewed his own arguments. Controversy erupted, and it continued to sell well despite contemptuous dismissal by scientists. Darwin completed his third geological book in 1846. He now renewed a fascination and expertise in , dating back to his student days with , by dissecting and classifying the s he had collected on the voyage, enjoying observing beautiful structures and thinking about comparisons with allied structures. In 1847, Hooker read the "Essay" and sent notes that provided Darwin with the calm critical feedback that he needed, but would not commit himself and questioned Darwin's opposition to continuing acts of . In an attempt to improve his chronic ill health, Darwin went in 1849 to Dr. 's spa and was surprised to find some benefit from . Then, in 1851, his treasured daughter fell ill, reawakening his fears that his illness might be hereditary, and after a long series of crises she died. In eight years of work on s (Cirripedia), Darwin's theory helped him to find "" showing that slightly changed body parts served different functions to meet new conditions, and in some he found minute males on s, showing an in evolution of . In 1853, it earned him the 's Royal Medal, and it made his reputation as a . In 1854 he became a Fellow of the , gaining postal access to its library. He began a major reassessment of his theory of species, and in November realised that divergence in the character of descendants could be explained by them becoming adapted to "diversified places in the economy of nature".

Publication of the theory of natural selection

By the start of 1856, Darwin was investigating whether eggs and s could survive travel across seawater to spread species across oceans. Hooker increasingly doubted the traditional view that species were fixed, but their young friend was still firmly against the transmutation of species. Lyell was intrigued by Darwin's speculations without realising their extent. When he read a paper by , "On the Law which has Regulated the Introduction of New Species", he saw similarities with Darwin's thoughts and urged him to publish to establish precedence.
Though Darwin saw no threat, on 14 May 1856 he began writing a short paper. Finding answers to difficult questions held him up repeatedly, and he expanded his plans to a "big book on species" titled ', which was to include his "note on Man". He continued his researches, and specimens from naturalists worldwide including Wallace who was working in . In mid-1857 he added a section heading; "Theory applied to Races of Man", but did not add text on this topic. On 5 September 1857, Darwin sent the American botanist a detailed outline of his ideas, including an abstract of ''Natural Selection'', which omitted and . In December, Darwin received a letter from Wallace asking if the book would examine human origins. He responded that he would avoid that subject, "so surrounded with prejudices", while encouraging Wallace's theorising and adding that "I go much further than you." Darwin's book was only partly written when, on 18 June 1858, he received a paper from Wallace describing natural selection. Shocked that he had been "forestalled", Darwin sent it on that day to Lyell, as requested by Wallace, and although Wallace had not asked for publication, Darwin suggested he would send it to any journal that Wallace chose. His family was in crisis with children in the village dying of , and he put matters in the hands of his friends. After some discussion, with no reliable way of involving Wallace, Lyell and Hooker decided on a joint presentation at the on 1 July of '. On the evening of 28 June, Darwin's baby son died of scarlet fever after almost a week of severe illness, and he was too distraught to attend. There was little immediate attention to this announcement of the theory; the president of the Linnean Society remarked in May 1859 that the year had not been marked by any revolutionary discoveries. Only one review rankled enough for Darwin to recall it later; Professor of Dublin claimed that "all that was new in them was false, and what was true was old". 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. Lyell arranged to have it published by . ' proved unexpectedly popular, with the entire stock of 1,250 copies oversubscribed when it went on sale to booksellers on 22 November 1859. In the book, Darwin set out "one long argument" of detailed observations, inferences and consideration of anticipated objections. In making the case for common descent, he included evidence of between humans and other mammals. Having outlined , he hinted that it could explain differences between .

He avoided explicit discussion of human origins, but implied the significance of his work with the sentence; "Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history."

His theory is simply stated in the introduction: At the end of the book he concluded that: The last word was the only variant of "evolved" in the first five editions of the book. "" at that time was associated with other concepts, most commonly with , and Darwin first used the word in ' in 1871, before adding it in 1872 to the 6th edition of ''The Origin of Species''.

Responses to publication

The book aroused international interest, with less controversy than had greeted the popular and less scientific '. Though Darwin's illness kept him away from the public debates, he eagerly scrutinised the scientific response, commenting on press cuttings, reviews, articles, satires and caricatures, and with colleagues worldwide. The book did not explicitly discuss human origins, but included a number of hints about the animal ancestry of humans from which the inference could be made. The first review asked, "If a monkey has become a man–what may not a man become?" and said it should be left to theologians as it was too dangerous for ordinary readers. Amongst early favourable responses, Huxley's reviews swiped at , leader of the scientific establishment Huxley was trying to overthrow. In April, Owen's review attacked Darwin's friends and condescendingly dismissed his ideas, angering Darwin, but Owen and others began to promote ideas of supernaturally guided evolution. drew attention to his 1831 book which had a brief appendix suggesting a concept of natural selection leading to new species, but he had not developed the idea. The 's response was mixed. Darwin's old Cambridge tutors and dismissed the ideas, but interpreted natural selection as an instrument of God's design, with the cleric seeing it as "just as noble a conception of Deity". In 1860, the publication of ' by seven liberal Anglican theologians diverted attention from Darwin, with its ideas including attacked by church authorities as . In it, argued that s broke God's laws, so belief in them was , and praised "Mr Darwin's masterly volume [supporting] the grand principle of the self-evolving powers of nature". discussed with Darwin, who imported and distributed Gray's pamphlet on , ''Natural Selection is not inconsistent with ''. The most famous confrontation was at the public during a meeting of the , where the , though not opposed to , argued against Darwin's explanation and human descent from apes. argued strongly for Darwin, and Thomas Huxley's legendary retort, that he would rather be descended from an ape than a man who misused his gifts, came to symbolise a triumph of science over religion. Even Darwin's close friends Gray, Hooker, Huxley and Lyell still expressed various reservations but gave strong support, as did many others, particularly younger naturalists. Gray and Lyell sought reconciliation with faith, while Huxley portrayed a polarisation between religion and science. He 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. Owen's claim that brain anatomy proved humans to be a separate from apes was shown to be false by Huxley in a long running dispute parodied by Kingsley as the "", and discredited Owen. became a movement covering a wide range of evolutionary ideas. In 1863 Lyell's ' popularised prehistory, though his caution on evolution disappointed Darwin. Weeks later Huxley's ' showed that anatomically, humans are apes, then ' by provided empirical evidence of natural selection. Lobbying brought Darwin Britain's highest scientific honour, the Royal Society's , awarded on 3 November 1864. That day, Huxley held the first meeting of what became the influential "" devoted to "science, pure and free, untrammelled by religious dogmas". By the end of the decade most scientists agreed that evolution occurred, but only a minority supported Darwin's view that the chief mechanism was natural selection. The ''Origin of Species'' was translated into many languages, becoming a staple scientific text attracting thoughtful attention from all walks of life, including the "working men" who flocked to Huxley's lectures. Darwin's theory also resonated with various movements at the time and became a key fixture of popular culture. Cartoonists parodied animal ancestry in an old tradition of showing humans with animal traits, and in Britain these droll images served to popularise Darwin's theory in an unthreatening way. While ill in 1862 Darwin began growing a beard, and when he reappeared in public in 1866 caricatures of him as an helped to identify all forms of with Darwinism.

''Descent of Man'', sexual selection, and botany

Despite repeated bouts of illness during the last twenty-two years of his life, Darwin's work continued. Having published ''On the Origin of Species'' as an of his theory, he pressed on with experiments, research, and writing of his "big book". He covered from earlier animals including evolution of society and of mental abilities, as well as explaining decorative beauty in and diversifying into innovative plant studies. Enquiries about insect led in 1861 to novel studies of wild s, showing adaptation of their flowers to to each species and ensure . In 1862 ' gave his first detailed demonstration of the power of natural selection to explain complex ecological relationships, making testable predictions. As his health declined, he lay on his sickbed in a room filled with inventive experiments to trace the movements of . Admiring visitors included , a zealous proponent of ''Darwinismus'' incorporating and 's idealism. Wallace remained supportive, though he increasingly turned to . Darwin's book ' (1868) was the first part of his planned "big book", and included his unsuccessful hypothesis of attempting to explain . It sold briskly at first, despite its size, and was translated into many languages. He wrote most of a second part, on natural selection, but it remained unpublished in his lifetime. had already popularised human prehistory, and had shown that anatomically humans are apes. With ''The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex'' published in 1871, Darwin set out evidence from numerous sources that humans are animals, showing continuity of physical and mental attributes, and presented to explain impractical animal features such as the 's plumage as well as human evolution of culture, differences between sexes, and physical and cultural , while emphasising that humans are all one species. His research using images was expanded in his 1872 book ', one of the first books to feature printed photographs, which discussed the and its continuity with the . Both books proved very popular, and Darwin was impressed by the general assent with which his views had been received, remarking that "everybody is talking about it without being shocked." His conclusion was "that man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his god-like intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system—with all these exalted powers—Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin." His evolution-related experiments and investigations led to books on orchids, '', '', different forms of flowers on plants of the same species, and '. He continued to collect information and exchange views from scientific correspondents all over the world, including , whom he encouraged to persevere in her scientific work. His botanical work was interpreted and popularised by various writers including and , an
helped transform plant science
in the late 19th century and early 20th century. In his last book he returned to '.

Death and funeral

In 1882 he was diagnosed with what was called "" which then meant and disease of the heart. At the time of his death, the physicians diagnosed "anginal attacks", and "heart-failure". It has been speculated that Darwin may have had chronic . This speculation is based on a journal entry written by Darwin, describing he was bitten by the "" in Mendoza, Argentina, in 1835; and based on the constellation of clinical symptoms he exhibited, including cardiac disease which is a hallmark of chronic Chagas disease. Exhuming Darwin's body would probably be necessary to definitively determine his state of infection by detecting DNA of infecting parasite, ', that causes Chagas disease. He died at on 19 April 1882. His last words were to his family, telling Emma "I am not the least afraid of death—Remember what a good wife you have been to me—Tell all my children to remember how good they have been to me", then while she rested, he repeatedly told Henrietta and Francis "It's almost worth while to be sick to be nursed by you". He had expected to be buried in St Mary's churchyard at , but at the request of Darwin's colleagues, after public and parliamentary petitioning, (President of the Royal Society) arranged for Darwin to be honoured by , close to and . The funeral was held on Wednesday 26 April and was attended by thousands of people, including family, friends, scientists, philosophers and dignitaries.


By the time of his death, Darwin and his colleagues had convinced most scientists that as descent with modification was correct, and he was regarded as a great scientist who had revolutionised ideas. In June 1909, though few at that time agreed with his view that "natural selection has been the main but not the exclusive means of modification", he was honoured by more than 400 officials and scientists from across the world who met in to and the fiftieth anniversary of ''On the Origin of Species''.

Around the beginning of the 20th century, a period that has been called "", scientists proposed various alternative evolutionary mechanisms, which eventually proved untenable. , an English , finally united with natural selection, in the period between 1918 and his 1930 book '. He gave the theory a footing and brought broad scientific consensus that natural selection was the basic mechanism of evolution, thus founding the basis for and the , with and , which set the frame of reference for modern debates and refinements of the theory.


During Darwin's lifetime, many geographical features were given his name. An expanse of water adjoining the was named ' by after Darwin's prompt action, along with two or three of the men, saved them from being marooned on a nearby shore when a collapsing caused a large wave that would have swept away their boats, and the nearby in the Andes was named in celebration of Darwin's 25th birthday. When the ' was surveying Australia in 1839, Darwin's friend sighted a natural harbour which the ship's captain named ': a nearby settlement was renamed in 1911, and it became the capital city of Australia's . Stephen Heard identified 389 that have been named after Darwin, and there are at least 9 . In one example, the group of s related to those Darwin found in the became popularly known as "" in 1947, fostering inaccurate legends about their significance to his work. Darwin's work has continued to be celebrated by numerous publications and events. The has commemorated Darwin's achievements by the award of the since 1908. has become an annual celebration, and in 2009 worldwide events were arranged for the bicentenary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of ''On the Origin of Species''. Darwin has been commemorated in the UK, with his portrait printed on the reverse of £10 banknotes printed along with a and , issued by the . A life-size seated statue of Darwin can be seen in the main hall of the in London. A seated statue of Darwin, unveiled 1897, stands in front of , the building that used to house , which Darwin attended as a boy. Another statue of Darwin as a young man is situated in the grounds of . , a postgraduate college at , is named after the Darwin family. In 2008–09, the Swedish band , in collaboration with Danish performance group Hotel Pro Forma and other musicians from Denmark, Sweden and the US, created an opera about the life of Darwin, and ''The Origin of Species'', entitled '. The show toured European theatres in 2010.


The Darwins had ten children: two died in infancy, and 's death at the age of ten had a devastating effect on her parents. Charles was a devoted father and uncommonly attentive to his children. Whenever they fell ill, he feared that they might have inherited weaknesses from due to the close family ties he shared with his , Emma Wedgwood. He examined inbreeding in his writings, contrasting it with the advantages of in many species. Despite his fears, most of the surviving children and many of their descendants went on to have distinguished careers. Of his surviving children, , and became , distinguished as astronomer, botanist and civil engineer, respectively. All three were knighted. Another son, , went on to be a soldier, politician, economist, and mentor of the statistician and evolutionary biologist .

Views and opinions

Religious views

Darwin's family tradition was , while his father and grandfather were , and his and were . When going to Cambridge to become an clergyman, he did not "in the least doubt the strict and of every word in the Bible". He learned 's science which, like 's , sought explanations in laws of nature rather than miracles and saw of species as . On board HMS ''Beagle'', Darwin was quite and would quote the Bible as an authority on . He looked for "centres of creation" to explain distribution, and suggested that the very similar s found in Australia and England were evidence of a divine hand. By his return, he was , and wondered why all religions should not be equally valid. In the next few years, while intensively speculating on geology and the , he gave much thought to religion and openly discussed this with his wife , whose beliefs also came from intensive study and questioning. The of Paley and vindicated evils such as starvation as a result of a benevolent creator's laws, which had an overall good effect. To Darwin, natural selection produced the good of adaptation but removed the need for design, and he could not see the work of an omnipotent deity in all the pain and suffering, such as the paralysing s as live food for its eggs. Though he thought of religion as a survival strategy, Darwin was reluctant to give up the idea of . He was increasingly troubled by the . Darwin remained close friends with the of Downe, , 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. He considered it "absurd to doubt that a man might be an ardent theist and an evolutionist"
 – Darwin, C. R. to Fordyce, John, 7 May 1879
Darwin's Complex loss of Faith
17 September 2009
and, though reticent about his religious views, in 1879 he wrote that "I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. – I think that generally ... an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind". The "", published in 1915, claimed that Darwin had reverted to Christianity on his sickbed. The claims were repudiated by Darwin's children and have been dismissed as false by historians.

Human society

Darwin's views on social and political issues reflected his time and social position. He grew up in a family of reformers who, like his uncle Josiah Wedgwood, supported and the . Darwin was passionately opposed to slavery, while seeing no problem with the working conditions of English factory workers or servants. Taking taxidermy lessons in 1826 from the freed slave , whom Darwin long recalled as "a very pleasant and intelligent man", reinforced his belief that black people shared the same feelings, and could be as intelligent as people of other races. He took the same attitude to native people he met on the ''Beagle'' voyage. These attitudes were not unusual in Britain in the 1820s, much as it shocked visiting Americans. British society started to envisage racial differences more distinctly in mid-century, but Darwin remained strongly against slavery, against "ranking the so-called races of man as distinct species", and against ill-treatment of native people. Darwin's interaction with s (Fuegians) such as during the had a profound impact on his view of indigenous peoples. At his arrival to he made a colourful description of " savages". This view changed as he came to know Yaghan people more in detail. By studying the Yaghans, Darwin concluded that a number of basic emotions by different human groups were the same and that mental capabilities were roughly the same as for Europeans. While interested in Yaghan culture Darwin failed to appreciate their deep ecological knowledge and elaborate cosmology until the 1850s when he inspected a dictionary of detailing 32,000 words. He saw that European colonisation would often lead to the extinction of native civilisations, and "trto integrate colonialism into an evolutionary history of civilization analogous to natural history". He thought men's eminence over women was the outcome of sexual selection, a view disputed by in her 1875 book '. Darwin was intrigued by his 's argument, introduced in 1865, that of showed that moral and mental human traits could be inherited, and principles of animal breeding could apply to humans. In ''The Descent of Man'', Darwin noted that aiding the weak to survive and have families could lose the benefits of natural selection, but cautioned that withholding such aid would endanger the instinct of sympathy, "the noblest part of our nature", and factors such as education could be more important. When Galton suggested that publishing research could encourage intermarriage within a "caste" of "those who are naturally gifted", Darwin foresaw practical difficulties, and thought it "the sole feasible, yet I fear , plan of procedure in improving the human race", preferring to simply publicise the importance of inheritance and leave decisions to individuals. Francis Galton named this field of study "" in 1883. After Darwin's death, his theories were cited to promote eugenic policies.

Evolutionary social movements

Darwin's fame and popularity led to his name being associated with ideas and movements that, at times, had only an indirect relation to his writings, and sometimes went directly against his express comments. Thomas Malthus had argued that was ordained by God to get humans to and show restraint in getting families; this was used in the 1830s to justify s and .
Evolution was by then seen as having social implications, and 's 1851 book ''Social Statics'' based ideas of human freedom and individual liberties on his Lamarckian evolutionary theory. Soon after the ''Origin'' was published in 1859, critics derided his description of a struggle for existence as a Malthusian justification for the English industrial capitalism of the time. The term ''Darwinism'' was used for the evolutionary ideas of others, including Spencer's "" as free-market progress, and 's ideas of . Writers used natural selection to argue for various, often contradictory, ideologies such as laissez-faire dog-eat-dog capitalism, and . However, Darwin's holistic view of nature included "dependence of one being on another"; thus , socialists, liberal social reformers and anarchists such as stressed the value of co-operation over struggle within a species. Darwin himself insisted that social policy should not simply be guided by concepts of struggle and selection in nature. After the 1880s, a eugenics movement developed on ideas of biological inheritance, and for scientific justification of their ideas appealed to some concepts of Darwinism. In Britain, most shared Darwin's cautious views on voluntary improvement and sought to encourage those with good traits in "positive eugenics". During the "Eclipse of Darwinism", a scientific foundation for eugenics was provided by . Negative eugenics to remove the "feebleminded" were popular in America, Canada and Australia, and introduced laws, followed by several other countries. Subsequently, brought the field into disrepute. The term "" was used infrequently from around the 1890s, but became popular as a derogatory term in the 1940s when used by to attack the conservatism of those like who opposed reform and socialism. Since then, it has been used as a term of abuse by those opposed to what they think are the moral consequences of evolution.


Darwin was a prolific writer. Even without publication of his works on evolution, he would have had a considerable reputation as the author of ', as a geologist who had published extensively on South America and had solved the puzzle of the formation of s, and as a biologist who had published the definitive work on s. While ''On the Origin of Species'' dominates perceptions of his work, ''The Descent of Man'' and ' had considerable impact, and his books on plants including ' were innovative studies of great importance, as was his final work on '.

See also

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. Darwin was eminent as a , geologist, , and author. After a summer as a 's assistant (helping his father) and two years as a , he went to Cambridge for the ordinary degree to qualify as a clergyman; he was also trained in . . was to become known after the voyage for , but at this time he had considerable interest in Lyell's ideas, and they met before the voyage when Lyell asked for observations to be made in South America. FitzRoy's diary during the ascent of the River Santa Cruz in recorded his opinion that the plains were es, but on return, newly married to a very religious lady, he recanted these ideas. . In the section of Chapter XIII of ''On the Origin of Species'', Darwin commented on bone patterns between humans and other mammals, writing: "What can be more curious than that the hand of a man, formed for grasping, that of a mole for digging, the leg of the horse, the paddle of the porpoise, and the wing of the bat, should all be constructed on the same pattern, and should include the same bones, in the same relative positions?" and in the concluding chapter: "The framework of bones being the same in the hand of a man, wing of a bat, fin of the porpoise, and leg of the horse … at once explain themselves on the theory of descent with slow and slight successive modifications." . In ' Darwin mentioned in his concluding remark that "In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history." In "Chapter VI: Difficulties on Theory" he referred to : "I might have adduced for this same purpose the differences between the races of man, which are so strongly marked; I may add that some little light can apparently be thrown on the origin of these differences, chiefly through sexual selection of a particular kind, but without here entering on copious details my reasoning would appear frivolous." In ' of 1871, Darwin discussed the first passage: "During many years I collected notes on the origin or descent of man, without any intention of publishing on the subject, but rather with the determination not to publish, as I thought that I should thus only add to the prejudices against my views. It seemed to me sufficient to indicate, in the first edition of my 'Origin of Species,' that by this work 'light would be thrown on the origin of man and his history;' and this implies that man must be included with other organic beings in any general conclusion respecting his manner of appearance on this earth." In a preface to the 1874 second edition, he added a reference to the second point: "it has been said by several critics, that when I found that many details of structure in man could not be explained through natural selection, I invented sexual selection; I gave, however, a tolerably clear sketch of this principle in the first edition of the 'Origin of Species,' and I there stated that it was applicable to man." . See, for example, WILLA volume 4,
Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Feminization of Education
' by Deborah M. De Simone: "Gilman shared many basic educational ideas with the generation of thinkers who matured during the period of "intellectual chaos" caused by Darwin's Origin of the Species. Marked by the belief that individuals can direct human and social evolution, many progressives came to view education as the panacea for advancing social progress and for solving such problems as urbanisation, poverty, or immigration." . See, for example, the song "A lady fair of lineage high" from 's ', which describes the descent of man (but not woman!) from apes. . Darwin's belief that black people had the same essential humanity as Europeans, and had many mental similarities, was reinforced by the lessons he had from in 1826. Early in the ''Beagle'' voyage, Darwin nearly lost his position on the ship when he criticised FitzRoy's defence and praise of slavery. He wrote home about "how steadily the general feeling, as shown at elections, has been rising against Slavery. What a proud thing for England if she is the first European nation which utterly abolishes it! I was told before leaving England that after living in slave countries all my opinions would be altered; the only alteration I am aware of is forming a much higher estimate of the negro character." Regarding , he "could not have believed how wide was the difference between savage and civilized man: it is greater than between a wild and domesticated animal, inasmuch as in man there is a greater power of improvement", but he knew and liked civilised Fuegians like : "It seems yet wonderful to me, when I think over all his many good qualities, that he should have been of the same race, and doubtless partaken of the same character, with the miserable, degraded savages whom we first met here." In the ''Descent of Man'', he mentioned the similarity of Fuegians' and Edmonstone's minds to Europeans' when arguing against "ranking the so-called races of man as distinct species". He rejected the ill-treatment of native people, and for example wrote of massacres of n men, women, and children, "Every one here is fully convinced that this is the most just war, because it is against barbarians. Who would believe in this age that such atrocities could be committed in a Christian civilized country?" . s studied human heredity as , while movements sought to manage society, with a focus on social class in the United Kingdom, and on disability and ethnicity in the United States, leading to geneticists seeing this as impractical . A shift from voluntary arrangements to "negative" eugenics included laws in the United States, copied by as the basis for based on virulent racism and "".
) . writes of his "theory that arwinturned to these arcane botanical studies – producing more than one book that was solidly empirical, discreetly evolutionary, yet a 'horrid bore' – at least partly so that the clamorous controversialists, fighting about apes and angels and souls, would leave him... alone". , "The Brilliant Plodder" (review of Ken Thompson, ''Darwin's Most Wonderful Plants: A Tour of His Botanical Legacy'', , 255 pp.; Elizabeth Hennessy, ''On the Backs of Tortoises: Darwin, the Galápagos, and the Fate of an Evolutionary Eden'', , 310 pp.; Bill Jenkins, ''Evolution Before Darwin: Theories of the Transmutation of Species in Edinburgh, 1804–1834'', , 222 pp.), ', vol. LXVII, no. 7 (23 April 2020), pp. 22–24. Quammen, quoted from p. 24 of his review.



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External links

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Darwin Online
Darwin's publications, private papers and bibliography, supplementary works including biographies, obituaries and reviews
Darwin Correspondence Project
Full text and notes for complete correspondence to 1867, with summaries of all the rest, and pages of commentary
Darwin Manuscript Project
* * * View books owned and annotated b
Charles Darwin
at the online Biodiversity Heritage Library.
Digitised Darwin Manuscripts
in * *
Charles Darwin in the British horticultural press
– Occasional Papers from RHS Lindley Library, volume 3 July 2010 *, 29 April 1882, pp. 256
Obituary of Charles Darwin
{{DEFAULTSORT:Darwin, Charles Wollaston Medal winners