The English naturalist and geologist Charles Robert Darwin was born on Sunday 12th February 1809.
Charles was the grandson of physician Erasmus Darwin, the father of botanist Sir Francis Darwin and mathematician and astronomer Sir George Howard Darwin and essayist Bernard Richard Darwin was his grand-son. All were educated at Cambridge.
Charles is best known for his contributions to the science of evolution establishing that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors. It was in 1859 that he published ‘On the Origin of Species’ – his theory of evolution with compelling evidence that overcome much of the earlier scientific rejection of concepts of special origins. Whilst this concept was accepted by many, it was not until the 1870s that the scientific community and much of the general public finally accepted evolution as a fact. However, many were still not convinced and it was not until the 1950s that a broad consensus developed in which natural selection was the basic mechanism of evolution. In modified form, Darwin’s scientific discovery is the unifying theory of the life sciences and the diversities of life.
What is often forgotten is that Darwin’s early interest in nature caused him to neglect his medical education and, instead, helped him investigate marine invertebrates via his five year voyage on HMS Beagle.
Perhaps we’ll come back to that another day. Meanwhile – enjoy Darwin Day.