By Aaron M.
Charles Darwin was a 19th century biologist who pioneered the concept of evolution. His theories were ridiculed and condemned at the time they were published, but now they are widely accepted as major building blocks for the world we live in. The constant stress Darwin experienced due to scrutiny and disdain from the establishment caused him health problems, yet despite his frail nature, Darwin persisted and became one of the most admired scientists of all time.
Darwin was born in a small English town called Shrewsbury on February 12, 1809. His family was a long line of scientists. His grandfather also researched evolution. Darwin was a privileged, well-educated child, although his mother died when he was eight.
For two years, Darwin attended Edinburgh University. The school had a radical spirit and encouraged revolutionary thought in ways Britain’s more traditional universities did not. Evidence shows that he may have acquired some initial ideas about evolution there.
After two years, he left Edinburgh and went to study religion at Christ’s College in Cambridge. Although Darwin was religious, he was more interested in science than religion. His time at Christ’s College was not a high point in his life.
While Darwin was at Cambridge, he studied with John Stevens Henslow. Henslow also guided Darwin to the HMS Beagle.
In late 1831, Darwin went aboard the Beagle to do research on its 5-year voyage around the world. Darwin did some of his most important work aboard the Beagle. His stop at the Galapagos Islands is regarded as one of the most important times of his career.
Darwin returned to England in 1836. By that point he had done enough research to confirm his ideas. He had also discovered how animals evolve through natural selection.
Darwin was very reluctant to publish his work. He knew some would see it as offensive to their religious beliefs, and that his science would be accepted by few. He said he would be attacked by the “powerful and the bigoted.”
Darwin’s fear for the criticism he knew he would receive and the stress that came with it caused major health issues for him. He was sickly for most of his life and was always impaired by fear of criticism.
It took him until 1859, 23 years after he returned to England, to publish his most famous work, On the Origin of Species. As he expected, it received scathing critique, mainly from the religious establishment. However, it has gradually become widely accepted, and Darwin is now considered one of the world’s most influential scientists. Although Charles Darwin died in London on April 19, 1882 his legacy will never die.