Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin!
12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882
We celebrate the man, his ideas, and his placing the Galapagos Islands in preeminence in the world, so that they have been preserved and cherished.
Thank you, Mr. Darwin!
Charles Robert Darwin was an English naturalist who realized and demonstrated that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors through the process he called natural selection. The fact that evolution occurs became accepted by the scientific community and much of the general public in his lifetime, while his theory of natural selection came to be widely seen as the primary explanation of the process of evolution in the 1930s, and now forms the basis of modern evolutionary theory. In modified form, Darwin’s scientific discovery remains the foundation of biology, as it provides a unifying logical explanation for the diversity of life.
Articles, Celebrations and More on Charles Darwin
Darwin, Ahead of His Time, Is Still Influential
Genes Offer New Clues in Old Debate on Species’ Origins
Galapagos Conservation Trust: Charles Darwin
Orchids Through Darwin’s Eyes
Darwin arrived in the Galapagos Islands on 15 September 1835 on the HMS Beagle. He was not very favorably impressed by their appearance, and wrote in his diary; ‘The black rocks heated by the rays of the vertical sun like a stove, give to the air a close & sultry feeling. The plants also smell unpleasantly. The country was compared to what we might imagine the cultivated parts of the Infernal regions to be.’
However, the idea that he was struck by a blinding flash of inspiration on first landing in Galapagos and seeing the finches that came to bear his name is far from the truth. It is clear from his notes that he continued for some nine months after visiting Galapagos to believe in the fixity of species and his earliest doubts about the correctness of this doctrine, written around 1 July 1836 on the last leg of the journey, were based on the mockingbirds that he had collected, not the finches. It was only in March 1837 that the penny dropped, when the ornithologist John Gould reported to him that the finches were not, as he had supposed, members of several widely different families, but all belonged to one remarkable new family now known as the Geospizinae.
Darwin’s five-year voyage on HMS Beagle established him as an eminent geologist whose observations and theories supported Charles Lyell’s uniformitarian ideas, and publication of his journal of the voyage made him famous as a popular author. Puzzled by the geographical distribution of wildlife and fossils he collected on the voyage, Darwin investigated the transmutation of species and conceived his theory of natural selection in 1838. Although he discussed his ideas with several naturalists, he needed time for extensive research and his geological work had priority. He was writing up his theory in 1858 when Alfred Russel Wallace sent him an essay which described the same idea, prompting immediate joint publication of both of their theories.
In recognition of Darwin’s pre-eminence, he was one of only five 19th-century UK non-royal personages to be honored by a state funeral, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, close to John Herschel and Isaac Newton.
(from Wikipedia and Galapagos Conservation Trust)
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