Charles Darwin's & Alfred Wallace: Theory of Evolution
Name: Charles Robert Darwin
Occupation: Biologist, Scientist
Birth Date: February 12, 1809
Death Date: April 19, 1882
Education: University of Edinburgh, Cambridge
Place of Birth: Shrews bury England
Place of Death: Downe, England
Charles Darwin is best known for his work as a naturalist, developing a theory of evolution to explain biological change.
Naturalist Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England, on February 12, 1809. In 1831, he embarked on a five-year survey voyage around the world on the HMS Beagle. His studies of specimens around the globe led him to formulate his theory of evolution and his views on the process of natural selection. In 1859, he published On the Origin of Species. He died on April 19, 1882, in London.
Naturalist Charles Robert Darwin was born on February 12, 1809, in the tiny merchant town of Shrewsbury, England. He was the second youngest of six children. Darwin came from a long line of scientists. His father, Dr. R.W. Darwin, was as a medical doctor, and his grandfather, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, was a renowned botanist. Darwin’s mother, Susanna, died when he was only 8 years old. Darwin was a child of wealth and privilege who loved to explore nature.
In October 1825, at age 16, Darwin enrolled at Edinburgh University along with his brother Erasmus. Two years later, Charles Darwin became a student at Christ's College in Cambridge. His father hoped he would follow in his footsteps and become a medical doctor, but the sight of blood made Darwin queasy. His father suggested he study to become a parson instead, but Darwin was far more inclined to study natural history.
Theory of Evolution
Darwin's exposure to specimens all over the globe raised important questions. Other naturalists believed that all species either came into being at the start of the world, or were created over the course of natural history. In either case, the species were believed to remain much the same throughout time. Darwin, however, noticed similarities among species all over the globe, along with variations based on specific locations, leading him to believe that they had gradually evolved from common ancestors. He came to believe that species survived through a process called "natural selection," where species that successfully adapted to meet the changing requirements of their natural habitat thrived, while those that failed to evolve and reproduce died off.
In 1858, after years of further scientific investigation, Darwin publically introduced his revolutionary theory of evolution in a letter read at a meeting of the Linnean Society. On November 24, 1859, he published a detailed explanation of his theory in his best-known work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.
Death and Legacy
Following a lifetime of devout research, Charles Darwin died at his family home, Down house, in London, on April 19, 1882, and was buried at Westminster Abbey. During the next century, DNA studies revealed evidence of his theory of evolution, although controversy surrounding its conflict with Creationism—the religious view that all of nature was born of God—still abounds today.
Charles Darwin & Alfred Wallace
Darwin began formulating his theory of natural selection in the late 1830s but he went on working quietly on it for twenty years. He wanted to amass a wealth of evidence before publicly presenting his idea. During those years he corresponded briefly with Wallace (right), who was exploring the wildlife of South America and Asia. Wallace supplied Darwin with birds for his studies and decided to seek Darwin's help in publishing his own ideas on evolution. He sent Darwin his theory in 1858, which, to Darwin's shock, nearly replicated Darwin's own.
Charles Lyell and Joseph Dalton Hooker arranged for both Darwin's and Wallace's theories to be presented to a meeting of the Linnaean Society in 1858. Darwin had been working on a major book on evolution and used that to develop On the Origins of Species, which was published in 1859. Wallace, on the other hand, continued his travels and focused his study on the importance of biogeography.
The book was not only a best seller but also one of the most influential scientific books of all time. Yet it took time for its full argument to take hold. Within a few decades, most scientists accepted that evolution and the descent of species from common ancestors were real. But natural selection had a harder time finding acceptance. In the late 1800s many scientists who called themselves Darwinists actually preferred a Lamarckian explanation for the way life changed over time. It would take the discovery of genes and mutations in the twentieth century to make natural selection not just attractive as an explanation, but unavoidable.