This essay has a total of 1755 words and 8 pages.
Charles R Darwin
Charles R. Darwin
Charles Darwin was a man who shaped the way in which we think about evolution in modern times. He brought forth and described the theory of natural selection and survival of the fittest. To fully understand modern evolutionary thoughts it is necessary for one to completely understand the early theories of Charles Darwin. In this paper I will provide the reader with a complete background on Charles Darwin, describe his voyage on the HMS Beagle, and discuss his theory of natural selection.
Charles Robert Darwin, the founder of evolution, was born on February 12, 1809 in rural England. Charles was the son of Robert Darwin and Susannah Wedgewood. His mother died when he was seven and his father died when Charles was thirty-nine. Until the age of eight, Charles was educated at home by his sister Caroline. Charles soon thereafter developed a fascination for biology and natural history. The young student began to hoard, collecting anything that captured his interest, from shells and rocks, to insects and birds. Darwin’s beetle collecting while at Cambridge seems to have been a little more than collecting. His collecting began to control all of his time, and eventually his thoughts. But they proved very useful once on board the Beagle. (Freeman 91) His hobbies laid the framework for a wonderful life of discovery.
In 1825, Robert sent Charles to Edinburgh Medical School to follow in the footsteps of Eras (Charles’ brother) and himself. It was at Edinburgh that Charles discovered that medicine was not in his future. Charles was extremely squeamish and hated working on cadavers. This sent Charles back to his old ways of collecting and dissecting animals and bugs. Meanwhile, while attending Edinburgh, Darwin was also receiving instruction on taxidermy. This also proved useful on board the Beagle. Also, while attending Edinburgh Darwin became familiar with the evolutionary theories of Lamarck. Darwin gave up his education at Edinburgh after his second year studying medicine, without a degree. Next, Dr. Darwin sent his son to the University of Cambridge to study religion. It was at Cambridge that Darwin developed his new obsessive fascination, entomology (especially with beetles). He struggled through his first three years, but in his fourth he pulled himself together. Charles graduated in 1831 from Cambridge and began to look for a job with the clergy.
In the summer of 1831, at the age of 22, Darwin received a letter from a Cambridge tutor asking him to accompany Captain Francis Beaufort on a voyage around the world. Darwin immediately was interested, but he was sure that his father would object to the idea. His father rejected the scheme on the following grounds: It would be disreputable to his character as a Clergyman, it was a wild scheme, and they must have offered many people before him. (White and Gribben 49). Darwin was desperate to win his father’s approval knowing that it would be his only chance to make this once in a lifetime voyage. There was no way that Charles could afford this pricey expedition. He saw no hope until his best friend Jos Wedgewood, whom Dr. Darwin respected greatly, helped Charles compose a letter to his father pointing out the pluses of the voyage. Soon thereafter, Robert gave his approval.
The Beagle’s purpose was to secure a final survey of the South American continent for trade safety reasons. The captain of the ship, Robert Fitzroy, and Darwin hit it off immediately. The Beagle was a very small ship, measuring only 90 feet. (White and Gribben 53). On December 27, 1831 the ship left the port of Devonport. Darwin immediately became sick and remained ill for most of the voyage. The trip also had its light points. Upon crossing the equator, the Captain took it upon himself to perform the time old ritual on the 31-crew members. Beginning with Darwin, each sailor was tarred and feathered, which soon after resulted in a huge water fight. Darwin wrote in his diary, “Of course not one person, even the Captain got clear of being wet”. The ship soon arrived at its destination and remained there for nearly two and a half years. After five years of mutinies, illness, adventures, specimen collecting, and rough sailing the Beagle arrived at the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos’ were truly unique, consisting of a wide range of vegetation and creatures. The islands’ landscapes were different than that of mainland South America or any other place. Darwin first thought that the islands were ugly and barren. But this stop would soon prove to be the most important of his life. On October 2, 1836 the ship landed in England. Darwin returned with 1,383 pages of geology notes, 368 pages of zoology notes, a catalogue of 1,529 species and 3,907 labeled skins. (Sears 84)
Soon after his return from the South American journey, Darwin was introduced to his mentor Charles Lyell. This inspired Darwin’s books Zoology and Coral Reef’s in which he restated his findings of the voyage. Darwin was hesitant to release his young and unpolished theories on evolution. He felt that society was not yet ready for his findings. It was not until 1842 that Darwin expressed his theories. In a letter he told Lyell of his ideas. Lyell rejected the theories stating that they did not support his own
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