Who Is Charles Darwin?

Charles Darwin photo and letters


Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

Who Is Charles Darwin?:

Charles Darwin is the most famous evolution scientist and often gets credit for coming up with the Theory of Evolution through Natural Selection.


Charles Robert Darwin was born February 12, 1809, in Shrewsbury, Shropshire England to Robert and Susannah Darwin. He was the fifth of six Darwin children. His mother died when he was eight, so he was sent off to boarding school in Shrewsbury where he was a mediocre student at best.

Being from an affluent family of doctors, his father sent Charles and his older brother to the University of Edinburgh to study medicine. However, Charles could not stand the sight of blood and so instead he started studying natural history, which angered his father.

He then was sent off to Christ's College in Cambridge to become a clergyman. While studying, he started a beetle collection and kept up his love of nature. His mentor, John Stevens Henslow, recommended Charles as a Naturalist on a voyage with Robert FitzRoy.

Darwin's famous journey on the HMS Beagle allowed him time to study natural specimens from across the globe and collect some to study back in England. He also read books by Charles Lyell and Thomas Malthus, which influenced his early thoughts on evolution.

Upon returning to England in 1838, Darwin married his first cousin Emma Wedgwood and began years of researching and cataloging his specimens. At first, Charles was reluctant to share his findings and ideas about evolution. It wasn't until 1854 that he collaborated with Alfred Russel Wallace to jointly present the idea of evolution and natural selection. The two men were scheduled to present jointly to the Linnaean Society meeting in 1958. However, Darwin decided to not attend as his precious daughter was gravely ill. She ended up passing away shortly thereafter. Wallace also did not attend the meeting where their research was presented due to other conflicts. Their research was still presented and the scientific world was intrigued by their findings.

Darwin officially published his theories in On the Origin of the Species in 1859. He knew his views would be controversial, especially with those who believed heavily in religion, as he was somewhat of a spiritual man himself. His first edition of the book did not talk much about human evolution but did hypothesize that there was a common ancestor for all life. It wasn't until much later when he published The Descent of Man that Charles Darwin really dove into how humans had evolved. This book was probably the most controversial of all his works.

Darwin's work instantly became famous and revered by scientists across the globe. He wrote a few more books on the topic in the remaining years of his life. Charles Darwin died in 1882 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. He was buried as a national hero.