Popular Science Monthly/Volume 2/February 1873/Charles Robert Darwin

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For works with similar titles, see Charles Darwin.



MR. CHARLES R. DARWIN, the most eminent philosophic naturalist of the age, is now sixty-four years of age, having been born in Shrewsbury, England, in 1809. He is descended from distinguished ancestors on both sides. His father was Dr. Robert Waring Darwin, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and his paternal grandfather was Dr. Erasmus Darwin, author of the once-famous books, the "Botanic Garden" and the "Zoonomia." Mr. Darwin's grandfather on the maternal side was the celebrated Josiah Wedgwood, whose name is intimately associated with the progress of the art of pottery in England. Mr. Darwin attended the Shrewsbury School, spent two years in the University of Edinburgh, and took his degree of B.A. at Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1831.

Mr. Darwin inherited from the author of "Zoonomia" that love of natural history and the allied sciences which has been the labor and the pleasure of his life. In the autumn of 1831, Captain Fitz Roy, R.N., having offered to give up part of his own cabin to any naturalist who would accompany H.M.S. Beagle in her surveying voyage and circumnavigation, Mr. Darwin volunteered his services without salary. His scientific acquirements were already so well known that the offer was at once accepted, Mr. Darwin stipulating only that he should have the absolute disposal of all his collections. The Beagle sailed from England, December 27, 1831, and returned on the 27th October, 1836.

In 1839, Mr. Darwin published a volume as a part of Captain Fitz Roy's general work, descriptive of this voyage. The interest excited by this, one of the most graphic, and at the same time most philosophic book of travels that was ever published, led to its reproduction in a modified form, in 1845, 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." This Journal shows Mr. Darwin to have been a singularly close observer of every phenomenon in natural history, and of every variety of condition, physical and mental, of the people whom they visited during this remarkable voyage, and exhibits the possession of perceptive powers of the highest order. No single phenomenon is described by Mr. Darwin until after it has been most cautiously examined, and the reader of the Journal is soon impressed with the persuasion that the facts narrated are placed beyond a doubt, and that his reasonings on those facts are ever guided by a system of most severe inductive philosophy. This is most especially exemplified in Mr. Darwin's reasonings on the origin of the coral-reefs of the Pacific.

In the beginning of 1839 Mr. Darwin married his cousin, Emma Wedgwood, and shortly after took up his residence at Down, near Farnborough, in Kent. For twenty-six years, in the retirement of his home, Mr. Darwin has devoted himself to the care of a large family, and the quiet and close investigation of the works of Nature. His first labors, after this date, were editing the "Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle," giving an account of the habits and ranges of the various animals therein described. In aid of the publication of this and other works bearing on the same subject, the Lords of the Treasury granted £1,000. In 1842, Mr. Darwin published his work on "The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs;" in 1845, "Geological Observations on Volcanic Islands;" and in 1846, "Geological Observations on South America."

Continuing, without rest, his researches, we find the results of his unwearying industry in two volumes published in 1851 and 1854, "On Pedunculated and Sessile Cirripedes," and, in two other volumes, on the fossil species of the same class.

Toward the close of 1859, Mr. Darwin published his "Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection." Of this work four English editions have appeared, and nine foreign editions, in French, German, Dutch, Italian, and Russian. Its popularity is shown by the fact that more than one hundred reviews, pamphlets, and separate books, have been published upon it, while the earnestness with which the question is still discussed shows that these will probably be doubled in a short time.

In 1834, Mr. Darwin was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1853, the Royal Society awarded to him the royal medal, and in 1859 the Wollaston medal was given to him by the Geological Society. In 1862, he published a book full of curious research, "On the Various Contrivances by which Orchids are fertilized." Of separate papers, published by this naturalist, we find the following among the more important: "On the Connection of Certain Volcanic Phenomena in South America;" "On the Distribution of Erratic Bowlders in South America;" "On the Formation of Mould by the Earthworm;" and "On the Geology of the Falkland Islands"—all published in the Transactions of the Geological Society. In the Journal of the Linnæan Society, three papers have appeared from the pen of Mr. Darwin, "On the Dimorphous and Trimorphous States of Primula," and one paper "On the Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants." This last one has since been published as a separate work. In 1864, the Royal Society awarded to Mr. Darwin the Copley medal, and he has been elected a member of various foreign scientific bodies.

The latest works of this indefatigable naturalist are, "The Variation of Animals under Domestication," in two volumes; the "Descent of Man," in two volumes; and a book "On the Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals," just published, and some account of which is given in the present number of The Popular Science Monthly.