Who is Charles Darwin? Why is he important? What was he like as a person? Charles Darwin is often called the father of evolutionary biology. Because his impact on science has been so impressive, it's easy to forget he was also just a man like the rest of us. To understand Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution by natural selection, it is important to know more about his background.
A Youth Full Of Experimentation
Charles Darwin was interested in science early on, beginning with learning how to change the colors of cut flowers by using food coloring in the water of vases and collecting bugs and rocks. Darwin and his older brother, Erasmus, built a chemistry lab in their backyard. They created all kinds of gases and chemicals in the lab, but Darwin's experiments were not appreciated. He was taunted by his peers, who delighted in calling him "Gas Darwin."
Darwin's Different Career Paths
Interestingly enough, Darwin started out as a poor student. His father took him out of school when he was 16 because his grades were poor, but he soon returned to school with determination. Darwin worked as a medical assistant for his father, who was a doctor, and he enrolled in medical school at Edinburgh University of Scotland. While Darwin learned about medicine, he also became interested in taxidermy, hiking and natural history. He began attending meetings of the Plinian Society, a science club that debated ways to look at science from natural versus supernatural points of view. He also became friends with Robert Grant, a zoology professor who filled Darwin's head with new ideas about evolution. These ideas were heretical at the time.
Finding His Calling
However, Darwin did not finish medical school. He stopped applying himself to his studies, so his father sent him to Cambridge with the intention of making him a clergyman. Darwin was excited about this because Cambridge offered courses in natural history, a topic he was interested in studying. Unfortunately, he found the lectures to be boring and spent his time playing cards with friends, shooting birds, collecting beetles, reading books that would later set him up for his HMS Beagle trip and spending time with two influential professors: Reverend John Henslow and Reverend Adam Sedgwick. By the time Darwin left Cambridge, he knew a great deal about natural history and was quite prepared to study and do research.
The expedition of the HMS Beagle opened Darwin's eyes to new information that supported his now-famous theory of evolution by natural selection and other natural science and natural history concepts. Darwin's background set him up so that he was prepared to make many discoveries and document these observations well.
When discussing Charles Darwin and his accomplishments, it is important to remember that his achievements are not limited to his work on the theory of evolution by natural selection.
Why is Charles Darwin important? If you're not sure why, you probably don't know what the scientific climate was like back when Darwin went on his voyage on the HMS Beagle.