Born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England, on February 12, 1809, Darwin was the fifth child of a wealthy and sophisticated English family. When he was eight years old his mother died of cancer.
After graduating from the elite school at Shrewsbury in 1825, young Darwin went to the University of Edinburgh to study medicine. In 1827 he dropped out of medical school and entered the University of Cambridge, in preparation for becoming a clergyman of the Church of England. There he met two stellar figures: Adam Sedgwick, a geologist, and John Stevens Henslow, a naturalist. Henslow not only helped build Darwin's self-confidence but also taught his student to be a meticulous and painstaking observer of natural phenomena and collector of specimens.
After graduating from Cambridge in 1831, the 22-year-old Darwin was taken aboard the English survey ship HMS Beagle, as an unpaid naturalist on a scientific expedition around the world. The five-year expedition collected hydro graphic, geologic, and meteorological data from South America and many other regions around the world. Darwin's own observations on this voyage led to his theory of natural selection. Darwin's father almost prohibited him from joining the Beagle voyage in 1831; for fear that it might lead him away from a future in the clergy.
He died on April 19th 1882.
Few facts that make Charles Darwin and his theory truly unique:
- Initially a medical student at Edinburgh University, Darwin dropped out and entered the University of Cambridge, where he became an unenthusiastic student of theology.
- Prior to the publication of Darwin's ideas, most people believed that species were eternally unchanging.
By implying that humans had evolved just like other species, Charles Darwin’s theory On the Origin of Species directly contradicted the Church and created a huge controversy.
- British naturalist Alfred Wallace independently conceived a theory of natural selection identical to Darwin's; both Darwin's and Wallace's theories were presented on the same day in 1858 to the Linnaean Society of London.
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