It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
Charles Robert Darwin was born on 12 February 1809 in Shrewsbury, Shropshire into a wealthy and well-connected family. His maternal grandfather was china manufacturer, while his paternal grandfather was Erasmus Darwin, one of the leading intellectuals of 18th century England.
Darwin himself initially planned to follow a medical career, and studied at Edinburgh University but later switched to divinity at Cambridge. In 1831, he joined a five year scientific expedition on the survey ship HMS Beagle.
In 1838, Darwin married Emma Wedgewood, his first cousin, with whom he later has 10 children. In 1842, the Darwin family moved into Down House, Kent. It is at Down House that Darwin takes on the task of writing his theory of evolution through natural selection. It takes 15 years to finalize the manuscript.
In 1858, Darwin receives a letter from fellow naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace. In that letter, Wallace reveals that he has developed a theory of evolution by natural selection. This forces Darwin to present his theory alongside that of Wallace. Although the two naturalists reached similar conclusions about their theories, it was Darwin who had gathered and compiled the vast body of evidence to back his theory.
In November of 1859, a 447-page first edition of On the Origin of Species was published. The work stirred instant controversy and made Darwin one of the most recognizable figures in Victorian England. Many people still believed the the World was created by God as said in the Bible. By the late twentieth century, Darwin’s theory, with modifications derived from more than a century of scientific research, had become a cornerstone of modern biology and geology.
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. Darwin’s research on plants was published in a series of books, and in his final book, he examined earthworms and their effect on soil.
Following a lifetime of devout research, Charles Darwin died at his family home, Down House, in London, on April 19, 1882, and was buried at Westminster Abbey, close to Isaac Newton. During the next century, DNA studies revealed evidence of his theory of evolution, although controversy surrounding its conflict with Creationism—the religious view that all of nature was born of God—still abounds today.