Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882), known as the ?father of evolution? put forth the once controversial theory of natural selection. His concept of the development of all species through gradual and beneficial adaptation has greatly influenced life and earth sciences. A meticulous observer, his once unprovable theories were vindicated with the advent of modern science.
Born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England on February 12, 1809 Darwin was the fifth child of a wealthy family. His fascination with evolution may well have begun as he listened to the teaching of his grandfather, noted physician and naturalist, Erasmus Darwin. Erasmus Darwin had proposed a theory of evolution in the 1790?s; however, it would be his grandson Charles Darwin who shook the foundations of science by proposing a viable mechanism for evolution, namely natural selection.
Darwin began his education studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh. In 1827 he entered the University of Cambridge as a student of theology.
It was there he met the man who would change the course of his life, naturalist John Stevens Henslow.
Henslow?s mentorship proved invaluable to the young Darwin. In addition to building Darwin?s self-confidence he also taught his student to be a meticulous and thorough observer. When Darwin graduated from Cambridge in 1831, Henslow secured for the 22 year old Darwin passage aboard the English survey ship HMS Beagle as an unpaid naturalist on a scientific expedition of the world.
Aboard the Beagle Darwin had the opportunity to observe numerous geological formations, fossils and flora and fauna of different continents. He found himself comparing his observations to the teachings of Sir Charles Lyell and eventually came to his own conclusion -- that there must be links between distinct but similar species. Popular science of the time put forth the idea that each species on Earth were individually...