Naturalist Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin, born on February 12, 1809, was the English naturalist whose theory of evolution rocked Victorian religion and science. Shortly after his graduation from Cambridge, Darwin sailed as a naturalist with the surveying ship HMS Beagle. During the five-year voyage, Darwin’s observations of wildlife led to the writing of his 1859 book The Origin of the Species, in which he proposed the theory of natural selection. All life, he said, is a struggle for existence and some species are better able to adapt to the environment and survive to pass along their characteristics. In 1871, Darwin wrote Descent of Man, which demonstrated that man and ape could have had a common ancestor. Darwin’s theories were highly controversial and unsettling to those who believed in creationism. Many Victorians condemned Darwin as blasphemous, but many important scientists of the day agreed with his theories.
Image: Library of Congress