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Famous biologists: Charles Darwin

charles darwinWho is he?

Darwin was a nineteenth century English scientist and naturalist who developed the theory of evolution.

Why is he famous?

The reason everyone has heard of Charles Darwin is due to his work on the theory of evolution and natural selection. These ideas were set out in his book called, 'On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection', which was published in 1859. The Origin of the Species revolutionised the way humanity was to think about how the world we know came into existence.

The journey to the Galapagos

The turning point for Darwin came during his voyage on the H.M.S Beagle, where he served as the naturalist on the scientific expedition. During this time, he went to the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific, where he compared fossils with living species, and noticed animals and plants that were similar to those found in South America, but appeared to have developed variations, unique to their habitat.

Back in England, he studied the evidence he took away from his five-year expedition and developed his theory on the origin of species. He decided that the animals and plants we see around us are the products of evolution which has taken place gradually over millions of years. Species changed as they adapted to their environment through a process Darwin called natural selection.

Science vs religion

Darwin’s theory was (and still is in places) seen as a challenge to many religious views on creation. The notion of the world being made in seven days, as described in the bible, is at odds with the idea of everything slowly evolving over many years. Some people have argued that he went back on his theories, just before he died. However, his daughter Henrietta said: "I was present at his deathbed ... He never recanted any of his scientific views, either then or earlier."

Top quotes

"I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term Natural Selection."

"How paramount the future is to the present when one is surrounded by children."

"In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed."

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change."

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