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The New Student's Reference Work/Darwin, Charles Robert


Charles Robert Darwin

Dar′win, Charles Robert, one of the world’s greatest naturalists, was born at Shrewsbury, England, Feb. 12, 1809.  He studied at Edinburgh University and at Christ’s College, Cambridge.  Both Darwin’s father and grandfather were naturalists, and he early became interested in the same line of study.  At the close of 1831 he sailed as naturalist on the Beagle.  On this voyage, which lasted five years, he gained a knowledge of the animals, plants and rocks of many countries, which equipped him for his future studies.  His Journal, giving his observations while on the Beagle, was published in 1839.  In the same year Darwin married and sett led upon his country-estate.  He devoted himself largely to the problem of the origin of species, the different kinds of animals and plants.  This work he carried on in spite of distressing sickness.  After five years’ work “he allowed himself to speculate” on the subject, and drew up some short notes.  He was a cautious student, and his conclusions were not published till 1859.  That year his Origin of Species came out.  It made such a stir in the intellectual world that it is in some ways the most important book of the 19th century.  In it he attempts to explain the way in which species have been evolved through a process of natural selection, or survival of the fittest, in the struggle for existence.  We should avoid the common error of supposing that Darwinism is the same thing as evolution.  His theory of natural selection is merely one explanation of how the evolution of life was brought about.  (See Evolution.)  The book was received with great interest throughout the world, and was violently attacked and defended, but to-day has become accepted in the main by theologians, scientific men and philosophers.  Darwin published a number of other books.  His kindliness of character, honesty of purpose, devotion to truth and attachment to his friends made him loved wherever known.  He died on April 19, 1882.  See his Life and Letters, by his son, Francis Darwin, who has become a great and famous astronomer.  See also “The Debt of Science to Darwin” in The Century Magazine, Vol. XXV, 1883.