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Great Britons: 250 Lives

 

Charles Darwin by Britain Unlimited
Natural historian and evolutionist best known for his influential work "The Origin of Species"

 

Photo of Charles Darwin

When and Where was he Born?

12th February 1809. The Mount, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England.

Family Background:

Charles Darwin was the son of Robert Waring Darwin, Physician of Shrewsbury, Shropshire and Susannah, Daughter of Josiah Wedgwood. Grandson of Erasmus Darwin the physician, philosopher and poet.

Education:

Shrewsbury School. Edinburgh University to study Medicine. (The sight of blood turned him from that profession!) Christ's Church College, Cambridge to take Holy Orders.

Photo of Darwin Statue
Statue of Darwin outside Shrewsbury Public Library,
once his old school.

(© Anthony Blagg)

Chronology/Biography of Charles Darwin:

1827: Contributes two papers to the radical student body the Plinian Society.

1829: Goes on an entomological tour of North Wales with Professor F.W. Hope.

1831: (26th April) Receives his degree and plans a trip to the Canary Islands. August. Goes on a geological tour of North Wales with Professor Adam Sedgewick. (29th August) Receives an invitation, whilst still at Cambridge University, to be the unpaid naturalist on board H.M.S. Beagle for its projected voyage round the world, captained by Robert Fitzroy. (At this time he has no formal scientific training). (27th December) Sets sail from Devonport. Ship sails for Tenerife, Cape Verde Islands and Brazil.

1832: (September) Charles Darwin has his first major fossil find of extinct animals. (December) Has his first view of the Indians of Tierra del Fuego off South America.

1835: (September) Arrives in the Galapagos Islands and studies the natural history. Is particularly struck by the finches and the tortoises. Sails on to Tahiti, New Zealand and Tasmania.

1836: (2nd October) Arrives back in Falmouth, England.

1837: (March) Lives at 36 Great Marlborough Street, London. (31 May) Reads his paper on the formation of Coral Reefs to the Geological Society of London. Begins his first notebook on the "Transmutation of Species".

1838: Begins further notebooks on "Man and Materialism". (September) First formulation of his theory of evolution by natural selection.

1839: Moves to Macaw Cottage, 12 Upper Gower Street, London. Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and forms a friendship with Charles Lyell the President of the Geological Society of London. (December) Birth of his first child William Erasmus. Began observations on infant development.

1841: Birth of Charles Darwin's daughter Anne Elizabeth.

Shrewsbury Unitarian Church
Shrewsbury Unitarian Church where Darwin once worshipped

(© Anthony Blagg)

1842: Family moves to Down House, Downe, Kent. (September) Birth of daughter Henrietta Emma.

1844: Robert Chamber's "Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation" is published anonymously.

1845: Birth of son George Howard.

1846: Charles Darwin begins an eight year study of barnacles.

1847: Birth of daughter Elizabeth.

1848: Birth of son Francis.

1850: Birth of son Leonard.

1851: (April) Death of child Anne Elizabeth. (May) Birth of son Horace.

1856: Birth of son Charles Waring.

1858: (18th June) A Letter from Alfred Russell Wallace discussing a memoir on the Malay archipelago, a very similar theory to his own, made up his mind for him to go public for the first time. 28th June) Death of his son Charles Waring. (1st July) Papers by Darwin and Wallace are read out at the Linnaean Society in London, although neither of them are present. Begins writing the "Origin of Species".

1859: (19th March) Charles Darwin completes "The Origin of Species". (24th November) 1,250 copies are sold on the first day of its publication.

1860: (January) Second edition is published and 3,00 copies are sold. T.E. Huxley and Wilberforce debate evolution at Oxford.

1863: Started work on climbing and insectivorous plants, which continued until his death.

1864: Awarded the Copley Medal by the Royal Society of London.

1867: Turned his attention to the expression of emotions.

1872: Sixth edition of the "Origin of Species" sells 3,000 copies.

Written Works:

  • 1840: Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, edited and superintended by Charles Darwin.
  • 1842: "The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs".
  • 1844: "Observations on the Volcanic Islands, Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle".
  • 1845: "Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle Round the World."
  • 1846: "Geological Observations on South America."
  • 1865: "The Origin of Species".
  • 1865: "The Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants".
  • 1868: "Variation in Animals and Plants under Domestication".
  • 1871: "The Descent of Man".
  • 1872: "The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals".
  • 1875: "Insectivorous Plants". "Climbing Plants".
  • 1876: "The Effects of Cross and Self-Fertilisation in the Vegetable Kingdom".
  • 1877: "The Different Forms of Flowers on Plants of the Same Species."
  • 1880: "Power of Movement in Plants".
  • 1881: "The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, with Observations on their Habits".
  • 1887: "Different Forms of Flowers on Plants of the Same Species".

Marriage:

20th January 1839 to his first Cousin Emma Wedgwood, at St. Peter's Church, Maer on their Staffordshire estate.

When and Where did he Die?

19th April 1882. Down House, Downe, Kent, England.

Age at Death:

73.

Site of Grave:

Westminster Abbey, London, England.

Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey, London
(© Anthony Blagg)

Places of Interest:

LONDON:

The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road.
Lived at 12 Gower Street.

KENT:

Down House.

SHROPSHIRE:

Went to School in a building in Shrewsbury, which is now the main Public Library.

WORCESTERSHIRE:

Holidayed in the Malverns in 1848.

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