Charles Robert Darwin was born on February 12, 1809, Shrewsbury, England. Darwin came from a line of scientists. His father, Dr. R.W. Darwin, was as a medical doctor, and his grandfather, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, was a renowned botanist. In September 1818, he joined his older brother Erasmus attending the nearby Anglican Shrewsbury School as a boarder. Darwin spent the summer of 1825 as an apprentice doctor, helping his father treat the poor of Shropshire, before going to the University of Edinburgh Medical School with his brother Erasmus in October 1825. He found lectures dull and surgery distressing, so neglected his studies. He was sent to Christ’s College, Cambridge, to study for a Bachelor of Arts degree as the first step towards becoming an Anglican parson. As Darwin was unqualified for the Tripos, he joined the ordinary degree course in January 1828. Darwin focused on his studies and was delighted by the language and logic of William Paley’s Evidences of Christianity. Darwin had to stay at Cambridge until June 1831.
After gaining a passionate interest in natural science, Darwin was offered a place on the HMS Beagle to act as natural scientist on a voyage to the coast of South America. The voyage began on 27 December 1831 and lasted almost five years. Darwin spent most of that time on land investigating geology and making natural history collections, while “Beagle” surveyed and charted coasts. Upon his return to England in 1836, Darwin began to write up his findings in the Journal of Researches and published them. The trip had a monumental affect on Darwin’s view of natural history. He began to develop a revolutionary theory about the origin of living beings that was contrary to the popular view of other naturalists at the time. He came to believe that species survived through a process called “natural selection,” where species that successfully adapted to meet the changing requirements of their natural habitat thrived, while those that failed to evolve and reproduce died off.
In 1858, after years of further scientific investigation, Darwin publically introduced his revolutionary theory of evolution. On November 24, 1859, he published a detailed explanation of his theory in his best-known work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Following a lifetime of devout research, Charles Darwin died at his family home, Down House, in London, on April 19, 1882.