Human Prehistory: An Exhibition
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was an
an English naturalist whose theory of evolution is one of the
greatest contributions ever made to science.
Darwin stated this
theory in his book The Origin of
Species (1859). In another book called The
Descent of Man
(1871 ) he applied his
theory to the evolution of man from a
animal. Both books
considered them to be
blasphemous and Darwin's caricatures were published in magazines. Although later research
has modified or disproved some of Darwin's findings, scientists
still accept his basic ideas.
Darwin was born in Shrewsbury and his father was a physician.
As a youth Darwin was interested in all
living things. He read all the books on
geology and biology he could find and
collected plant and animal specimens, including
fossils. In 1825 he began medical
studies at the University of Edinburgh but
gave them up after two years. In 1828
he entered Cambridge University to study
theology getting a degree in 1831. He eventually obtained a
post as unpaid naturalist aboard the surveying ship H.M.S.
In 1831 the Beagle left on a five-year
voyage to South American and Australian waters.
During this time Darwin observed
and studied in many remote regions
of the world. He collected great numbers of
plant and animal specimens. From detailed
notes of his observations he began to develop
the theory that was to make him famous.
When he returned
to England Darwin began studying and
investigating nature. In 1844
Darwin began to compile
his greatest contribution, Origin of
Species, in which he
proposed his theory of
natural selection. All
life, he said, is a continuous
which only the fittest
In this period
Darwin discovered that the idea of natural
selection was not exclusively his. Alfred
Russel Wallace ( 1823-1913 ), a young naturalist,
had developed similar ideas in an essay
called "On the Tendency of Varieties to
Depart Independently from the Original
Type." Wallace sent this paper to Darwin
for an opinion. Darwin took Wallace's manuscript
to a friend, Sir Charles Lyell, who
decided that both Wallace's and Darwin's
ideas should be presented at the same time.
On July 1,1858, both papers were read at a
meeting of the Linnaean Society of London.
After publication of Origin of Species
in 1859, Darwin continued to write on
botany, geology, and zoology until his death in 1882. He is buried in
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D. I. Loizos, 1996-2003