Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, has been one of the most respected figures in the history of science especially in the biology field. Like all famous figures, he has been surrounded by some mythology as well.

It was believed that Darwin discovered one of science's most important theories during his travels aboard the Beagle to the Galapagos Islands. Although he did take notes, through his unbiased observation of nature, on the different species while on the island, Darwin didnít devise the theory until long after his return to England. In 1842 and 1844, Darwin published two books called The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs and Geological Observations On Volcanic Islands which were the base to his theory of evolution. It was surprised that Darwin was not the first person to propose evolution. In fact, evolution was widely discussed, at least in scientific circles, long before Darwin published any of his theories. His grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, a physician and scientist, had written several unpublished works with evolutionary themes. The question that was troubling was how did evolution occur? Charles Darwin then came out as the first person to propose a viable mechanism for evolution, namely natural selection.

Darwin based his theory of evolution upon his research on the finches while on the Galapagos Islands. There were fourteen different species on the islands. He stated that it was unlikely that each was individually created but rather evolved from one parent from Ecuador as evidence in their beak and other characteristics. Thus his theory of natural selection stated that in any population, there will be variations. Individuals that are born with certain characteristics, for example, stronger legs, keener eyesight, will enjoy an advantage over their peers. If these individuals can pass these traits on to their offspring, their offspring will enjoy the same advantages. If the surrounding environment gradually changes, it may evidence that the new characteristics are more advantageous than old ones, for instance, a new color that makes better camouflage. As the environment changes, individuals with these new characteristics will do better, live longer and produce more offspring until eventually, the population will look very different from its original version. If the population changes enough to adopt with the new environment, it will be classified as a new species. In other words, new species arise when the environment favors new characteristics over old ones.
His theory stated is that life on earth is simply the result of billions of years of adaptations to changing environments. This theory implied, and what Darwin emphasized in his book The Descent of Man, is that humans, like every other organism on earth, were the result of evolution. In short, Darwin's idea was unflattering. In fact, it caused an immediate uproar in the religious community. Christian leaders vehemently opposed Darwinís theory because it went against the belief that things are not created by God. These controversies are still alive today although Darwin theory has been recognized.

Just as some people refused to accept Darwin's theories at all, others were all happy to accept his teachings -- and exploit them. Another myth attached to Darwin is that he coined the phrase "survival of the fittest". He didn't, it was, in fact, coined by a British sociologist and philosopher Herbert Spencer. Darwin developed the theory of natural selection to explain differences between species, but many of his contemporaries used his ideas to promote Social Darwinism. Social Darwinism was used as a scientific and philosophical justification for laisse-faire economics, in which individuals are left on their own to compete for resources and achieve whatever they can. It maintains that certain peoples are poorer than others are and more likely to be used as slave labor because they're "less evolved" and therefore inferior.

Everything has a bad side to it. As noble as the evolution theory can be, it was used as a tool for exploitation. Despite that dark side, Darwin and evolution has increased with the advent of modern genetics and wider interest in archeology, ecology, anthropology, eugenics, and other scientific endeavors. Darwinism has not only enriched the culture of European and American societies, but reaches into the far corners of the world.

A Day In The Life Of Charles Darwin


Charles Darwin got up early before sunrise to take a short walk outside, a tradition he started in March 1849 at Malvern Spa
7:45 - 8:00
Had a small breakfast by himself.
8:00 - 9:30
He did his best research during this time.
9:30 - 10:30
Read letters in the drawing room. Family letters were read aloud by his wife, Emma, while he relaxed on the sofa. Sometimes she would read a novel to him at this time.
10:30 - 12:00
He did more research.
12:00 - 1:00
No matter what the weather might be like he went for a stroll at the Sandwalk with his dog Polly, a white terrier. Along the way he would often stop by the greenhouse to check up on how his plants.
1:00 - 1:30
1:30 - 2:00
Read the newspaper on the sofa in the drawing room. He was very much interested in the political goings on.
2:00 - 3:00
Sat down in his big chair by the fireplace and wrote letters.
3:00 - 4:00
Rested in his bedroom on the sofa while listening to a novel read to him by Emma.
4:00 - 4:30
Came downstairs for his late afternoon stroll.
4:30 - 5:30
More research on whatever project he was working on at the time.
5:30 - 6:00
Relaxed in the drawing room and did miscellaneous stuff, or just being idle.
6:00 - 7:30
Another rest upstairs with a novel read to him by his wife.
7:30 - 8:00
Had a light dinner with Emma and the children.
8:00 - 8:30
Played two games of backgammon with Emma every night. He kept score of every game for many years.
8:30 - 9:00
Read a scientific text in the drawing room or study.
9:00 - 9:30
Listened to Emma playing her Broadwood Grand pianoforte.
9:30 - 10:00
Emma read more from a novel while Darwin relaxed in the drawing room.
10:00 - 10:30
Went upstairs to get ready for bed.
Went to bed.
*** A weird life he had! Notice that he took a lot of walks during the day? Well, that might be the base for all his great discoveries and theories. So take a walk!


1/ Olson, Richard and Roger Smith edited, Biographical Encyclopedia of Scientists, Volume 2, Marshall Convendish Corporation, NY, 1998.

2/ Simonis, Doris edited, Lives and Legacies, An Encyclopedia of People Who Changed The World, The Oryx Press, AZ, 1998.