Charles RobertDarwin was the fifth child of Robert WaringDarwin and Susannah Wedgewood. He was born on February 12, 1809 in Shrewsbury, England where his father practiced medicine. He attended Shrewsbury Grammar School which was a well-kn own secondary school which concentrated on teaching classic languages. Even as a boyDarwin loved science and his enthusiasm for chemical studies earned him thename "Gas" from his friends. The headmaster at Shrewsbury, Dr. Samuel Butler noted, "Here's a boy, plays around with his gases and the rest of his rubbish and works at nothing useful." He was also an avid collector. Anything he could get his hands on- shells, eggs, minerals and coins interested him.
Darwin was expected to follow his father and become a doctor and in 1825, at the age of sixteen,his father removed him from Shrewsbury and entered him in the University of Edenburgh to study medicine. He found all of his classes except chem istry dull. After two years at Edenburg, he quit school and went to live with his Uncle Josiah Wedgewood. After he abandoned medicine, his father urged him to attend Cambridge University to study to be a clergyman. At Cambridge he met John Steven Henslowwho helped him regain his interest in nature. It was Henslow who was influential in gettingDarwin the position of naturalist on the boat The Beagle. In April of 1831, he graduated from the University.
In the fall following his graduation, the government decided to send the H.M.S. Beagle, under the command of Captain Fitzroy, to complete an unfinished survey of Patagonia and Tierra Del Fuego tohelp map out the shores of Chile and Peru. Th e voyage was to last two years.Darwin volunteered his services without salary and offered to pay his own expenses on the condition that he was allowed to keep all the plants and animals he collected. On Henslow's recommendation,Darwin was chosen to serve as naturalist for the exploration. The Beagle set sail from Devonport on December 27, 1831 andreturned on October 2, 1836. Throughout the journey,Darwin shipped back to England crate loads of tropical plants, insects, flowers, spiders, s hells and fossil animals. He was very popular with the crew and was given the name "Fly Catcher."
During the five year journey, he was exposed to different species of birds, insects and reptiles. He noted that in the different environments that he visitedchanges occurred in the same species that helped them to adapt to their surrounding s. It was as a result of these observations and observations of other naturalists and geologists thatDarwin began to formulate his theory of evolution known as "Natural Selection."Darwin had left England as a youthful collector and returned as a dedicated naturalist. Before the journey, he believed like Henslow, thatthe history of the earth was short and whatever changes occurred were the result of vast catastrophes. By his return, he was convinced that the earth was extremely old and its evolution was the result of many small changes.
Natural Selection, proposed byDarwin, is the most widely accepted theory on evolution today. The theory is based upon five basic principles. The first states that organismsincrease at a higher rate than their food supply. However, while there is overproduction of organisms, there is never overpopulation because many young never reach adulthood. The second principle notes that because the resources of nature are limited, all life engages in a struggle for survival in which only thos e with superior characteristics survive. The third principle states that no twoindividuals are identical. No matter how slight the difference may be, all show some variation from one another. The fourth principle notes that some individuals poss ess variations that are most helpful in adapting to an environment, increasing their chances for survival. This in turn enables them to produce more offspring.Darwin's fifth principle concludes that these offspring will inherit the...
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