Charles Robert Darwin was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors and, in a joint publication with Alfred Russel Wallace, introduced his scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection. Take a look below for 30 more interesting and awesome facts about Charles Darwin.
1. Darwin published his theory of evolution with compelling evidence in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, overcoming scientific rejection of earlier concepts of transmutation of species.
2. By the 1870s, the scientific community and a majority of the educated public had accepted evolution as a fact.
3. Darwin’s scientific discovery is the unifying theory of the life sciences, explaining the diversity of life.
4. His early interest in nature led him to neglect his medical education at the University of Edinburgh; instead, he helped investigate marine invertebrates.
5. His five year voyage on HMS Beagle established him as an eminent geologist whose observations and theories supported Charles Lyell’s uniformitarian ideas, and publication of his journal of the voyage made him famous as a popular author.
6. Darwin’s work established evolutionary descent with modification as the dominant scientific explanation of diversification in nature.
7. In 1871, he examined human evolution and sexual selection in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, followed by The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.
8. His research on plants was published in a series of books, and in his final book, The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Actions of Worms, he examined earthworms and their effect on soil.
9. Darwin has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history and was honored by burial in Westminster Abbey.
10. When he was eight years old, his mother died. He was cared for and brought up by his three older sisters.
11. He was the fifth of six children born to his parents.
12. Darwin came from a family of scientists and wealthy people.
13. His father, citing his lack of interest in medical education, removed him from college and said to him, “You care for nothing but shooting, dog and rat catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family.”
14. Bored by his medical education, Darwin enrolled at Cambridge to study divinity. During this period, he collected beetles. He also ate some of the animals that he collected.
15. He learned taxidermy from John Edmonstone, a freed black slave from Guyana, South America, during 40 hour long lectures. Taxidermy is the art of preparing and preserving the skins of animals and of stuffing and mounting them in lifelike form.
16. Darwin kept a notebook to record his detailed observations of birds and their habits during his studies.
17. During his twenties, Darwin was an avid hiker.
18. He made a pros and cons list about marriage during the time he was thinking about whether or not he really wanted to be married.
19. Darwin had ten children from his marriage with his first cousin, Emma. Three of these died from illness and the remaining were also unhealthy for most of their lives. Darwin had commented bout the risks involved in marriages between cousins. Over a billion people live in regions where 20% to 50% of the marriage are between two individuals who are related.
20. He was a staunch abolitionist. He witnessed the slave trade with his own eyes when he visited South America for research. He was appalled by a practice that he described as human evil.
21. Darwin’s face appeared on the back of the British 10 pound note.
22. Darwin played two rounds of backgammon nearly every night in the last years of his life. He was known to be quite meticulous about keeping score.
23. He once ate an owl. According to him, the owl’s flavor was indescribable.
24. The Galapagos Islands are home to plants and animals that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. The islands greatly helped Darwin in his research and in collecting specimens.
25. About 250 species and several higher groups bear Darwin’s name.
26. In 1851, Darwin’s 10 year old daughter died from an illness. The incident had damaging consequences on Darwin’s health as well. During the 20 years between founding his theory of Origin of Species and its publishing, he suffered from various illnesses.
27. He might not have published his theory if he had not been triggered to publish it by his admirer Alfred Russel Wallace. Wallace also developed a theory of natural selection and wanted Darwin’s opinion regarding it and its publishing.
28. Due to the prevailing belief regarding the evolution of humans, Darwin was weary of losing his reputation because of his thoughts on evolution. He described his experience as “living in Hell” while he wrote the theory, which contradicted the common belief of evolution at the time.
29. On the Origin of Species became a bestseller worldwide, and went into multiple editions.
30. The phrase “survival of the fittest”, which is largely believed to have been coined by Darwin, actually comes from Herbert Spencer’s 1864 publication, Principles of Biology.