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Charles Darwin 2 Essay, Research Paper
Throughout history, man has always wondered about the question; Where did life come from? Many had tried, but failed to answer this puzzling question with evidence to back it up. Most people interpreted the Bible as the key to the debate of our existence. But it was not until 1859 that a bright scientist by the name of Charles Darwin revealed the truth to the world.
Charles Robert Darwin was born on February 12th, 1809 at Shrewsbury, England. He came from a family of respected medical men and scientists. His father, Robert Warring Darwin, was a doctor and his grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, was a well-known doctor and naturalist who among a few others believed that old species of plants and animals slowly evolved over the ages into new ones.
Charles Darwin was fascinated with nature ever since he was a child. He grew up in a home surrounded by woods and wildlife and was always collecting insects, bird nests, shells, and rocks. Charles’s mother died in 1817 when he was only eight years old and his three older sisters took over the responsibility of his upbringing. He attended Rev. Case’s Unitarian day school for one year and then Dr. Butler’s boarding school until 1825 but his grades were less than brilliant. His father once said to him, “You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat-catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family.” Despite his poor performance at school as a child, Charles gained a lot of his knowledge helping his older brother, Erasmus, with chemistry experiments in the shed. He recognized this as the most valuable part of his education during the period of his schooldays. It taught him the meaning of experimental science. Darwin was then sent to Edinburgh University in Scotland at an early age of sixteen to study medicine, so he could fulfill the expectations of his father and grandfather. He was not very interested in this subject and he found the lectures intolerably dull. Aside from this, he was very active in personal study. At seventeen he became a member of the council of the students’ natural history society. He worked extremely hard at his studies and in 1827 he described his first two scientific discoveries to a scientific society of students at the university. By this time, Charles was very experienced in his studies with nature and had great confidence. Because he had learned of evolutionary speculations throughout his childhood from his grandfather, he considered the next step of proving them to be true very important. Charles was fed up with speculations and desperately wanted to prove something.
Even though he had accomplished a great deal of scientific development by the age of eighteen, it was not in the direction of medicine. His father saw his disappointing progress in medicine and sent him to Cambridge to study for the clergy. Charles showed no interest in the church. He devoted his time to beetle collecting rather than theology. In December of 1831, he passed his baccalaureate exam and continued studying geology in the college for one more term.
Charles Darwin’s name was becoming more and more popular and in 1831 he was given the opportunity of a lifetime. Captain Robert Fitz-Roy invited Charles on a voyage of exploration around the world aboard the H.M.S. Beagle. It was on this voyage that Charles made his most famous discoveries, especially on the topic of evolution. The Beagle visited various places all over the world including Tenerife, the Cape Verde Islands, Montevideo, Tierra del Fuego, Buenos Aires, Valparaiso, Tahiti, New Zealand and Tasmania, but Charles’ main research was done during his visits to South America and the Galapagos Islands.
On his visit to South America, Charles noted details of the sea and sky, of plants, animals, people, rocks, birds, clouds, winds and insects. All of which were new and strange to him. He found a large deposit of fossil shells and bones where there was a jawbone of a Megatherium, and huge fossil plates similar to, but a lot larger than, those of living armadillos. He also found a tooth of a horse which puzzled him deeply because he had thought that this animal was imported to South America. He noted that this tooth belonged to some kind of horse from an earlier geological age and wondered about the relation between living horses and those which had disappeared long ago.
After completing its visit to the coast of South America, the Beagle continued on into the Pacific where Charles became extremely ill. This was probably due to an insect bite. On September 7th, 1835, the Beagle arrived at the Galapagos Islands. Several observations were made involving many animals on the island, but Charles was particularly intrigued by the finches. He studied fourteen different species of the Galapagos finch and noted that the bills of each were adapted differently for particular diets. The observations he made in South America and the Galapagos Islands led him to believe that perhaps living organisms were related to others in different places or even related to fossil animals. Charles Darwin recorded all of his observations and ideas in a journal that eventually became the basis for his now famous theory of evolution. After a five year voyage around the world, the Beagle finally arrived back in England on October 2nd, 1836.
By this time Charles was convinced that all forms of life had evolved from earlier forms, he just had to prove how. He believed that selection in nature took place as it did breeding domestic animals by man. To prove this he showed that living organisms usually produce more offspring than necessary to replace themselves. It is not possible for the earth to support all these organisms, and therefore they must compete for food and shelter to survive. The lives of these organisms are also threatened by animals of prey and by environmental conditions . Charles also suggested that some members of a species have qualities that help them in this struggle for life and others have less favourable qualities. The ones with the unfavourable qualities are eventually killed off. When this happens in two separate populations, members of one species may be regarded as a separate species because of the difference in genetics. Charles called this process “natural selection.” Others have referred to it as “the survival of the fittest.”
Charles continued his research on this subject and in 1839 he married his cousin, Emma Wedgwood. He published his first book called Journal of Researches in the same year. He and Emma moved to Down, a small town outside of London, in 1842 and remained there for the rest of their lives. For the next few year Charles worked very hard and published more works on the research he had done on the Beagle. In 1859 he finally published Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. This book included the theory of evolution and, for the first time, evidence for it. The book upset a lot of people because of its contrast from the Bible. Charles was fortunate he had a close friend, a scientist by the name of Thomas Henry Huxley, who fought all of his debates for him. He never recovered from his illness he received on his voyage aboard the Beagle, but he resumed writing books for the rest of his life explaining his theory of natural selection more fully.
Charles Darwin died at the age of 73 on April 19th, 1882, leaving behind two daughters and five sons. He was buried near Isaac Newton at Wesminster Abbey on April 26th which was attended by a great number of scientists , diplomats and representative persons.
Society has profited a great deal from Charles Darwin’s research. He bravely went against the beliefs of the church and of most people of his day with his theory of evolution. Over the years of intense research and study, he was able to prove and convince everyone of the truth. Charles Darwin made an enormous break through for science and to this day scientists around the world admire him and continue the work he began.
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