Cartoon portraits and biographical sketches of men of the day/C. R. Darwin, F.R.S.

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


Charles Robert Darwin, Fellow of the Royal Society, was born at Shrewsbury, February 12, 1809. He is the son of Dr. Robert Waring Darwin, F.R.S. He received his preparatory training at Shrewsbury School (under the care of Dr. Butler) and at Edinburgh, finally proceeding to the University of Cambridge, where he took his B.A. degree in 1831. The great naturalist comes of a distinguished stock. His grandfather on the mother's side was Josiah Wedgwood, the father of the Staffordshire art-pottery manufacture. On the father's side his grandsire was Dr. Erasmus Darwin, author of 'Zoonomia;' and it is somewhat curious that Mr. Darwin's father and both his grandfathers were Fellows of the Royal Society. He married in 1839 his cousin, Miss Wedgwood. His first work of importance to scientific knowledge was undertaken in connection with the surveying voyage of H.M.S. Beagle. The vessel was commanded by Captain Fitzroy, R.N., who offered a berth to any naturalist who would accompany him. Darwin volunteered, and was accepted. The Beagle left the shores of England in December, 1831; and, after an absence of nearly five years, she returned in October, 1836. The cruise was of a very extensive character South America, Australia, and New Zealand, the Mauritius, and the Pacific Islands being visited in turn. About three years after the return of the Beagle from her voyage round the world, Darwin published his account of what he had seen his volume being part of Captain Fitzroy's narrative of this voyage, subsequently reproduced under the title of 'Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries visited during the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle round the World.' The other principal works of this eminent savant are, 'Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle;' 'The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs,' 1842; 'Geological Observations on Volcanic Islands,' 1845; and 'On South America,' 1846.

Darwin's great book on, the 'Origin of Species by means of Natural
Natural selection


Selection' appeared at the end of the year 1859. Besides the English editions of this remarkable theory, the book has been translated into most of the European languages.

'On the Various Contrivances by which Orchids are fertilised' praised so highly by Canon Kingsley, in his recent book of travel in the West Indies—was published in 1862; and early last year the long-expected 'Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex,' made its appearance.

The conclusion to which the author came was that, 'at a remote period, man, the wonder and glory of the universe,' and the monkey, had the same parental relatives. This theory is at first a little shocking, and has been attacked as violently as it has been stoutly defended. Whatever there is of truth in this startling new theory of Natural Selection, whether it be almost of equal weight with a revelation or completely false in its assumptions, time may prove. The names of men of eminence, of great learning and great sagacity, can be catalogued both for and against it.

We shall not enter into the abstruse discussion; but it is a simple duty to record here, that for close observation of the various phenomena of natural history, unflagging energy and perseverance in the search after truth, and great intellectual power, no country has produced a more earnest or more able student than the author of the theory of Natural Selection.

The author's latest contribution to science and literature is 'The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals,' a work which even those who feel determined to question its scientific accuracy or soundness will own is as fascinating in its style as it is ingenious in argument and various in its research.