|Behold a great man|
Charles Darwin was typical of the gentleman savant of 18th/19th century
Charles Robert Darwin was born in 1809 to English landed gentry in the town of
north-west of Tipton. Shrewsbury Darwin was originally
destined to become a physician, like his father, and began study in 1829 at . However, Edinburgh University was not enamoured with the profession
and had the ungentlemanly (not a real word, but you get the drift) habit
of fainting at the sight of blood. Darwin Darwin's
father thought that a change in career choice would be in order and dutifully resumed
his studies and prepared for a career in the Church as an Ordained Minister.
During this time Darwin
developed a passion for natural history and geology and he was fortunate to
come under the wing of a succession of eminent scholars. In 1831 he was awarded
a BA degree in Theology. Darwin
was considered a lack lustre student and perhaps a poor intellect by his father
and peers. In Victorian England the route to the parish was paved with the sons
of the rich who were considered not bright enough to pursue a conventional
career in Medicine or Law. Darwin
As the ship's naturalist,
took a keen interest in the exotic fauna he encountered. I'll not dwell too
much on his research as it is not the purpose of this brief post. Needless to
say his experiences whilst on the Beagle gave forth to a germ of an idea which
when fully matured gave birth to his theories on natural selection and
evolution. His famous book: 'Origin of the Species' was finally published in
1859. Even without his work on natural selection, Darwin would be considered an exceptional
scientist due to his ground breaking work in geology and biology in general.
He was the foremost authority on earthworms, beetles and animal husbandry. What
is so astonishing is that he never received a formal education in the sciences.
represents the last of the Great English Gentleman Naturalists. Darwin
In regard to the theory of evolution, all the pieces of the puzzle were available to the astute biologist of the mid 19th century. It took a genius to place all the bits of evidence into a comprehensive whole. Actually, the theory of evolution is deceptively simple, so simple that only a genius could have worked it out. So what were the great Darwinian/Wallace insights? It can be considered thusly:
It is an observation that organisms will rapidly breed until a check intervenes. Most likely this will occur due to an exhaustion of available resources, usually food.
Individuals within a species differ in their behavioural and physical characteristics and these characteristics are heritable.
Changes in the environment drive selection. Those organism best suited to a given environment, at a given time, thrive and beget more offspring than their less 'biologically fit' brethren. Thus adaptive traits become fixed in the surviving population. Over eons large scale biological change can occur in a population resulting in the formation of new species. .
That is the quintessence of evolution. The rest is mere commentary- go read.
It is difficult for modern educated folk (most at least) to imagine the impact
’s theory had on
the scientific community and Victorian society in general during the mid 19th
century. Most scientists welcomed the theory and rapidly assimilated its
implications. The established church and those of a conservative nature, or of
a pious disposition (often the same thing), recoiled in horror. The advance of
science was almost complete in removing the need for a deity to describe nature
and natural phenomenon. The ‘God of the gaps’ had nowhere to scurry and
shrivelled under the cleansing light of the scientific method (you couldn’t
resist waxing lyrical, could you Flaxen?). As for poor Wallace, the man never
received the credit he deserved. But this was not of Darwin ’s doing. Darwin Darwin
remained, always a fair, equitable man and it is not ’s fault that history has been unkind
to Wallace. Perhaps one day I’ll redeem and redress the balance and give fair
credit to Wallace’s contribution. Or perhaps I’ll forget, who can say? Darwin
If you would like to gain insight into Darwin and 'Evolutionary Theory', consider the following links and be amazed: Darwin influences Preamble Evolution