Charles Darwin Essay

939 words - 4 pages

An essay on Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution. -CHARLES DARWINCharles Robert Darwin-(1809-1882), was British scientist who made the foundation of modern evolutionary theory with his concept of the development of all forms of life through the process of natural selection. His work was of major impact on the life and earth sciences.Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England, on February 12, 1809. Darwin was the fifth child of a wealthy and sophisticated English family. His maternal grandfather was the successful china and pottery entrepreneur Josiah Wedgwood; his paternal grandfather was the well-known 18th-century physician and savant Erasmus Darwin. After graduating from the elite school at Shrewsbury in 1825, young Darwin went to the University of Edinburgh to study medicine. In 1827 he dropped out of medical school and entered the University of Cambridge, in preparation for becoming a clergyman of the Church of England. There he met two stellar figures: Adam Sedgwick, a geologist, and John Stevens Henslow, a naturalist. Henslow not only helped build Darwin's self-confidence but also taught his student to be a meticulous and painstaking observer of natural phenomena and collector of specimens. After graduating from Cambridge in 1831, the 22-year-old Darwin was taken aboard the English survey ship HMS Beagle, largely on Henslow's recommendation, as an unpaid naturalist on a scientific expedition around the world.Darwin's job as naturalist aboard the Beagle gave him the opportunity to observe the various geological formations found on different continents and islands along the way, as well as a huge variety of fossils and living organisms. In his geological observations, Darwin was most impressed with the effect that natural forces had on shaping the earth's surface.At the time, most geologists adhered to the so-called catastrophist theory that the earth had experienced a succession of creations of animal and plant life, and that each creation had been destroyed by a sudden catastrophe, such as an upheaval or convulsion of the earth's surface. According to this theory, the most recent catastrophe, Noah's flood, wiped away all life except those forms taken into the ark. The rest were visible only in the form of fossils. In the view of the catastrophists, species were individually created and immutable, that is, unchangeable for all time.Aboard the Beagle, Darwin found himself fitting many of his observations into Lyell's general uniformitarian view. Beyond that, however, he realized that some of his own observations of fossils and living plants and animals cast doubt on the Lyell-supported view that species were specially created. He noted, for example, that certain fossils of supposedly extinct species closely resembled living species in the same geographical area. In the Galápagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, he also observed that each island supported its own form of tortoise, mockingbird, and finch; the...

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