Home >> Chamber's Encyclopedia, Volume 4 >> Abraham Cowley to Cobra Da Capello >> Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

species, plants, life, geological and written

DARWIN, CHARLES, F.R.S., a living naturalist of the highest eminence, was b. at Shrewsbury, Feb. 12, 1809. He is the son of Dr. Robert W.'Darwin, F.R.s., and grand son of Erasmus Darwin (q.v.). His mother was a daughter of Josiah Wedgwood, the famous manufacturer of pottery. After attending a public school at Shrewsbury for some years, lie studied at Edinburgh university for two sessions, and thence proceeded to Christ college, Cambridge, where he took his degree of B.A. in 1831. Ile now vol unteered to go as naturalist in H.M.S. Beagle, commanded by Capt. Fitzroy, RN., and started for a survey of South America, and the circumnavigation of the globe, Dec. 27, 1831, returning to England Oct. 2, 1836. His entire life, so far as his health has per mitted,.has been devoted to scientific researches. D., who is a fellow of the principal scientific societies, has obtained the royal society's medal, and the Wollaston medal of the geological society.—His earliest well-known work, The Voyage of a _Naturalist (2d ed. 1845), is a most interesting and beautifully written work. In 1839, was published his Journal of Researches into the Geology and Natural History of the Various Countries risited by H.M.S. Beagle;' in 1840-43, the Zoology of the Voyage of HMS. Beagle, pub lished by government, to which D. contributed the introduction, and many of the notes; in 1842, _Ike Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs; in 1844, Geological Observations on V:dcanie Islands; and in 1840, his Geological Observations on South America. He has also written many papers in the Transactions of the Geological Society. In 1831-33, appeared his valuable Monograph of the Cirripcdia; and in 1859, D.'s name became " familiar as a household word" to the mass of educated and semi-educated English men, through the publication of his work; The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle of Life. In the Origin of

Species, D. contends that the various species of plants and animals, instead of being each specially created and inunutable, are continually suffering change through a process of adaptation, by which those varieties of a species that are in any way better fitted for the conditions of their life survive. and multiply at the expense of others. So potent and universal does this process of natural selection seem to be, that D. considers it capable, with other less important causes, of explaining how all existings peeks may have descended from one or a very few low forms of. life.. This theory has excited contro versies which are not yet laid to rest.;. but it has been embraced by many of the ablest naturalists, and has already induced great changes in the methods of biology and kin dred sciences. See SPECIES. D. has since written Fertilization of Orchids (1802); Varia tion of Plants and Animals under Domestication, (1867); The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871); Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1873); Insec tivorous Plants (1875); Climbing Plants (1875); The Effects of Cross and Self-fertilization in the Vegetable Kingdom. (1876); and Different Forms of Flowers in Plants of the same Species (1877). D.'s knowledge is not less remarkable than his caution in statement. He has of late received many high distinctions, such as the Prussian order Pour le 2Ierite (1871), degrees from Leyden (1875), and Cambridge (1877), and the membership of the French academy (1878).