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The following biography of Charles Darwin is in the 1973 issue of  Encyclopedia Britannica.  Consider how much less flattering of Darwin this biography is than the one currently in the same encyclopedia:

Darwin, Charles

Charles Robert Darwin, the English naturalist whose
demonstration of organic evolution and its operating
principle, natural selection, revolutionized human knowl-
edge, was born on Feb. 12, 1809, at Shrewsbury. He was
the son of Robert Waring Darwin and Susannah, daugh-
ter of Josiah Wedgwood I, the famous potter. His grand-
father Erasmus Darwin was the polymath physician,
poet, philosopher, and inventor who, by his second mar-
riage, was also the grandfather of Francis Gallon, found-
er of the science of eugenics.

Youth and education. Darwin's mother died when he
was eight years old, and he was brought up by his eldest

sister, Caroline, to whom he was always grateful for in-
stilling in him a humanitarian spirit. The boy developed
very slowly: he was given, when small, to inventing gra-
tuitous fibs and to daydreaming; and he was passionately
fond of collecting seals, franks (equivalents of postage
stamps), pebbles, and minerals--an important trait in
his future as a naturalist.

In 1818 he entered Shrewsbury School. Later he com-
plained that he was taught only classics, never realizing
his debt to them for providing a sound basis for his edu-
cation. He was a poor student, and in 1825 his father re-
proached him, saying, "You care for nothing but shoot-
ing, dogs, and"rat-catching, and you will be a disgrace to
yourself and all your family." He was then sent to Edin-
burgh University to study medicine, but that also was a
failure: the lectures disgusted him with science, witness-
ing an operation nauseated him; and he only enjoyed col-
lecting marine animals in tidal pools, accompanying fish-
ermen trawling for oysters, and learning to skin and stuff
birds from a Negro who had accompanied a naturalist
in South America.

As there was no future for Darwin in medicine, he left
Edinburgh in 1827 and was sent to Cambridge to prepare
for Holy Orders in the Church of England. At Christ's
College he paid little attention to his official studies and
fell in with a set of sporting young men as keen on shoot-
ing, riding, and hunting as he was. But he also got to
know some distinguished scientists--in particular, John
Stevens Henslow, professor of botany, who influenced
Darwin profoundly by stimulating his interest in natural
history and by giving him confidence in himself.

Career. In 1831 the Admiralty asked for a naturalist
to accompany Capt. Robert Fitzroy of the Royal Navy
on a voyage in HMS "Beagle" to survey the coasts of
Patagonia, Tierra del Puego, Chile, and Peru, to visit
some Pacific islands, and to establish a chain of chrono-
metrical stations around the world. Henslow recom-
mended Darwin, who wanted to accept, but whose father
objected that it would only be another interruption in his
checkered education. His uncle Josiah Wedgwood II,
however, persuaded Robert Darwin that his objections
were unsound and he withdrew them. Darwin sailed from
Devonport in the "Beagle" on Dec. 27, 1831. He was to
be away five years.

The Cape Verde Islands provided him with his first ob-
ject lesson of a volcano, on which he was able to test for
himself the validity of Charles Lyell's Principles of Geol-
ogy, which Henslow had advised him to take with him,
but on no account to believe. Darwin did believe the re-
sults of his own observations, however, and these con-
fimed him in his acceptance of Lyell's doctrine of uni-
formitarianism (i.e., natural laws apply uniformly
throughout time) and laid the foundations of his future
as a scientist. In Brazil he saw his first tropical forest;

in Argentina he found his first fossils--sloths, mastodons,
and horses. In Tierra del Fuego he saw a race of men so
savage, so devoid of any beliefs (and even occasionally
cannibalistic) that they hardly seemed human. Three of
them had been taken to England three years previously
by Captain Fitzroy "to teach them the elements of
Christianity and the use of tools," and they were now be-
ing repatriated. Darwin was astonished that "three years
had been sufficient to change savages into as far as habits
go complete and voluntary Europeans." But they soon re-
verted to savagery.

In Chile Darwin witnessed an earthquake and observed
both its effects in raising the level of the land and its con-
nection with volcanic eruption. Repeatedly when ashore
he went on long, arduous, and dangerous expeditions on
horseback, collecting and shooting, which showed that
his addiction to sport had not been useless. On more than
one occasion he saved the situation for his companions:

once by running far and fast enough to save their boat
from being destroyed by the wave raised by a glacier fall
(they would all have been doomed had he failed) and
another time by going on to get help when his captain
and companions were exhausted and incapable of walk-
ing a step farther. Wherever he saw a mountain he
climbed it, and on one journey from Chile to Argentina
over high passes of the Andes, he was bitten massively
by bugs. From the Galapagos Islands the "Beagle"
sailed to Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, Cocos Keeling
Atoll, Mauritius, South Africa, St. Helena, Ascension
Island, Brazil again (to check chronometers), and then
home. Darwin landed at Falmouth on Oct. 2, 1836.

All Darwin's work stemmed directly from the observa-
tions and collections that he made during the voyage of
the "Beagle." As shown in the title of his book Journal
of Researches into the Geology and Natural History of
the Various Countries Visited by H.M.S. Beagle, 1832-
36 (1839), his main interests were at first geological (al-
though natural history took precedence over geology in
the second edition of his Journal, 1845), and his obser-
vations resulted in three further books: Structure and
Distribution of Coral Reefs (1842), Geological Observa-
tions on Volcanic Islands (1844), and Geological Ob-
servations on South America (1846). In the eyes of
posterity, these works were so eclipsed by Darwin's
bombshell on evolution that they have been neglected,
but they were fundamental to his later work.

Starting from the fact that coral polyps can live only in
clear salt water less than 20 fathoms deep, at tempera-
tures not less than 68� F, and that coral atolls and bar-
rier reefs are all at about sea level, Darwin argued that
such atolls and reefs could only have resulted from sub-
sidence of the sea floor, the corals growing upward as
their bases dropped. Darwin's view has since been con-
firmed by deep borings of coral reefs revealing at depths
of nearly 5,000 feet dead corals that once lived within
120 feet of the surface.

Another kind of reef, which Darwin called the fringing
reef, occurs above sea level and results from elevation of
the sea floor. Plotting on the map the distribution of
atolls and barrier reefs on the one hand and of fringing
reefs on the other, he saw that great areas of the ocean
bottom had undergone subsidence, and others elevation,
and that all active volcanoes are in the latter. This agreed
with the correlation that he had observed in South Amer-
ica between volcanic action and elevation of the ground.
That such changes of level could be substantial he saw
from his discovery in the Andes--at an altitude of 7,000
feet--of a fossil forest overlain by thousands of feet of
sedimentary deposits laid down by the sea, thus proving
the occurrence of earlier earth movements of the order
of 10,000 feet vertical height.

In petrology his comparison of volcanic lavas with plu-
tonic rocks showed that they were closely related. The
minerals in crystalline granites and in glasslike lavas
were similar. His studies of the direction of the strike and
the angle of dip of strata showed that planes of cleavage
and of foliation were constant over very wide areas, par-
allel to the direction of great axes along which elevation

of land had taken place over hundreds of miles. Further-
more, these planes of cleavage and foliation had no rela-
tion to the planes of stratification of sedimentary deposits
and had been superimposed on strata by pressure and re-
crystallization. This was the origin of the "deformation"
theory of metamorphic rocks.

The collection of animals that he made was described
by a team of specialists under Darwin's editorship and
published in The Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle
(1840-43). But Darwin's biological contribution to sci-
ence was of a different nature. When he started on the
voyage, like everyone else he did not question the immu-
tability of species. But several questions set him thinking:

Why do so many similar animals exist so far apart geo-
graphically? Why does the South American rhea, for ex-
ample, resemble so closely the African ostrich? On the
other hand, why were adjacent areas populated by similar
though not identical species? Why, for instance, were the
birds and tortoises of each Galapagos island different, al-
though the physical conditions of the islands seemed

After his return Darwin saw, in 1837, that these ques-
tions and many more--in comparative anatomy, embry-
ology, classification, geographical distribution, and palae-
ontology--could be satisfactorily explained if species Darwin's
were not immutable but had evolved into other species, evolu-
many with a common ancestor. The evolutionary view of tionary
descent with modification from ancestral species, ex- concept
hibited by descendant species, provides a complete ex-
planation of all these questions, which otherwise remain
inexplicable and without a common determining princi-
ple. Further details of the huge mass of evidence support-
ing this view from all branches of biology are given in
the article on EVOLUTION.

Darwin realized that it would be useless, in the state of
opinion of his day, to try to convince anybody of the
truth of evolution unless he could also explain how it
was brought about. In searching for this cause he knew
that the key to man's success in producing change in cul-
tivated plants and domestic animals was careful selection
of parents from which to breed the desired qualities, and
he felt sure that selection must somehow also be opera-
tive in nature's creation of species. He knew that all in-
dividuals in a species were not identical but showed vari-
ation, and he realized that some individuals, well adapted
to the places they occupied in the economy of nature (in
the mid-20th century called ecological niches), would
flourish, while others, less adapted, would perish. This The
was the principle of natural selection that he had grasped principle
as early as 1837, but he still required to know how nature of natural
enforced it. On Sept. 28, 1838, he read Malthus' Essay selection
on the Principle of Population in which the author tried
to show that, as the rate of increase of human population
was in a geometrical ratio, while that of increase in hu-
man food supply was only in arithmetical ratio, the re-
sult must be misery and death for the poor, unless popu-
lation growth was checked. Malthus' argument was un-
sound because it has never been determined to what ex-
tent human food supply could be artificially increased if
it were given sufficient priority and finance. But Darwin
saw at once that this fallacious argument could be applied
correctly to plants and animals, which are unable to in-
crease their food supply artificially. He saw, too, that in
these organisms mortality must be very high, thereby
automatically enforcing the mechanism of selection of
parents of successive generations. The note in telegraphic
style which Darwin entered that day in his "Notebook on
Transmutation of Species" is worth quoting:

On an average every species must have same number killed
year with year by hawks, by cold, & c.--even one species of
hawk decreasing in number must affect instantaneously all the
rest. The final cause of all this wedging must be to sort out
proper structure. . . . One may say there is a force like a hun-
dred thousand wedges trying to force every kind of adapted
structure into the gaps in the oeconomy of nature, or rather
forming gaps by thrusting out weaker ones.




horizontal rule

The following is an "updated" biography of Charles Darwin.  Note the severely different tone of the biography!

Darwin, Charles

Youth and education

Darwin's mother died when he was eight years old. Otherwise he enjoyed a golden
childhood, cosseted and encouraged by adoring sisters, an older brother, and the large
Darwin and Wedgwood clans. He was keenly interested in specimen collecting and
chemical investigations, but at the Shrewsbury school, where he was an uninspired
student, the headmaster, Dr. Samuel Butler, stressed the classics and publicly rebuked
Darwin for wasting his time with chemical experiments. At age 16 he was sent to study
medicine at the University of Edinburgh, where he was repelled by surgery performed
without anesthetics. During his two years in Scotland Darwin benefited from friendships
with the zoologist Robert Grant, who introduced him to the study of marine animals, and
the geologist Robert Jameson, who fed his growing interest in the history of the Earth.

Disappointed by Darwin's lack of enthusiasm for medicine, his father sent him to the
University of Cambridge in 1827 to study divinity. At the time Darwin adhered to the
conventional beliefs of the Church of England. His academic record at Christ's College was
as undistinguished as it had been at Edinburgh. He socialized considerably with hunting,
shooting, riding, and sporting friends. Cambridge did not yet offer a degree in the natural
sciences, but, guided by his older cousin William Darwin Fox (an entomologist who inspired
in him a lifelong passion for collecting beetles), Darwin met the circle of Cambridge
scientists led by the cleric-botanist John Stevens Henslow. Soon a regular at Henslow's
“open houses,” Darwin accompanied him on daily walks and became known as “the man
who walks with Henslow.” Henslow encouraged Darwin's excitement about science and
confidence in his own abilities.

On leaving Cambridge in the spring of 1831 Darwin, in preparation for a scientific trip to
the Canary Islands, read Alexander von Humboldt's Personal Narrative of Travels to the
Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent, a scientific travelogue of a journey to Central and
the northern parts of South America. At Henslow's recommendation he accompanied Adam
Sedgwick, Woodwardian professor of geology at Cambridge, on a three-week tour of
North Wales to learn geologic fieldwork.

In August 1831, at Henslow's recommendation to the Admiralty, Darwin was invited to sail
as the unpaid naturalist on HMS Beagle. The ship was to survey the east and west coasts
of South America and continue to the Pacific islands to establish a chain of chronometric
stations. Henslow suggested Darwin as both an acute observer and a companion for the
aristocratic young captain, Robert FitzRoy. (The Beagle already had a naturalist-surgeon,
but one whom FitzRoy found socially unsuitable.) Robert Darwin first refused permission on
grounds that it was dangerous and would not advance Charles in his career. But upon the
intercession of his brother-in-law, Josiah Wedgwood II, he changed his mind.

On Dec. 27, 1831, Charles Darwin sailed from Plymouth, Eng., on the Beagle, a 10-gun brig
that had been refitted as a three-masted bark. The voyage, planned for two years, lasted
five, during which Darwin kept meticulous notes and sent back geologic and biologic

The voyage of the “Beagle”

In a letter to FitzRoy accepting the post Darwin explained that he expected the voyage to
be a “second birth.” There is no doubt that the years he spent exploring the South
American continent and the offshore islands of the Gal�pagos honed his skills as a
collector, observer, and theorist. Often seasick, Darwin rested horizontally in a hammock
during the worst motion and spent long periods of time ashore whenever the opportunity
arose. He delighted in the exotica of the tropics. Adventurous, he braved his way through
armed political rebellions, rode with the gauchos in Argentina, and on collecting and
shooting expeditions justified his earlier devotion to sport. He joined the crew in towing
the ship's boats upstream and once rescued the expedition by running to save a boat from
a tidal wave. He seemed to relish danger and was sustained in the considerable
discomfort by a lively curiosity. He wrote to one of his sisters, “We have in truth the world
before us. Think of the Andes; the luxuriant forest of the Guayquil [sic]; the islands of the
South Sea & New South Wales. How many magnificent & characteristic views, how many &
curious tribes of men we shall see.—what fine opportunities for geology & for studying the
infinite host of living beings: Is this not a prospect to keep up the most flagging spirit?”

Darwin had brought his own books to augment the ship's extensive library. The most
important scientific work was the first volume of Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology, which
Henslow had urged him to read though not to believe. Lyell argued that the face of the
Earth had changed gradually over long periods of time through the continuing, cumulative
effects of local disturbances, such as eruptions, earthquakes, erosion, and deposition.
Such disturbances had existed in the distant past and could be observed in the present.
This view differed dramatically from that held by most contemporary geologists, who
hewed to the belief that changes in the face of the Earth resulted from short- lived events
of great violence that could raise mountains or flood the entire planet. During the first
months of his journey Darwin was converted to Lyell's views by his own observations.

About 1,800 miles southwest of the Canary Islands the Beagle visited S�o Tiago, a volcanic
island in the Cape Verde Islands. From the harbour Darwin saw a band of white rock
extending horizontally at a height of about 45 feet above the base of the sea cliffs. The
formation was calcareous and contained numerous shells, almost all of which could be
found on the coast. Darwin reasoned that a stream of lava from the ancient volcanoes had
flowed over what had been ancient seabed, baking it to form the hard white rock. The
whole island had subsequently been heaved up to make the sea cliff from the white band
downward. Darwin also realized that the island's surface had been formed by a succession
of volcanic events, not a single dramatic one. He discerned an initial subsidence, the
settling of the surface around the original craters, its building up from new lava spills from
different craters, and further subsidence and building up over a long period of time.

Later, in Chile, Darwin witnessed his first earthquake. He saw the land rise before his
eyes. Then, after crossing the Andes in 1835, he wrote to his sister that he could
understand “to a certain extent the description & manner of the force, which has elevated
this great line of mountains.” He had found fossil shells at an elevation of 12,000 feet, and
he theorized that a chain of suboceanic volcanoes had poured forth enormous quantities
of lava that formed the Andes through a further process of upheaval and fracturing.
Darwin marveled at the whole South American continent, which he read as a vast testing
ground for Lyell's ideas. To his cousin William Fox he wrote, “Everything in America is on
such a grand scale. The same formations extend for 5 or 600 miles without the slightest
change—for such geology one requires 6 league boots.”

The data Darwin collected on the Beagle provided him with material for three books on
South American geology. Although his theories of continental change have been
superseded by the theory of plate tectonics, his descriptions in letters to Henslow, which
Henslow excerpted and read before the Cambridge Philosophical Society and the
Geological Society of London, brought him celebrity in scientific circles even before his

While still on the voyage he challenged Lyell's view of the formation of coral reefs by
volcanic action. Darwin contended that the reefs were part of a process of gradual
changes in the Earth's crust resulting from the subsidence of some landmasses and
corresponding elevations elsewhere. He explained that coral, which only grows in shallow
waters, forms a reef by building up on the seafloor as the floor subsides. He predicted that
if a whole island sank below the ocean's surface, and the coral continued to grow, a reef
would turn into an atoll around a lagoon. Lyell was convinced and supported Darwin's
reinterpretation, which deep-sea borings in the 20th century have confirmed.

Darwin's geologic ponderings were important for geology and to his scientific development.
Many of the rocks he examined contained fossils, and his constant exposure to the
evidence of extinct species and the similarity of many of them to living species kept one
problem at the fore: By what mechanism did new species replace extinct ones?

During the voyage Darwin developed confidence in his own observations as well as the
ability to grasp a problem and work at it steadily. The isolation of the voyage, combined
with the exposure to new phenomena, taught him to think for himself within the familiar
scientific culture of his time. He developed a rare combination of strengths: a dedication to
careful fact gathering and a propensity to theorize about the facts. His geologic pondering
on a continental scale encouraged him to search for universal laws. The voyage of the
Beagle transformed Darwin into an independent and adventurous scientist who had the
courage to embrace the heretical idea of the transmutation of species.



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