Charles Darwin – the man behind the evolution
Charles Robert Darwin was born in Shrewsbury on the 12th of February, 1809. His mother died when he was eight, so he was brought up by his sisters and his father Robert, who was a doctor. Dr Robert was so strict that people usually fell silent when he came into the room. This was also partly because he was very good at guessing what people were thinking. He could always tell when someone was lying.
Charles went to school in Shrewsbury, but he hated it! He didn’t pay attention in class, he copied from his fellow pupils and he forgot everything he had learned after a day or two. As a boy, Charles collected all kinds of things minerals, bird’s eggs, and insects. He carried out chemical experiments in the school garden. His nickname was Gas.
His school was really an awful place. Boys were beaten for not doing their homework or for getting bad marks on tests! There were no toilets or bathrooms in the building, and all the boys had to use chamber pots as toilets.
When he was 16, Charles went to Edinburgh University to study medicine. His father wanted him to become a doctor, but Charles didn’t like medicine. He found the lectures dull, the subject boring and he hated the operations he had to watch – he was sick at the sight of blood. Darwin’s sisters said their father how much Charles hated medicine. The father was upset and said that he could become a clergyman instead if he liked.
So, at the age of 19, Charles went to Cambridge University to study religion, but guess what… he hated that too! He didn’t spend much time on books, preferring to pass his time hunting and collecting beetles.
One day a friend invited Charles on a scientific expedition on his ship called the Beagle. And Charles agreed!
The voyage began on the 27th of December, 1831. It was a 5-year expedition to exciting unknown places. He had a great chance to study lots of plants and animals. When the Beagle arrived at the Cape Verde Islands, Charles set foot in a tropical forest for the first time. He started to collect like crazy – butterflies, spiders, beetles, shells – he loved everything, even army ants.
Charles also found the fossils of a rodent the size of an elephant and a horse-like creature. It was all so interesting that in December 1832, Charles decided to devote his life to natural science.
In 1935, the Beagle landed at the Galapagos Islands where Charles saw giant tortoises and other interesting creatures.
Returning from his five-year Beagle adventure, Darwin had no time to relax. There were so many scientific questions left unanswered! Charles started writing a book.
Charles didn’t spend all his time thinking about science. In 1837, he started thinking about getting married. He was already 29 years old! That summer his cousin Emma Wedgwood visited his brother Eras in London… In 1839 Charles and Emma got married. Their marriage was successful and they had lots of kids. Darwin turned the house and gardens into a research centre: he even filled a greenhouse with flesh-eating plants!
By 1838 Darwin had formulated his theory of evolution. If evolution was true it must mean that humans, like all other living things, were descended from some primitive creature or other. Most people decided this creature was a monkey.
By the time Darwin died in 1882, other scientists began to think he might be right.
– Darwin loved to write letters. He sent approximately 14,500 letters for his life. Among the recipients were known scientists around the world.
– During his studies, Darwin brought 54 species of gooseberries, and many kinds of peas, cabbage and beans.
– Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on the same day – February 12, 1809. The scientist lived 20 years longer than politician.
– The first monkey, which Darwin saw, was an orangutan named Jenny. It happened at the London Zoo in 1838.
– In 2002 according to a survey by the BBC, Charles Darwin took the fourth place in the list of one hundred greatest Britons in history.
– Even before Charles Darwin was born, the name Darwin was one of the most famous in England. Erasmus Darwin, Charles’s grandfather, was considered a genius and was one of the first people ever to formulate a theory of… evolution! It was different from the theory accepted today, but it goes to show that the Darwins had been thinking about evolution for a long time.