Interesting Facts About Charles Darwin

Details Not Usually Found in Textbooks

Portrait of Charles Darwin

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British philosopher and scientist Charles Darwin (1809–1882) is often called the "Father of Evolution," but there was much more to the man than just his scientific papers and literary works. In fact, Charles Darwin was much more than just the guy who came up with the Theory of Evolution. His life and story is an interesting read. Did you know he helped shape what we know now as the discipline of Psychology? He also has a sort of "double" connection to Abraham Lincoln and didn't have to look past his own family reunion to find his wife.

Let's take a look at some interesting facts that usually aren't found in textbooks about the man behind the Theory of Evolution and Natural Selection.

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Charles Darwin Married His Cousin

Emma Wedgwood Darwin, wife of Charles
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How did Charles Darwin meet his wife Emma Wedgwood? Well, he didn't have to look farther than his own family tree. Emma and Charles were first cousins. The couple was married for 43 years before Charles passed away. The Darwins had 10 children total, but two died in infancy and another passed away when she was 10 years old. They even have a young adult non-fiction book written about their marriage.

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Charles Darwin Was a British 19th-Century Black Activist

Letters written by Darwin and a photograph of him
Letters written by Darwin at Herbarium Library.

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Darwin was known to be an empathetic man toward animals, and this sentiment extended to humans as well. While traveling on the HMS Beagle, Darwin saw what he felt were injustices of enslavement. His stops in South America were particularly startling for him, as he wrote in his accounts of the journey. It is believed that Darwin published On the Origin of Species partly to encourage the ending of the institution of enslavement.

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Charles Darwin Had Connections to Buddhism

A buddha statue

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Even though Charles Darwin was not a Buddhist himself, he and his wife Emma reportedly had a fascination with and respect for the religion. Darwin wrote a book called Expressions of the Emotions in Man and Animals in which he explained that compassion in humans was a trait that survived natural selection because it is a beneficial trait to want to stop the suffering of others. These types of assertions may have been influenced by Buddhism tenets that are similar to this line of thinking.

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Charles Darwin Influenced the Early History of Psychology

A graphic image of the human brain

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The reason Darwin is the most celebrated of the contributors to the Theory of Evolution is because he was the first one to identify evolution as a process and offered an explanation and a mechanism for the changes that were occurring. When psychology was first breaking away from biology, the proponents of functionalism ​modeled their ideas after Darwin's way of thinking. This was in stark contrast to the existing structuralism line of thought and brought about a new way of looking at early psychological ideas.

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He Shared Views (And a Birthday) With Abraham Lincoln

Charles Darwin's grave
Charles Darwin's grave.

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February 12, 1809, was a very significant day in history. Not only was Charles Darwin born on that day, but future President of the United States Abraham Lincoln was also born on that day. These great men had many similarities. Both had more than one child die at young ages. In addition, both were strongly against enslavement and successfully used their popularity and influence to help abolish the practice. Darwin and Lincoln both lost their mothers at a young age and reportedly suffered from depression. Perhaps most importantly, both men changed the world with their accomplishments and shaped the future with their works.

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Scoville, Heather. "Interesting Facts About Charles Darwin." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Scoville, Heather. (2020, August 28). Interesting Facts About Charles Darwin. Retrieved from Scoville, Heather. "Interesting Facts About Charles Darwin." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 29, 2023).