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Charles Darwin

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Introduction

Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809 in Shrewsbury, England. He was the British naturalist who became famous for his theories of evolution and natural selection. Like several scientists before him, Darwin believed all the life on earth evolved (developed gradually) over millions of years from a few common ancestors. From 1831 to 1836 Darwin served as naturalist aboard the H.M.S. Beagle on a British science expedition around the world. In South America Darwin found fossils of extinct animals that were similar to modern species. On the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean he noticed many variations among plants and animals of the same general type as those in South America. The expedition visited places around the world, and Darwin studied plants and animals everywhere he went, collecting specimens for further study. Upon his return to London Darwin conducted thorough research of his notes and specimens. Out of this study grew several related theories: one, evolution did occur; two, evolutionary change was gradual, requiring thousands to millions of years; three, the primary mechanism for evolution was a process called natural selection; and four, the millions of species alive today arose from a single original life form through a branching process called "specialization." Darwin's theory of evolutionary selection holds that variation within species occurs randomly and that the survival or extinction of each organism is determined by that organism's ability to adapt to its environment. ...read more.

Middle

So Erasmus's younger son Robert dutifully followed in his older brother's footsteps, and expected his own son, whom he named after his late brother, to practice medicine too. The Charles Darwin who would become famous, however, couldn't stomach dissection. Despite misgivings about his son's lack of direction, Robert Darwin consented to let Charles set sail aboard the Beagle before returning to England to become, as he planned, a country gentleman and parson. (Charles Darwin halfway succeeded -- he remained a country gentleman the rest of his days.) Darwin considered the voyage the defining experience of his life, and he was right -- it provided him with the evidence that would forever change biology. Unfortunately, a bite from a poisonous insect during his travels might have been the cause of Darwin's chronic illness in later years. After returning to London, Darwin became an independent scholar, then eventually married and started a family. Legend holds that Darwin happened upon one of science's most important theories while on his visit to the Galapagos Islands. In fact, Darwin devised no great evolutionary theory until after his return to England, and he was not the first person to propose evolution; it was widely discussed -- at least in scientific circles -- long before he published any of his theories. ...read more.

Conclusion

He didn't (Herbert Spencer did). Darwin developed the theory of natural selection to explain differences between species, but many of his contemporaries, including Spencer and Darwin's own cousin Francis Galton, used his ideas to promote Social Darwinism and eugenics. Social Darwinism maintains that certain groups of people are poorer than others and more likely to be used as slave labor because they're "less evolved" and therefore inferior. (Keep in mind that racism masquerading as science didn't get its start with Social Darwinism. Before that, it thrived in the form of the "Great Chain of Being".) The theory of natural selection was not Darwin's only contribution to science. His observations aboard the Beagle led him to ponder the formation of coral atolls and lay the foundations for modern theories on the formation of coral reefs. In addition to zoology books based on his travels, he published monographs of the cirripedes (marine invertebrates including barnacles) that won the admiration of Richard Owen, the man who would become his nemesis later in life. Although Darwin's theory of natural selection posed perhaps the greatest challenge to a literal belief in scripture, he refused to discuss his own beliefs about a supreme being in public, once writing to his friend Asa Gray, "I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton." Despite his unorthodox theory, Darwin was buried in Westminster Abbey, in recognition of his remarkable achievements. http://www.strangescience.net/darwin.htm ...read more.

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