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Happy Birthday, Mr. Darwin!

Charles Robert Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England on February 12,

Young Charles Darwin

1809. The fifth child and second son of the physician Robert Waring Darwin and Susannah Wedgewood, Darwinís mother died when he was eight years old and he was raised largely by his sister, Caroline. Darwin came from a pedigree of scientists. His grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, was a physician whose ideas on evolution anticipated later theories on the subject. From 1827 -1831, Darwin attended Christís College, Cambridge and excelled in the natural sciences, in biology, zoology and geology. After his graduation, Darwinís botany professor helped arrange for him to serve as naturalist on a British surveying expedition, the H.M.S. Beagle, which would travel around the world from 1831 to 1836. While the voyage served as the cornerstone of Darwinís thinking, it took over 20 years of careful observation, research and experimentation before he would publish his seminal work on the theory of evolution, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, in 1859. In the interim, Darwin married his cousin Emma Wedgewood and had ten children. In 1851, his second child and eldest daughter, Anne Elizabeth, died of tuberculosis at the age of ten. Annieís death had a profound influence on Darwinís thinking about Christianity and natural selection.

Darwin understood that his work would arouse a storm of controversy as it
Darwin and son William
challenged contemporary beliefs about the creation of life. As a result, he did not hurry to publish Origins, and he did not discuss human evolution there. However, Darwin followed this up by publishing his ideas on the evolution of man, Sexual Selection and the Descent of Man, about a dozen years later, allowing the public time to adjust and accept the theory of evolution. On April 19, 1882, at approximately 4:00 PM, Charles Darwin died at his long-time residence and research laboratory Down House. Darwin was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey, next to his friend Sir John Herschel, and approximately twenty feet from another giant of scientific thought, Sir Isaac Newton. Two daughters and five sons survived him, several becoming prominent in their own right - Sir George Howard (b. 1845) became professor of astronomy and experimental philosophy at Cambridge in 1883, Francis (b. 1848) became a distinguished botanist, and Leonard (b. 1850) became a major in the Royal Engineers and later was well known as an economist.

To learn more about Darwin and his work, please visit:

Charles Darwin I: The origin of species

Charles Darwin II: Natural selection
 

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